Ex-SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek scores S’pore-based role with Swiss bank

New year, new me.

Sulaiman Daud | February 04, 2019, 03:37 PM

Desmond Kuek, former CEO of SMRT, has been keeping himself busy since leaving the transport company on Aug. 1, 2018.

In Nov. 2018, it was reported that Kuek had set up a consultancy company with two other military men, offering lessons in leadership skills.

And it looks like Kuek will have another job on his hands.

New role with Swiss bank

On Feb. 4, Business Times reported that Kuek has been appointed a "divisional vice chairman for global wealth management" with Swiss bank UBS.

Kuek's term with UBS, a multinational investment bank and financial services company will begin on Feb. 18.

The role is based in Singapore.

Kuek previously served as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, and the Chief of Defence Force with the Singapore Armed Forces.

He has also served on the boards of various government agencies and statutory boards, including Jurong Town Corp, HDB, and the Civil Service College.

But Kuek's tenure as SMRT's President and Group CEO, beginning in 2012, was marked by controversial events like high-profile rail lapses.

He came under fire after the North-South Line was flooded in Oct. 2017, affecting train journeys at Bishan MRT station.

He was also criticised for SMRT's communication issues in the days and weeks following the incident.

Looking ahead

Kuek can perhaps put it all behind him in his new role.

His two immediate bosses will be Edmund Koh, president of UBS APAC and Joe Stadler, the head of "ultra high net worth".

Koh was full of praise for his soon-to-be colleague, and told BT:

"Desmond is a great intellect and strategic thinker. He is tenacious; always calm under pressure and not afraid to take on the toughest challenges with commitment and perseverance.

His rich and diverse range of experiences driving complex businesses through innovation and transformation will serve UBS well into its next chapter. I am very happy to welcome him as a colleague."

In a statement, UBS highlighted Kuek's experience as a government official and executive as important for growing its business across the Asia Pacific by strengthening relationships with existing clients, and forging new ones.

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Top image adapted from Genium and UBS AG (US).