DBS chief Piyush Gupta to take over from Ho Kwon Ping as SMU chairman

SINGAPORE – DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta will be the new chairman of Singapore Management University (SMU) from Jan 12, 2023.

He will be taking over from founding chairman Ho Kwon Ping, who will step down on Jan 11, 2023.

Mr Ho, 69, accepted the Government’s invitation in 1997 to create SMU, Singapore’s third university, and led it for 25 years.

In a statement on Wednesday (Aug 17), SMU said that Mr Ho and former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan first laid out the features that became the university’s calling card: its strong management and social science offerings, as well as delivering a broad-based education to its students.

In 2000, SMU, which was Singapore’s first university modelled after American institutions such as the Wharton School in terms of its curriculum and the seminar-style of the offered classes, welcomed its first batch of 306 students. It now has more than 12,000 students and over 36,000 alumni.

For his contributions, Mr Ho, who is founder and executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Laguna Resorts and Hotels, was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 2009. In 2017, he was given one of the nation’s highest honours – the prestigious Distinguished Service Order (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang) award – in the National Day Awards.

SMU said on Wednesday that Mr Ho pushed SMU to be more than a business school.

Under his leadership, SMU grew from having just a school of business to a university with eight schools focusing on fields like computing and information systems, economics, law and social sciences.

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Mr Ho said: “It has been one of the most significant journeys of my life to have been part of the team of visionary people from faculty to students, management to trustees, who believed that we could make a difference for young Singaporeans.

“My guiding principle from the very beginning to now, is that nothing can hold us back from achieving our greatest dreams, except our own self-limiting fear of failure, innovation, change.”

He added: “I retire now with the deepest confidence that what we put in place over the last 25 years will be a solid foundation upon which an even bolder, idealistic vision can become reality.”

His successor, Mr Gupta, 62, has been chief executive and director of DBS Group since 2009. He has also been a member of the SMU board of trustees since Jan 12.

He said: “In these fast-changing, disruptive times, universities play a key role, not just in leading and shaping thinking through cutting-edge research, but also in training our young people in multi-disciplinary ways of problem-solving.

“Kwon Ping, and the first generation of pioneers, have set an extraordinary benchmark of success, and I look forward to building on their tremendous achievements, working with the Board of Trustees and university leadership to take SMU to the next level.”

Prior to joining DBS, Mr Gupta had a 27-year career at Citigroup, where his last position was chief executive for South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

SMU president Lily Kong said that beyond developing the institution from scratch, Mr Ho has guided its management team as SMU grew from an ‘infant’ to a ‘young adult’.

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“The university is deeply indebted to him for his wisdom and counsel,” she said.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing also thanked Mr Ho for his contributions in establishing SMU as Singapore’s first autonomous university.

“I look forward to working with Piyush and am confident that he will build on Kwon Ping’s good work to take SMU to greater heights,” he said.