Mr Sam Ong Eng Keang, the CFO of SMRT left only after 8 months into the job. His last day was 9 Nov this month.

He was the shortest-serving CFO at SMRT.

SMRT has lost 3 CFOs since 2011 when SMRT trains started breaking down more regularly. Its previous CEO Saw Phaik Hwa quit in Jan 2012.

In Sep 2011, CFO Lim Cheng Cheng left and was replaced by Catherine Lee Khia Yee.

In Jan this year, SMRT announced that Ms Lee had resigned from the company to “pursue other career opportunities”. The same announcement also said that Sam Ong, Hyflux’s Group Senior EVP and Group Deputy CEO would take over from her on 1 March as SMRT’s new CFO.

In essence, Ms Lee left SMRT after 2.5 years working there. She is currently the CFO at Clifford Capital.

And now, barely 8 months later, Mr Ong had also left.

SMRT shrugs off the latest exit in its statement to the stock exchange, saying that Mr Ong left to “pursue philanthropic interests and business prospects”.

It’s strange that Mr Ong decided to leave after SMRT had just reported a stellar set of Q2 results indicating a strong earnings recovery on the back of higher fares and lower costs. SMRT’s Net profit shot up by 75.5% to $25.3 million for the second quarter ended Sept 30. Revenue was 6% higher at $314 million compared to the same period a year ago.

SMRT run by former military men

Mr David Leong, a HR consultant said that such a pattern usually means a “misfit between the staff and the organisation”.

“In the HR perspective, when there’s a high turnover, the environment may be toxic, or it is very different from what people were used to,” he said.

Mr Leong also speculated that it could be the CFOs can’t see “eye-to-eye with the chief executive officer”.

SMRT currently is being run by former military men from SAF. It’s CEO, Desmond Kuek, was the former SAF Chief of Defence Force (CDF).

Kuek enlisted in the SAF in 1981. Throughout his military career, he held various appointments, including:

Commanding Officer, 41st Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment
Head of Defence Studies Department, Ministry of Defence
Commander, 4th Singapore Armoured Brigade
Assistant Chief of the General Staff (Operations)
Commander, 3rd Division
Director, Joint Intelligence Directorate
Chief of Staff, General Staff
Chief of Army
Chief of Defence Force (CDF)
Kuek relinquished his appointment as the CDF in March 2010. After leaving the military, he served as a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources till Sep 2012. He also held directorships on the boards of a number of GLCs and Govt agencies.

On 1 Oct 2012, he became the President and CEO of SMRT.

Perhaps the CFO might last longer if he or she was also a former military personnel?

What do you think?

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