Wee chairs UOB AGM for last time

PHOTO: Wee chairs UOB AGM for last time

A touch of nostalgia was in the air at United Overseas Bank's (UOB) 71st annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday.

It was veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw's last AGM as chairman.

Mr Wee, 84, who led the bank for 38 years as chairman and chief executive, will remain on the board as a non-executive director, holding the title of chairman emeritus and adviser to the board.

In comments to journalists after the AGM, Mr Wee suggested that acquisition opportunities in South-east Asia were limited and UOB might need to look further afield for expansion.

"In my view, we might have to look towards Australia or Hong Kong," he said.

At the AGM, Mr Wee thanked shareholders for their support, and said (the late former deputy prime minister) Dr Goh Keng Swee once told him it is better to "be born lucky than smart".

"I'm born lucky," he said, to laughter from the audience of about 400 shareholders at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

About 76.2 per cent of those at the AGM voted in support of his re-appointment as a director.

Of the 15 resolutions put up, the chairman's fee of some $2 million for Mr Wee saw the lowest percentage of "for" votes, at 64.12 per cent.

Mr Wee's successor, former Singapore Exchange boss Hsieh Fu Hua, thanked Mr Wee for his contributions to the bank.

Under Mr Wee's tenure, UOB has "grown about a hundred-fold from $2.8 billion in total assets to more than $253 billion, and in market value from $320 million to $32 billion".

"Under you, we have grown from a small bank by the Singapore River to become a leading regional bank... The result of your life's passion is evident to all," said Mr Hsieh, to applause.

UOB, the smallest of the three local lenders, was founded by Mr Wee Cho Yaw's father.

Regarded as one of Singapore's shrewdest bankers, Mr Wee Cho Yaw joined the UOB board in 1958, and became chairman and CEO in 1974. He gave up his chief executive role in 2007, in favour of his son, Mr Wee Ee Cheong, who still holds the top position.

The senior Mr Wee's most dramatic move came in besting DBS Group in a $10 billion takeover battle for Overseas Union Bank in 2001.

Mr Hsieh said the success of the bank has "proven the sustainability of an owner-led business and banking model".

He added: "The most successful companies are those where the long-term interests of shareholders and the objectives of management are aligned.

"This ownership mindset is fundamental and reinforced by the engagement and representation of a significant shareholder. This approach will continue to serve UOB well."


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