Temasek all at sea?

Ms Ho Ching, the continuing CEO of Temasek Holdings, gave a somewhat frank talk about the fortunes — or misfortunes, depending on one’s viewpoint — about the company, with some telling facial expressions captured by the unforgiving n intrusive cameras when she referred to the speculation about the unexpected exit of her designated successor.

This was at a talk organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.

I found her talk (as reported and also based on the text from the Temaske website) fascinating, in particular her description of Temasek’s fortunes (or misfortunes!)  in nautical terms.

She said, with nary a smile escaping her pearlies: “The Temasek journey will not always be smooth. As we sail in choppy waters, we may need to take shelter if we see dark clouds coming.

“We may need to wait for the storm to pass before we continue our journey. Because of the changing winds and shifting currents, we may have to adjust our sails and tack off-course for a while.

“Meanwhile, we need to keep our ship in good order and sea-worthy at all times. From time to time, we may even have to jettison some load, repair some damage or cut some riggings to keep our ship and crew safe. But we aim to bring everyone home safe, and will maintain discipline for a safe journey.”

Reminiscent of an famous banker of yore. Remember the legendary chairman of OCBC, Tan Chin Tuan who was the bank’s longest reigning, I mean serving, chairman? He too was very fond of putting his views in connection with the bank in nautical terms. He watched the tide, the ebb and the flow and would venture forth only if convinced that the oceans were calm enough for the junk (the bank’s logo).

Ms Ho may do well to stay in the safe harbour of home for a while and invest in tried and trusted companies that the Government and Singaporeans have built up over the years. Make them bigger and better; take them to new levels.

Let Singapore companies become giants in a turbulent world rather than use Singapore $ to buy branded giants with clay feet in the vain hope of standing on their  shoulders.

Otherwise, another 5 years from now, the Temasek CEO, whoever that may be, will have to again explain to Singaporeans why it is still all at sea on which direction to sail.

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2 thoughts on “Temasek all at sea?

  1. There is a great chinese saying which I always find comforting – “When the boat reaches the bridge head, the stern will be straight”. I heard an analyst remark today that being in a Crisis helps one identify problems / bring up the best in people. The good thing coming out of this saga is surely a better understanding on the sentiments on the ground and how it pressures a “private” company.

    With such a high profile, Temasek failing is akin to Citibank failing – it’s too large and important that it cannot fail. Whether to invest in Brazil, China or US, as long as it bring us the returns, I don’t think Singaporeans are going to be too choosy. Any color cat that catches mouse is a good cat 🙂

    The CEO is just the vocal mouthpiece of the senior management team. What is more important is not where the money is spent but the need to build a team of fearless intelligent leaders who dare challenge the CEO and take on calculated risks for Singapore.

  2. Hi Keng: sori, ah, got to disagree. First re the boat, stern and bridge head. Perhaps it’s also one of my mum’s fav sayings that’s y I’ve reflected a bit on it. I don’t buy it. If we adopt this philosophy, we’d all be sitting down and waiting for the best, instead of trying to achieve something, even if not the best.

    Ditto DXP’s famous cat-n-mouse story. It’s just another way of saying the means don’t matter, so long as the ends are achieved. Sure, if one happens to be color blind, but if empirical evidence shows me that a grey cat is a better mouse catcher, I wld be foolish to accept cats of all colors.

    No CEO is the mere mouthpiece, lah. That’s not only disrespectful to Ms Ho but also to all CEOs. Have a great week-end!

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