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“The accidental CEO”: Jason Moo’s Bank of Singapore reshuffle explained

Jason Moo, Bank of Singapore
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One year since taking over at Bank of Singapore, CEO Jason Moo is focused on shaping the future. With a strong emphasis on strategy, he aims to establish a unique selling proposition that will differentiate the bank in the next three to five years.

But he has not been afraid to take bold steps. In September, he tweaked the bank’s senior leadership in Singapore, while in December he appointed Credit Suisse’s Rickie Chan as head of private banking for Greater China. The bank has also replaced its chief operating officer and appointed a new head for Dubai.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, I had no intention to reshuffle the team. I had no intention coming into the job that I was going to change as much as I was going to,” Moo told Asian Private Banker in the first of a two-part interview series.

Moo assumed the leadership role at Bank of Singapore, the US$116 billion in AUM private banking arm of Singapore’s second largest financial services group, OCBC, in March 2023. He brought with him a wealth of experience from his previous tenures at Julius Baer and Goldman Sachs.

Moo was previously the Swiss pure play’s head of private banking for Southeast Asia, and spent over two decades at the US lender in roles including CEO of Goldman Sachs Singapore and head of Southeast Asia and Australia for private wealth management.

He believes there’s ample runway for him to innovate within Bank of Singapore and make an impact. “I always tell people I’m the accidental CEO,” he said.

“People rarely plan to great detail that they would one day become a CEO. I certainly didn’t. But when given the opportunity and the challenge, the key trait of a leader is to rise to the occasion and deal with the issues head on and make something of the job.”

“I changed a lot of the core operations to make sure that we have refreshed views and staff to ensure that the operations of the bank continue in a different trajectory to work more efficiently to be honest.”

Since assuming his role, many of Moo’s decisions have been driven by his aspiration for the group to be globally recognised in three to five years.

“From there, I can then benefit for the next seven to 10 years,” he elaborated. “I see it as changing the engine while the car is running. I need to continue to run and continue to move, but at the same time changing the engine while the car is still running, so that by the time the engine is done, the car runs faster.”

New leadership

Moo cites the reshuffle as being necessitated by both “circumstances and necessity.” For instance, Bank of Singapore required a COO with experience in both front and back operations. Essentially, someone capable of managing the bank while also overseeing processes, which involves governance.

“That’s why Jacky Ang was chosen for the role,” the CEO explained. “The other reason for the reshuffle is certain refreshes of leadership around different areas needed to be done in order to breathe new life into the whole organisation.”

Dubai, for example, is a significant business area for Bank of Singapore. In 2022, it faced a US$1.12 million fine from Dubai International Financial Centre for shortfalls relating to anti-money laundering, and was subjected to an enforcement undertaking, resulting in remediation of financial records.

“That’s why we needed somebody sitting down in Dubai and having eyes on that issue, literally 24/7. So, we hired Ranjit Khanna to take care of the business for us because it really needed senior oversight to resolve the issue,” Moo explained.

In another recent senior hire, ex-Credit Suisse banker Ronnie Cheung was appointed as COO for Greater China, effective 19 March 2024, who reports to Ang. Her appointment followed the hiring of two more senior ex-Credit Suisse Greater China bankers.

He also made changes in his management committee by appointing Samuel Huen as global head of legal and regulatory compliance, Kam Chin Wong as global head of financial crime compliance, and Tan You Leong as global chief risk officer.

“Right now, there is an asset allocation gap in the market. If we get this right we could double our DPM.”

Furthermore, Moo needed that on the ground commitment, so he established three focused hubs – Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai – in a bid to remove cross-border management, as he finds remote management ineffective.

“Now you manage what you see, with the exception of the regional offices. So Luxembourg and London reports into Dubai, and Philippines and Malaysia reports into Singapore, for example.

“I changed a lot of the core operations to make sure that we have refreshed views and staff to ensure that the operations of the bank continue in a different trajectory to work more efficiently to be honest.”

Asset allocation gap

Elsewhere, Moo divided the chief investment office into a standalone group led by Jean Chia, while Vivienne Chia heads the investment solutions group. Lim Leong Guan, who previously led both, is now the global head of financial intermediaries, family office and wealth advisory.

Moo is currently working with CIO Jean Chia on developing an asset allocation model that will allow the bank to raise the bar on its discretionary portfolio management offering (DPM). DPM penetration at the bank is currently between 5% and 10% of AUM, according to APB estimates.

“I have also raised our private banking minimum from US$3 million to US$5 million,” Moo shared. He does not think there is a gap necessarily around products in the market but rather in innovative allocation strategies.

“The question is, how do you allocate? And I believe the gap really is around a differentiated way of allocating. And for me, I always think of things from a risk perspective,” he said.

“If we start with a proper way of allocating and that engineers itself into asset allocation and return profiles and there you’ve got a good framework on how to allocate. Right now, there is an asset allocation gap in the market. If we get this right we could double our DPM.”

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