Improving tech capabilities, sustainability & developing talent among Temasek's priorities: Dilhan Pillay

He shared Temasek's strategy for the next decade and beyond.

Sulaiman Daud | February 09, 2021, 09:07 PM

Singaporeans were greeted with the morning announcement on Feb. 9 of a change at the helm of one of the country's sovereign wealth funds.

Ho Ching, 67, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Temasek Holdings, will be stepping down from her post on Oct. 1.

Replacing her will be Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, 57, the current CEO of Temasek International. He will retain his current title while also becoming the Executive Director and CEO of Temasek Holdings.

In his briefing to the editors on Tuesday (Feb 9) helmed by Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng, Pillay said that he have "had the honour of leading Temasek International and its committed team since 2019".

"Since 2019, our senior management team has put forward a strategy for the next decade – we call it our T-2030 Strategy", he said.

Who is Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara?

According to a 2012 interview with ReutersPillay is a fourth-generation lawyer, whose parents both practiced law.

He spent his early childhood in Kuala Lumpur and went to school in Singapore.

A Singaporean, Pillay attended Anglo Chinese School and also attended Cambridge University in the UK.

Before joining Temasek in 2010, Pillay spent nearly 20 years at local law firm WongPartnership, which he co-founded in 1992.

While there, he mainly focused on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and corporate law, according to Temasek's website.

Paying Tribute to Ho Ching

In his remarks (Feb. 9), Pillay paid tribute to Ho, saying that this leadership succession planning "is one that Temasek, under Ho Ching’s leadership, has been preparing for, for some years now".

He also reflected on the "formative role" Ho played in the development of Temasek.

Pillay said:

"All of us at Temasek owe her a debt of thanks for her vision, her passion and her determination.

Under her leadership, and with the support of all of our people, our portfolio has more-than tripled. Bold, early decisions, such as investing in an opening China, and taking concentrated positions in growth companies, created a path, rather than followed one worn by others".

He added that "that is what makes Temasek special: that we are prepared to create new pathways, and build from ideas into actions, from actions into institutions".

Making the move

It took a bit of cajoling for Pillay to make the switch.

"Ho Ching is a very persuasive person...She managed to persuade me, where others could not, to make a big change," he told Reuters.

Pillay said in the briefing that it was a "big career decision" to leave the comfort of his law firm to join Temasek.

He shared that he regularly met with Ho to discuss Temasek before he came on board.

But he added that it took him "just a weekend to decide to join". This was after a lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in May 2010.

He explained that he did so because he felt that Ho had always wanted Temasek employees to act as owners - to act responsibly and thoughtfully – even when taking huge risks.

Ho later revealed that she regularly met with him for three years, usually on weekends, before he joined.

What's next?

While at Temasek, Pillay held a variety of leadership roles, according to Bloomberg.

He headed the investment and portfolio management groups, and oversaw the U.S. and Americas market teams.

He also initiated and led the Enterprise Development Group, which focuses on future trends and identifying and developing businesses that have the potential to be domestic, regional or global successes.

1. Evolving the current portfolio

Pillay elaborated on Temasek's possible next moves. "Since 2019, our senior management team has put in place a strategy for the next decade," he said.

"We recognise that the world is more complex, and made all the more complex as a result of Covid-19. But we see four clear areas to focus on in the context of our T-2030 strategy," he added.

The first is evolving the portfolio that Temasek has, and the need to construct a portfolio that is relevant in the next decade and beyond. Not just to see the path ahead, but find out as much as possible what is around the corner.

2. Sustainability at the core

Second, sustainability has to be placed at the "core of all we do."

"We all know that climate change is here, it is real, and there's a need for all of us to address it, in whatever way we can," he said.

Previously in Jan. 2020, Pillay said that Temasek International may need to become more "aggressive" in its climate change goals. Temasek aimed to become carbon neutral by the end of 2020, and to halve the emissions of its portfolio companies by 2030.

3. Helping portfolio companies deal with a changing market

The third thing Temasek will focus on is to build capabilities to make available for portfolio companies that address the needs of the market, such as capabilities in artificial intelligence and blockchain.

4. Developing talent within Temasek

The fourth is to develop and build up the talent within Temasek itself.

Pillay said that in the last decade, the talent pool in Temasek has evolved and differing talents have been recruited because of the complexity of its work.

While developing talent in-house, Temasek will also build its network so it can augment its capabilities with skills outside of Temasek.

Pillay added, "I believe we are well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities and to face the challenges that await us in the next decade and beyond, and to do all of this with courage and conviction and strong sense of purpose."

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Top image courtesy of Temasek.