DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of AfA for Business Leadership Insights Report

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 9 June 2023

Opening Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of AfA for Business Leadership Insights Report on 9 June 2023.


I am delighted to join you all for the launch of the AfA’s report on Business Leadership Development.

At last year’s Singapore Apex Business Summit, given the critical importance of leadership in enabling us to thrive, and to bring out the best in every one of us, I challenged SBF to tackle the issue of business leadership development.

I thank Chairman Ming Yan and his team in forming an Alliance for Action, and appointing 6 leaders to this task.

Let me thank Lisa, Christophane, Doris, Soon Joo ( all ladies!) and Frank Koo, Frank Phuan and Jack, for their leadership and excellent work, in coming up with a concise, action-oriented Insights Report. 

I especially thank Lisa for chairing the group. In her forward to the report, Lisa said that leadership is an important, but at the same time, a difficult endeavour. And as Asia’s GDP is projected to grow to half of global GDP within the next 10 years, corporate leadership will become even more critical, and potentially even more challenging as Asia is complex and diverse. I fully agree with her. 

In my work chairing the Future Economy Council and overseeing the Industry Transformation Maps, I have noticed that industries and companies that have exceeded expectations are led by leaders who have a keen sense of opportunities, an ability to formulate strategies, and to build deep capabilities in their organizations to deliver results. They also work well to collaborate with others, to build complementary strengths.

Broadening and deepening the leadership skills of our corporate sector is critical for our economy to thrive, and for us to provide good jobs for Singaporeans.  We must stay open to welcoming the best leaders from around the world to be part of our team.  But as the Report noted, although 43% of the top 5000 largest companies by revenue has an Asian HQ here, Asians represent only 3-4% of executive teams of companies headquartered in the US or Europe.

Therefore there is a great opportunity for us to develop more Singaporeans to take on regional and global leadership roles. We must do our best to develop Singaporeans to their fullest potential.  Singaporeans, growing up in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, as well as a very cosmopolitan global city, can build on their strengths to build relationships across a diverse and complex Asia. We can play our part to deepening the Global-Asia connection.

At the same time, with our large and consistent investments in R&D, there is a great opportunity for us to develop innovation and entrepreneurship, so that we can better harness the frontiers of science and technology to improve our lives, and to take better care of the planet.

There are already some good success stories – but we can, and must, do more.  As Lisa and her team noted, we must adopt an ‘all-hands on deck’ approach. At the heart of it, an individual’s career journey is driven by personal choices and circumstances.

But these can be shaped and supported along the way, which is why the AfA has laid out recommendations on what companies, industry aggregators, and Government could do.

These recommendations must be followed up on, including the Singapore Human Capital Mobility Index prototype.

This bias for action is important, and we must follow through at all levels.

I am happy that the corporate leadership is also an issue being examined under the Empower pillar of the Forward Singapore exercise, and the efforts will be coordinated.

What heartens me the most about this AfA is watching today’s leaders take charge of nurturing and developing the next generation of leaders.

This is a leadership responsibility that I’m certain each of you is already exercising in your respective companies and organisations.

Coming together to address this at the system level reflects the commitment to grow a supportive and empowering community, and the sense of collective responsibility to groom and sustain good leadership.

This is precious and critical for a small country like Singapore – statistically we would always be at a disadvantage, but coming together, we can improve our odds, lift one another up, and achieve better outcomes.

Once again, let me commend Lisa and her team for stepping up to the plate, and for their hard work over the past year.

You represent the best of leadership – leading through action, consulting with inclusion, and geared towards a bias for action.

I hope that you will continue to cajole and spur more leaders and companies to join in this effort to develop Singapore talent, and nurture strong and innovative enterprises!