Bluechip conglomerate Keppel Corp has successfully wooed Singapore Airlines' (SIA) chief financial officer (CFO) into filling its top finance job, in a move that now has put Singapore's national carrier on an urgent search for a successor.

Keppel announced after the market closed yesterday that Chan Hon Chew, 48, will be its next CFO, taking over the position on Feb 1. His appointment follows the promotion of current CFO Loh Chin Hua to chief executive officer (CEO) on July 18. Mr Loh, now CEO-designate, will assume Keppel's top position on Jan 1, when current CEO Choo Chiau Beng retires.

As Keppel's CFO, Mr Chan will be responsible for the group's financial functions, including managing its capital, finance, treasury and tax, as well as its legal matters.

He has been with SIA for more than 10 years and has been the airline's senior vice-president (SVP) of finance since June 2006. As SVP Finance there, he was in charge of investor relations, corporate accounting and reporting, treasury, risk management and insurance.

Keppel CEO Choo said the group had mounted a rigorous succession management process, examining both internal and external candidates to find the best fit for the CFO role.

He said: "I am pleased that we have found a strong candidate in Hon Chew, who possesses leadership, financial and management expertise spanning several companies and industries."

CEO-designate Loh said: "Hon Chew is well-versed with capital structuring and a wide range of corporate functions - abilities he has used to help strengthen companies financially and operationally. Hon Chew is also adept at working with huge, diverse teams and has proven to be both an effective leader and a strong team player."

When SIA had announced last Friday that its CFO of more than seven years was leaving "to pursue other career opportunities", market speculation was that he would most likely be moving over to Keppel's top finance job.

In April, Mr Chan was appointed by Singapore's Ministry of Finance to the board of the Singapore Accountancy Commission; in July, he was elected to the council of the Singapore Chartered Accountants.

Prior to SIA, he was assistant general manager for finance and corporate services at Wing Tai Holdings from 1998 to 2003, and was the financial controller of IBM Singapore Storage Systems Division earlier in his career.