Parliamentary Replies
Published Date: 02 February 2021

Reply to Parliamentary Question on Appointments of Top Leaders at Financial Institutions




Date: For Parliament Sitting on 2 February 2021

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Leong Mun Wai, NCMP


To ask the Prime Minister (a) whether MAS has any supervisory role overseeing the appointments of top leaders of local financial institutions and, if so, what is the extent of this role; and (b) whether MAS will intervene if such a position within a local financial institution has not been held by Singaporean citizens for an extended period of time.

Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:

1.     The key senior managers, including the chief executive officer, of a financial institution (FI) are appointed by its board of directors. 

2.     The appointments are in turn subject to approval by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). In approving the appointments, MAS must be satisfied that the board has carried out a thorough assessment of candidates before arriving at the person they consider the best for the job, and that there are no concerns over the professional integrity of the appointee. 

3.     MAS does want to see our local talents developed for senior management positions in the financial sector. As reported in Parliament recently, the number of Singaporeans in senior positions grew from 1,700 to 2,600 between 2014 and 2019, which is an increase of more than 50% in 5 years.

4.     Our basic approach to achieving this has been to create an enabling environment for our Singaporean talent, not a protectionist environment.  We help FIs do well and grow in Singapore, enable them to hire the best talent, and encourage and actively support them to develop our Singaporeans for senior positions in the sector. This is the way to open up opportunities for Singaporeans to hold senior management positions, in both local and foreign FIs.

5.     We will undermine our local FIs if we tell them that they must appoint only a Singaporean CEO, regardless of the merits of the candidates. Our major local FIs, such as our local banks, are no longer competing mainly in the domestic market. They are operating in a fiercely competitive Asian and global market. Imposing a nationality restriction on who their boards appoint as CEOs will put our local FIs at a disadvantage.

6.     It will not be doing any favour to Singaporeans either, including those holding senior management ranks in the local FIs. Their interest, and ours, is in having globally competitive local FIs, that can grow opportunities for Singaporeans and for our whole financial sector. That is indeed what we have been witnessing.  

* * *