OCBC Bank's Cheong Choong Kong is retiring as chairman of the Singapore banking group on Aug 31, after helming its board for 11 years.
Dr Cheong, 73, will be succeeded on Sept 1 by Malaysian Ooi Sang Kuang, a 66-year-old former deputy governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and currently OCBC's non-executive lead independent director.
But the retiring chairman will remain a director of OCBC Bank and its unit Great Eastern Holdings, providing continuity to the group for a little longer, the bank said.
Dr Cheong, whose love for acting has seen him play a cabby and other roles on television, was appointed a director of the bank on July 1, 1999. From March 2002 to June 2003, he served as vice-chairman of the board, ascending to the chairman's post on July 1, 2003. He became a director of Great Eastern Holdings in 2005.
During his 11-year tenure as OCBC chairman, Dr Cheong was instrumental in the implementation of initiatives which were of strategic importance to the proper positioning and continued growth of the bank, especially in people-management, succession planning and executive development, the bank said.
He also led the board in working with the management team to strengthen the bank's balance sheet following the 2009 global financial crisis.
OCBC Bank was named the world's strongest bank in 2011 and 2012, and ranked second-strongest last year.
Dr Cheong's leadership and vision are also evidenced by the significant strides the bank has made over the years, said OCBC. It is today among the world's best capitalised banks and one of the few to have maintained AA credit ratings.
Between 2004 and 2013, group net profit rose from S$1.15 billion to S$2.77 billion, representing a compounded annual growth rate of 10 per cent. Assets grew nearly three times to S$338 billion.
Basic earnings per share rose from 35.4 cents to 78.0 cents; net dividends to shareholders grew from 12.7 cents to 34.0 cents per share.
During the last 11 years, OCBC restructured Great Eastern Holdings as its insurance subsidiary. The bank acquired a stake in Bank NISP, which was subsequently merged with Bank OCBC Indonesia to form Bank OCBC NISP, the bank's banking subsidiary in Indonesia. Islamic Banking subsidiary OCBC Al-Amin Bank Berhad was incorporated in Malaysia.
The most significant deal was in 2010, when it acquired ING Asia Private Bank, which was renamed Bank of Singapore, OCBC Bank's wholly owned private-banking unit.
The in-coming chairman Mr Ooi, who became a Singapore permanent resident in March, joined the OCBC board on Feb 21, 2012. He was appointed the non-executive lead independent director of the main board on Oct 31 last year - a role that has prepared him for the chairmanship, OCBC said.
He joined the board of OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Berhad on April 6, 2012, became its deputy chairman 71/2 months later, and its chairman on March 30 this year.
He comes to the OCBC helm with a wealth of financial services experience. He started his career at BNM in 1971, holding a number of positions in the economics, monetary and international sectors for more than 13 years before becoming chief economist for South-east Asia and the Asia-Pacific at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore.
He moved on to become the managing director of Warburg Asset Management Pte Ltd, also in Singapore, and then returned to Malaysia in 1996. From that year until 2002, he was a director on the boards of several RHB Group companies.
Mr Ooi returned to BNM in 2002 as its deputy governor and board member, holding these positions until 2010. He was responsible for major areas of monetary policy, reserve management and financial sector development. He became special adviser to BNM from 2010 until his retirement in 2011.
He is concurrently chairman of Cagamas Berhad (the national mortgage corporation in Malaysia) and its subsidiaries, as well as chairman of Xeraya Capital Sdn Bhd and Xeraya Capital Labuan Ltd. He is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Bankers Malaysia.
Market observers do not expect much change to OCBC under him.
Kenneth Ng, CIMB's head of research, said: "Dr Cheong didn't really drive strategy, he was probably not the most hands-on chairman . . . The strategy and execution were driven by the chief executive."
Outside the boardroom, however, Dr Cheong - with his penchant for acting and spouting Shakespeare - was more fun to watch than the average bank chairman.
Singapore corporate watchers were agog when he had a spat with former DBS Bank chief executive Jackson Tai, who in 2005 had criticised a local bank - which he did not name - for its "irresponsible" proposal to return capital to shareholders in early 2003.
Many people took it that he was jibing at OCBC. Dr Cheong responded by calling him "sanctimonious", famously quoting from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar:
"The fault, dear Jackson, lies not in our stars (nor in UOB or OCBC), but in ourselves."
Mr Tai later apologised for his comments.