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Wee Cho Yaw to retire from UOB board

WEE Cho Yaw will retire from United Overseas Bank after having steered the bank for six decades.

A familiar face at UOB's shareholders' meeting even after he stepped down as chairman of the board six years ago, Mr Wee is likely to be sorely missed.

He is expected to attend next April's shareholders meeting when he will retire from the board, said a UOB spokeswoman.

Mr Wee, who turns 89 next January, will relinquish all his board responsibilities next April. He will retain his chairman emeritus title and will also be appointed honorary adviser to the board in recognition of his many years of leadership and contribution to the group, UOB said.

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Mr Wee - who was chairman and chief executive of UOB from 1974 to 2007 - owns over 18 per cent of the bank, according to UOB's 2016 annual report. He joined the United Chinese Bank (UCB) board - the precursor to UOB - in 1958 at age 29; and became UCB managing director in 1960, succeeding his father Wee Kheng Chiang. UCB changed its name to UOB on Jan 23, 1965.

UOB also said that it has nominated former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng to succeed incumbent independent non-executive chairman Hsieh Fu Hua who will be retiring next year.

Mr Hsieh, 67, is the first chairman of the bank from outside the Wee family, and would have served six years on the board when he steps down on Feb 14, 2018. Until then, Mr Hsieh will continue to chair the board to oversee matters pertaining to the group's current financial year.

Mr Wong, 71 was first appointed as a UOB director in July this year.

Mr Wong served 26 years in the Singapore government where he held ministerial appointments in the Communications and Information, Community Development, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Ministries. He retired as deputy prime minister in 2011 but remained as a Member of Parliament. After leaving politics in 2015, Mr Wong joined the private sector, serving as chairman and director of companies in the real estate, township development/urbanisation, fund management and real estate investment trust (Reit)/trust sectors.

Paying tribute to Mr Wee, the UOB board described him as one of Singapore's legendary entrepreneurs who has made immense contributions to the development of the banking industry.

"Under his leadership, UOB expanded greatly, both in scale and scope. It grew from a single branch local bank to a major regional player with more than 500 offices in 19 countries and territories, offering a comprehensive suite of financial services to retail, wholesale and global markets."

He also "guided UOB through several international and regional financial and economic crises, all the while entrenching a culture based on values of thrift, prudence and vigilance".

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said that it welcomed UOB's continued process of leadership renewal, and was looking forward to working with the new board.

UOB's leadership renewal process began in 2007 when Mr Wee passed the CEO role to Wee Ee Cheong and subsequently handed over the chairmanship to Mr Hsieh, said a MAS spokesman in a statement.

Mr Hsieh has played a key role in setting the bank's strategic direction, building up robust board processes and corporate governance while Mr Wee led UOB on a path "that made the bank a major player in the region, and among the safest banks in the world", said MAS.