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OCBC said that it looked at candidates within the bank, and within and outside Singapore, before it agreed to appoint Helen Wong (pictured) as its group chief executive officer. — OCBC pic via TODAY
OCBC said that it looked at candidates within the bank, and within and outside Singapore, before it agreed to appoint Helen Wong (pictured) as its group chief executive officer. — OCBC pic via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Jan 10 — OCBC on Friday appointed Helen Wong as its group chief executive officer (CEO), the first woman to head a Singapore bank. Wong, 59, succeeds Samuel Tsien on April 15.

Ooi Sang Kuang, the chairman of the bank, said that Wong’s appointment was the result of a rigorous global search for the best qualified candidate who “embodies both the capability to redefine OCBC group strategy in light of challenges and opportunities and OCBC’s core values”.

“The board and I congratulate Helen on her new role as the group CEO,” Ooi said in a statement.

“We had looked at candidates internally in OCBC, and within and outside Singapore before we agreed on Helen as the best qualified person . We are confident that Helen will be able to lead the OCBC Group to greater heights in an increasingly complex and challenging environment.”

Wong joined OCBC in February 2020 as deputy president and head of global wholesale banking. Deemed as one of the most high-profile female bankers in Asia, her departure from HSBC as its Greater China chief executive in August 2019 surprised the market and made headlines.

Born in Hong Kong, Wong started her career in banking with OCBC in 1984, and was the bank’s first China desk manager. She then moved on to other banks in Hong Kong before joining HSBC in 1992.

In the following 17 years, OCBC said that Wong worked in various capacities in investment banking and corporate banking, responsible for debt capital markets business in Greater China, and later the relationship management of Hong Kong and Chinese corporates as head of global banking in Hong Kong.

In 2009, Wong moved to Shanghai and was appointed deputy CEO, and then president and CEO, of the global bank’s China subsidiary.

She was then promoted to group general manager in 2011 and became deputy chairman of the China subsidiary in 2013.

Her last position was chief executive, Greater China from 2015 to 2019, having responsibilities over the business in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

She had also held various board appointments, including serving as an independent director of one of the largest China-listed entities.

Wong had served as the chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Banks in 2015.

She said that she was honoured to be succeeding Tsien, who was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong. She described her predecessor as someone “who is highly regarded and respected, not just in Singapore’s banking industry, but also regionally”.

Wong said that she has witnessed Tsien’s “sound judgement” in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Although Covid-19 struck fiercely at the economy and impacted many lives and livelihoods, we navigated the storm deftly thanks to Sam’s leadership, the team’s united efforts and the board’s guidance,” said Wong.

“The team and I will now continue to build on OCBC’s strong foundations to further entrench it as a leading and progressive regional financial institution.” — TODAY


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