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Singapore's top leadership calls Wee Cho Yaw 'simply unique' and a 'titan'

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 2 min read
Singapore's top leadership calls Wee Cho Yaw 'simply unique' and a 'titan'
President Tharman (third from left) at former UOB chairman Wee Cho Yaw's wake. UOB CEO Wee Ee Cheong is on first left. / Photo: UOB Group
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Wee Cho Yaw, longtime UOB chairman who died on Saturday at 95 years old, was a "titan" of the industry and "simply unique", according to Singapore's top leadership.

"His business acumen and visionary leadership were instrumental in growing UOB into one of the most successful banks in Singapore and the region," says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has known Wee personally for four decades.

Most notably, as the then chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore more than two decades ago, Lee pushed through major changes to the local financial sector.

Besides DBS Group Holdings, three of the biggest local banks had under their controlling families built up a web of stakes in non-banking businesses ranging from properties to retail to trading.

Under then DPM Lee, MAS in 2001 required the banks to divest what were then deemed non-core assets within three years.

The changes were made in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, which fell many regional banks.

See also: Billionaire Zong Qinghou, who bested Danone, has died, aged 79

"I worked closely with him, and greatly valued his perspectives and advice," recalls PM Lee.

"I will always warmly remember his passion and energy, and our many conversations across a wide range of issues over the years," the PM adds.

See also: 'Simply unique': Wee Cho Yaw (1929–2024)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second from left) at the wake on Feb 4, speaking to Madam Chuang Yong Eng, widow of Wee Cho Yaw. UOB CEO Wee Ee Cheong is first from left. / Photo: UOB Group

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was at the wake, calls Wee "simply unique", "will never be forgotten" and a business leader with "an insatiable appetite" for work and "a shrewd eye for opportunities".

President Tharman would have worked with Wee in his then capacity as first the managing director of the MAS and later the central bank's chairman.

"I enjoyed my meetings with Cho Yaw during my many years at the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He had insights that I always found useful. And a tenacious, but very warm personality."

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong describes how Wee's "transformative leadership" made UOB a regional banking powerhouse. 

"His vision and ethical standards set a lasting industry benchmark, and his contributions to our financial centre and much more, will be remembered," says Wong, who is the current MAS chairman and finance minister.


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