Digital Fireside Chat with Ms Euleen Goh

Date: 16 June 2020, Tuesday

The Council for Board Diversity organised a Digital “Fireside-Chat” with Euleen Goh, non-executive Chairperson of SATS Ltd, non-executive director of DBS Group Holdings Ltd and DBS Bank Ltd, deputy Chairperson and Senior Independent Director of Royal Dutch Shell plc, and non-executive board member of Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd.

The discussion was led by Janet Ang, Independent Director of Singapore Press Holdings Limited and Chairman of NUS Institute of Systems Science.

Ms Goh shared her personal experience and advice on things that boards consider while navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, which encompasses all aspects of the familiar phrase ‘VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)’ world.

Participants of the Digital Fireside Chat with Ms Euleen Goh. Photo by Council for Board Diversity.

Our key takeaways:

1. Covid-19 has created an unprecedented situation for all companies. During this time, boards should be taking into consideration the ‘3S’:

  • Survival: Companies are now focused on survival amidst such a prolonged period that has halted almost all business. Companies’ risk management models could would not have anticipated the extent of disruption that has resulted from Covid-19.
  • Singular focus on profit can no longer be a business model for long-term survival. Covid-19 has shown that no matter how big a company’s profits were, they have needed help to survive this period. It has also shown that companies that want to be resilient and ‘built to last’ cannot focus on profit alone.
  • Societal license to operate: Customers ultimately make the choices that impact the survival of the company. For example, societal pressure will not allow pharmaceutical companies to charge exorbitant prices for drugs and instead would require them to share new discoveries on Covid-19 vaccines with the rest of the world. This forces the companies to become more efficient, proficient, and to think about the society they serve.

2. There are three underlying imperatives for companies’ long-term survival i.e. the ‘ABC’ of corporate DNA:

  • Agility: Do you have a diversified business model where you can pivot as the market changes? There is a need to rethink the agility of your business and the shorter business cycles that come with it.
  • Beliefs: Your company’s beliefs must underpin how you operate your business. What differentiates you from others? How are you relevant to the buyer – instead of just answering their directions, can you identify your consumers’ needs? What are the attitudes and strengths you want to foster in your business?
  • Connectivity: In current times, connectivity in terms of connecting around the world between your supplier / supply chain and consumer is the most important. Connectivity can also help companies deploy their employees efficiently and ensure that they stay connected to the organisations. Connectivity will lower physical boundaries enormously, which is important for today’s digital age.

3. In boardroom deliberations, international boards are attuned to stakeholders’ sentiments e.g. activist non-governmental organisations, shareholders, governments. These activist pressures are being faced increasingly by Asian boards as well. International boards would also need to increasingly pay considerable attention to cultural differences as they operate in several markets.

4. Some advice:

  • The most important value a director can bring to the board are the questions they ask. Read widely, spend time thinking about issues that concern the board, and ask questions. You will get better at asking insightful questions as you gain more experience in doing so.

5. Ms Goh closed with this quote from Marcel Proust:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”

Speaker

Euleen Goh is the non-executive Chairperson of the Board of Directors of SATS Ltd, and non-executive director of DBS Group Holdings Ltd and DBS Bank Ltd. Euleen is also the deputy Chairperson and Senior Independent Director of Royal Dutch Shell plc and non-executive board member of Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd.

She is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of DBS Foundation Ltd and a Trustee of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Endowment Fund. She is the Chairperson of the Governing Council of Singapore Institute of Management and also Chairperson of Singapore Institute of Management Group Limited.

A Chartered Accountant with professional qualifications in banking and taxation, Euleen held various senior management positions in Standard Chartered Bank, retiring in March 2006 after some 21 years with the Bank. She was Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore from 2001 until March 2006. In that role, she was responsible for driving the Bank’s corporate governance and strategic agenda in Singapore.

Euleen was named as Her World Woman of the Year 2005. She was awarded a Public Service Medal for her contributions to the Financial Services sector by the President of Singapore in the same year.

Moderator

Janet Ang is a retired IBM Vice President and former Managing Director of IBM Singapore. She is a veteran in the tech industry and has lived and worked in Japan and China for over a decade. Janet has a diverse background having managed IBM Services in Greater China, IBM Industry Solutions across Asia Pacific and Lenovo Desktop Operations globally.

She is an Independent Director at SPH Limited and chairs the boards of SISTIC.com, NUS Institute of Systems Science and Caritas Singapore Agape Fund. She also serves as deputy chair of the SBF Foundation and sits on the boards of Esplanade, HTX and Singapore Polytechnic.

Janet was awarded the NUS Business School Eminent Alumni Award in 2014, the NUS Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2015 and the Singapore Computer Society – Hall of Fame Award in 2018. In 2019, Janet was awarded the Public Service Medal (PBM) by the Singapore Government.

Organisers

The Council for Board Diversity (CBD) is a 20-member Council comprising corporate leaders and professionals from the business, people and public sectors, formed to address the under-representation of women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards, and Institutions of a Public Character in Singapore. Mr Loh Boon Chye, CEO of SGX, and Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman of National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre, are the current Co-Chairs.

CBD succeeds the Diversity Action Committee (“DAC”) which focused on increasing women’s participation on corporate boards. CBD aims to sustain DAC’s momentum by expanding its efforts into the people and public sectors during its two-year term from January 2019 to December 2020. For more information about CBD, visit www.councilforboarddiversity.sg.