SMRT: New CEO Neo Kian Hong the Man to Tackle Deep-Seated Cultural Issues


SMRT has come out in defence of its selection of former military chief man Neo Kian Hong as its next CEO.

Kuek, who will be best known for SMRT’s worst-ever blunders to date, blamed “deep-seated cultural issues” for the transport operator’s woes.

But SMRT believes Neo will be able to turn things around.

Said SMRT vice-president for corporate communications, Margaret Teo:

“SMRT therefore decided to give the group CEO position to a Singaporean with strong leadership qualities and the right heart to serve SMRT and, most importantly, our commuters. He also has the ability to keep staff morale high, and unite and motivate staff to do better for commuters.”

Neo will take over from current CEO Desmond Kuek, also a former military chief, on 1 August this year.

His appointed, said to have been made after a “global search” for talent to fill the hot seat, has been widely-criticised by Singaporeans.

Many remain sceptical of another former military chief with no private sector experience taking over the reins of SMRT, and have questioned whether there were no better candidates.

In response, SMRT said:

“We would like to share our key criteria and considerations in selecting SMRT’s next group chief executive: personal values, leadership qualities, relevant engineering knowledge, track record in operations and people management, and the ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders.

Of course, a key attribute considered in the final selection was the candidate’s understanding of the needs of Singapore’s commuters and public transport system.”

And, the SMRT interview panel decided on Neo because they were “particularly impressed with his personal values and leadership qualities”.



1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sebastian Toh

    April 23, 2018 at 5:43 am

    It may Indeed be true when SMRT mentioned they had done a “global search”. But how come they have ended up with yet another “paper” general who knows nuts about train management on the job?

    I think there could be several possibilities:

    1. SMRT may not be willing to pay the high asking salaries of the foreigner. Actually, many foreigners don’t find Signapore attractive to live for mid to long term because of the high cost of living here. As an expat, they will usually want a car, big house, etc during their stay. And they might have to bring their families or even co-workers along also. A profit-oriented “organization” like the government could prefer to cut costs. It’s not surprising. The cost could end up a lot higher than $2million!

    2. There could be a lot of embarrassing dark secrets behind the SMRT that the public doesn’t know. For example, have there been many lapses in maintenance? Have servicing and record-keeping been done properly over the years? Perhaps SMRT found it best not to let foreigners expose all these dark secrets of the ailing train system that we have.

    3. It’s all about face….getting a foreigner in means we have to listen to whatever he proposes. What if he wants to change this and that? Will SMRT be always obliged to listen?

    4. Well, the government has to find positions for all their retiring military generals. This new Neo guy is due to be parachuted somewhere and just nice, that Desmond Kuek wanted to leave. So, yeah, why not put a local to fill up the position? He only needs to be a “Yen man”, earn his over $2million a year salary quietly. He is happy, the government is happy. No one gets hurt. Any dark secrets remain unexposed. Never mind the MRT faults remain. It’s the commoners who suffer, not them, right?

    What do you think of my reasoning?

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