SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s second-largest creditor, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC), has appointed Vice President Helen Wong as the group’s CEO, replacing Samuel Tsien, who is retiring after nearly nine years.
Wong, 59, will become the first woman to run a bank in Singapore and one of the few to run an Asian bank. The appointment will take effect on April 15, OCBC said on Friday.
In September, Citigroup named consumer banking director Jane Fraser as its next CEO, making her the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank.
Wong’s appointment comes as local banks struggle with low interest rates and weak growth in pandemic-affected markets. Lenders are also lending non-performing loans as regulators prepare to ease the conditions for the multi-billion dollar moratorium.
Kevin Kwek, a senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said that given Wong’s experience in China, he expects OCBC, Southeast Asia’s second-largest bank after DBS Group Holdings, to focus on the second largest economy in the world.
Wong joined OCBC in February 2020 from HSBC Holdings, where he led the operations of the Great Bank of China and was widely regarded by analysts as a leader in the role of Tsien. He spent 27 years at HSBC.
“Helen’s experiences and expertise extend beyond corporate banking, Greater China and North Asia,” OCBC President Ooi Sang Kuang said in a statement.
Wong will now run a bank where she began her banking career in 1984 as a management intern in Singapore.
Tsien, 66, who joined OCBC in 2007, led the bank to increase its presence in Greater China with a $ 5 billion acquisition of Hong Kong’s Wing Hang Bank in 2014.
Under his tenure, OCBC expanded its asset management business by acquiring Barclays’ wealth operations in Singapore and Hong Kong in 2016.
OCBC has doubled its net profit, reaching $ 4.87 billion in 2019 from $ 2.31 billion in 2011.