Saturday, September 23, 2006

Readers Question: Tan Kin Lian Stepping Down

After the newspaper reports in Business Times, The Straits Times and Berita Harian, some readers have wrote in to ask me about this. Here are some of the frequently-asked questions.

Is it true that Tan Kin Lian is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income?

Yes, he will step down on 1 April 2007 "to pursue other interests". He has confirmed this on his blog.

By that time, Tan would have given 30 years of public service to NTUC Income.

What is your reaction?

The announcement was received by some colleagues as a shock. But to many I know, it was an affirmation of issues that have been discussed in the office in the past week.

I joined NTUC Income on 15 August 2003. I have worked in NTUC Income as its Legal Counsel for about 3 years and 1 month now. I was expected to last less than a year.

In these 3 years, I have learnt many things. But one key lesson is that, in any situation, we must be positive and make the most of the opportunities it brings.

I think a new leader will bring new ideas and new ways of doing things in NTUC Income.

What else do you hope to see in the new leader?

First, the same courage that Tan had to make his views known, even if the issue involved regulators or others with influence.

When I joined NTUC Income, my mentor told me, "Tan Kin Lian is one person who will stand up for what he thinks is right. And he is the one person who will let you do the same. So the opportunity to work with him is an honour."

Second, the same desire and willingness that Tan had to help deprived constituencies in society.

I remember, when I first joined NTUC Income, a manager had put forward a proposal to Tan. The manager painted a very rosy picture and provided enticing figures to support that image.

Tan replied, "Our goal as a cooperative is not make too much money. We only need to make a reasonable amount of money. Our goal should also be to help people and to create jobs so that they can help others."

Third, I hope the new leader will preserve some of the laudable things that Tan has done. For example, our level of promptness in responding to queries and the accessibility of the Chief Executive Officer to our policyholders.

How do you think the newspapers covered the report?

I think the reports could have painted a better picture of what he has achieved and the legacy he is leaving. But then, there was no confirmation that he is actually leaving. Now that this is known, perhaps, the newspapers will do so.

It is not easy to take a cooperative "from an asset base of $40 million in 1977" to "total assets exceeding $17 billion and annual premiums exceeding $2 billion". NTUC Income is also "rated "AA" by Standard & Poor's, [which] is the highest rated insurance company from Asia".

Tan Kin Lian brought you into NTUC Income. Is your position secure?

I do not report directly to him, although I have done some work for him from time to time. The status of my position is determined by the head of legal, who supervises me.

In any case, I think, in this day and age, it will be fool-hardy for anyone to think he has a secure position.

It is more important to know if one is adding value and if such value creation is appreciated.

In this respect, at the start of every year, I agree on a set of performance indicators with my supervisor. And by the end of the year, I am measured against these benchmarks. So far, I am meeting most of these standards.

Dharmendra Yadav

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