Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek Holdings, has single-handedly changed the fortunes of the company
Regarded as one of the strongest female figures in Singapore, Ho Ching was like a breath of fresh air for the country’s financial sector. Ho planted her feet in Singapore Technologies Engineering in 1987 as the deputy director of engineering – a 100 per cent state-owned defence manufacturer of products ranging from computer chips to rifles. A decade later she became its president and chief executive officer. It was within this short timeframe that Singapore Technologies Engineering started being recognised as one of the largest defence engineering companies in Asia.
Recognising her potential, the then chairman of Temasek Holdings and former Minister S. Dhanabalan, welcomed Ho as the executive director in 2002. Two years later she became the chief operating officer. Temasek Holdings at that time was completely under the state’s control. The air was growing thicker by the moment as the critics demanded change at the strategic as well as the managerial level. Ho took the industry by a storm. Her immediate move was to convert the highly domestic investment portfolio of the organisation into a well-diversified one. She strategically divided the company’s investments into three main streams. A third was now being invested in Singapore, another third in Asia and the rest in developed nations. This four-decadeold company went global in less than four years. The idea was to prefer emerging economies and economies undergoing visible transformation along with countries which had a thriving middle-class and a strong comparative investment advantage.
Her vision was not limited to the financial turn-around of the company. She brought with her a new wave of cultural diversification. Traditionally run by a large number of Singapore citizens, Temasek Holdings by 2007 had people pouring in from over 20 countries which now formed a major part of its workforce and filled in about 40 per cent of the senior management seats.
Ho’s philanthropic side is just as potent as her professional one. Her interests lie specifically in the areas of healthcare, child development & welfare and education. Her endeavours led to the establishment of the Trailblazer Foundation Ltd which provides funding for sports, community welfare, education and healthcarerelated causes. She was also responsible for the establishment of the Temasek Foundation. Since 2007, it has been funding many programmes across Singapore.
Recently in March 2014, she was given a place in the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations’ ‘Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame’, which honours outstanding women of the country from all walks of life.