Who is Neo Kian Hong, SMRT's next CEO?

He has had experience with large scale operations and crisis management.

Tanya Ong| April 18, 07:45 PM

SMRT has confirmed that Neo Kian Hong will take over Desmond Kuek as chief executive from Aug. 1 onwards.

Who is Neo Kian Hong?

Photo from ST Engineering.

Neo Kian Hong is a Singapore Armed Forces overseas scholar who has been a civil servant for most of his career.

He got a bachelor's degree in electrical and electronic engineering at King's College London, and then a master's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

From 1983 to 2013, Neo served in the army, and then became Permanent Secretary for education development for the Ministry of Education from 2013 to 2017.

Photo from Wikimedia.

Currently, Neo is serving as the Defence Ministry’s Permanent Secretary for defence development.

He also serves as a Director on the board of ST Engineering Ltd., Chairman of DSO National Laboratories (DSO) and of Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).

Notable achievements in the army

Having been with the SAF for a total of 30 years, Neo is known for holding key appointments such as Chief of Army (2007 to 2010) and Singapore's seventh Chief of Defence Force (2010-2013) -- a role that Kuek handed over to him previously.

He last held the rank of Lieutenant-General.

Photo from NAS.

Throughout the three decades, he has some notable achievements under his belt.


In 1999, he served as the SAF’s contingent commander for the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET).

INTERFET was a crucial multinational peacemaking taskforce set up to manage the security crises in East Timor from 1999 to 2000.

It was the first time that the SAF had sent such a large contingent of peacekeepers.



More recently, in 2003, Neo played an instrumental role during the SARS outbreak when the military was called upon to assist the Ministry Of Health.

As Commander of the 9th Division at that time, Neo was tasked to lead a team of 220 servicemen to help contain the outbreak.

His team had to put in place comprehensive and effective operational measures.

This included setting up a Contact Tracing Centre, where his team had to work in shifts from 7am to 11pm just to trace every person who has been in close contact with a SARS patient.


Given Neo's experience with large scale efforts and crisis management operations, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming stated that the board was impressed with him.

However, Neo remains acutely aware of the challenges ahead and says that he will "work very hard:"

"I am conscious that there will be challenges ahead. I know the public expects safe and reliable train services. I will work very hard to meet their expectations."

Top photo from NAS