Digital Fireside Chat with Mrs Lim Hwee Hua

Date: 29 May 2020, Friday

The Council for Board Diversity organised a Digital “Fireside-Chat” with Lim Hwee Hua, board director of United Overseas Bank, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, and Trustee of the International Valuation Standards Council. She was previously Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Transport.

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

Mrs Lim generously shared her personal experience and gave advice on navigating difficult situations. Her views were very well received by the senior women executives who attended the session.

Some of the participants of the Digital Fireside Chat with Mrs Lim Hwee Hua. Photo by Council for Board Diversity.

Our key takeaways:

Board directors play a critical role in providing strategic governance and direction to ensure sustainable growth of their business. The current Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses and economies in ways that are unprecendented. Board directors may consider applying ‘P-H-D’ in board discussions and deliberations:

  • People: People are a business’ most critical asset. Questions relating to People, when framed strategically, helps to address issues of how the organization is managing employees’ fear of the changes that have crashed landed on them. E.g. working from home, social distancing, teamwork over digital platforms, uncertainty of their future; and assuring the employees that their health and safety and well-being is not overlooked.
  • Hard decisions: While board directors have to be sensitive to the emotions of people, they also need to be pragmatic and take hard decisions. In board discussions, it is important to recognize that trade-offs may be necessary, and hard decisions need to be debated and taken for the sustainability of the business.
  • Dynamism: Be prepared for rapid changes, you may have to adjust your assumptions several times; it is important to be agile. During these Covid-19 days, this is certainly a key lesson learnt by many. In addition to Dynamism, there is also Digitalisation, which, in many cases, needs to be introduced almost overnight. It has also come to the forefront that Diversity of ideas, supply chains, skills, financing and talent are part of the Dynamism that businesses have to address.

Some advice for women:

  1. Step up when opportunities are available and do not underrate your abilities and potential.
  2. Do not be afraid to ask for help – you will be surprised at the help you receive.
  3. Leave your gender at the door – be confident and self-assured that you can contribute when called upon. Try not to process everything through a gender lens. Rather, be your perceptive, empathetic self, peppered with humour, which can go a long way.

Speaker

Currently Co-Chair of Tembusu Partners, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua also sits on the boards of United Overseas Bank Ltd, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, Ramky Enviro Engineers and Summit Power International. She is the Chairman of Asia Pacific Exchange and a senior adviser to Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts. In May 2020, Mrs Lim was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the International Valuation Standards Council.

Mrs Lim enjoyed a varied career in financial services prior to her service in Parliament between 1996 and 2011. Her last appointment while in public service were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and concurrently as Second Minister for Finance and Transport. At the Finance Ministry, Mrs Lim spearheaded the reform of the accountancy sector, reviewed the Government’s investment in business and helped implement financing options for small and medium enterprises. She rejoined the private sector after leaving politics and was previously an independent member of the Ernst & Young Global Advisory Council and a member of the Asia Advisory Board of Westpac Institutional Bank.

She holds a Master of Arts (Hons) in Mathematics/Engineering from the University of Cambridge and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Anderson School of Management, University of California at Los Angeles.

Moderator

Janet Ang, Former Vice-President, Industry Solutions and Smarter Cities, IBM Asia Pacific, is a member of the Council for Board Diversity. Ms Janet Ang was responsible for leading IBM’s industry value creation for Asia Pacific clients across key industries and leads the charge for helping cities become smarter cognitive cities. She is a Member of the IBM Industry Academy. She had also worked in Tokyo and Beijing.

She is an independent director of Singapore Press Holdings and the Immediate Past President of the International Women’s Forum (Singapore). She serves as Chair of the NUS Institute of Systems Science, SISTIC Singapore, and the Singapore Business Federation Digitalisation Committee. Janet is a member of the NUS Alumni Advisory Board and was a member of the Diversity Action Committee (2017 – 2018).

Janet was awarded the NUS Business School Eminent Alumni Award in 2014, NUS Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2015, and the Singapore Computer Society IT Leaders Award 2018 – Hall of Fame.

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.