Seeing a Ferrari roar past as you huff and puff your way to the bus stop or MRT station is a common occurrence in Singapore, which is a clue as to how many rich people live on this tiny island.
A recent Straits Times article revealed that the CEO of DBS got paid $11.9 million in 2018. That makes PM Lee’s $2.2 million salary look like small change.
So who exactly are these Mr Moneybags?
7 high-profile CEOs in Singapore – what’s their salary?
|CEO (name of)||Company||Annual salary in S$|
|Piyush Gupta||DBS||$11.9 million|
|Desmond Kuek||SMRT||$1.87 million|
|Chua Sock Koong||Singtel||$6.56 million|
|Min-Liang Tan||Razer||$11.98 million|
|Lee Chee Koon||CapitaLand||$4 to $4.25 million|
|Ng Yat Chung||SPH||$1.9 million|
|Goh Choon Phong||Singapore Airlines||$4.32 million|
DBS CEO salary: $11.9 million a year
The CEO of DBS, Piyush Gupta, made $11.9 in 2018, 15.5% more than in 2017. That figure includes a $4.5 million cash bonus and $6.1 million share plan—his actual salary was just $1.2 million, the same as last year. He also received $62,527 worth of non-cash remunerations such as his club, car and driver.
DBS has grown consistently since Gupta joined the bank in 2009, breaking earning records in 2014. He has been credited with reorienting the bank towards a broader regional outlook, as well as pushing digital banking for DBS with the far-reaching campaign Live More, Bank Less.
SMRT CEO salary: $1.87 million a year
Neo Kian Hong took over as SMRT’s CEO in August 2018, so his total annual remuneration is currently unknown.
However, previous CEO Desmond Kuek’s salary for 2016 was $1.87 million, according to a Straits Times report, with entailed a 20% pay cut from the year before. He received a basic salary of $830,955, as well as a $1,040,759 variable performance bonus.
Desmond Kuek’s 6-year tenure at SMRT was fraught with problems, including the rise of trains breaking down and some unfortunate incidents like the fatal Pasir Ris accident and a train getting stuck by lightning. Many of these issues were legacy problems that had begun long before he took over the reins, but nonetheless appear to have contributed to his pay cut.
Singtel CEO salary: $6.56 million a year
Singtel group CEO Chua Sock Koong earned a cool $6.56 million in 2017. This figure includes a base salary of $1.65 million.
She has been with Singtel since 2007 and has been credited with turning Singtel from a telco into a company offering a broad range of communications technology. Under her leadership, Singtel has leveraged digital businesses such as mobile video streaming, as well as high growth areas such as cloud and cyber security.
Razer CEO salary: $11.98 million a year
Razer is a Singapore success story, with co-founder Min-Liang Tan now serving as its CEO. As one of the guys who started what is now one of the biggest gaming hardware companies in the world, he has become a cult figure of sorts.
Technically, Razer is now a US company. According to their 2018 annual report, key management personnel received US$8.86 million (S$11.98 million), including US$7.63 million (S$10.32 million) worth of equity compensation benefits and US$1.22 million (S$1.65 million) worth of short-term employee benefits.
He’s among the top 5 richest Singaporeans listed on Forbes.
CapitaLand CEO salary: $4 to $4.25 million a year
Singapore is basically one big CapitaLand mall, so it’s no surprise that Lee Chee Koon, CapitaLand’s CEO and president, earned a hefty $4 million to $4.25 million in 2018, according to a Straits Times report. About 20% of this sum was made up of his salary, including the annual wage supplement, 60% was made up of bonuses and other benefits, while the remaining 20% was made up of shares.
He took over from the previous group CEO only in September 2018, but gained recognition for promoting Singapore-China relations when he was CEO of The Ascott, which is owned by CapitaLand.
SPH CEO salary: $1.9 million a year
Ng Yat Chung, who took over as Singapore Press Holdings CEO in 2017, reportedly earned $1.9 million, a figure comprising a $957,030 salary and a $942,780 bonus.
So far, the former SAF lieutenant-general has led a retrenchment exercise in hopes of cutting costs and will have to deal with keeping SPH relevant through digital channels.
Singapore Airlines CEO salary: $4.32 million
Singapore Airlines has been dealing with lacklustre performance due to fierce competition. That could explain why CEO Goh Choon Phong took home 14% less in 2018, bringing his total remuneration to $4.32 million, comprising $1.37 worth of salary, a lower performance bonus of $1.73 million, and lower share-based compensation of $1.10 million.
Goh had already been working at Singapore Airlines for more than 20 years prior to being appointed CEO in 2010, which has included overseas postings.
What do CEOs do anyway? And where does their pay come from?
A CEO is responsible for managing the business from the top, including deciding how to allocate resources and managing operations.
While the CEO obviously delegates lots of day-to-day tasks, his or her vision is key to determining the company’s long-term direction. He or she can consult other people in the company, but ultimately is the one responsible for making the final decision.
The CEO is also usually the one who has to communicate with shareholders and release statements to the public.
Ultimately, the CEO’s job is to help the company make more money in the long run. That’s why performance bonuses and equity are usually such a big part of a CEO’s remuneration package.
What can you do if you want to become a CEO too?
The two key ways to become a CEO are to found or co-found a company, or to get appointed as a CEO at some point in your career.
For non-entrepreneurs, receiving a CEO appointment requires you to demonstrate your worth by climbing the corporate ladder until you reach the top, or have valuable networks.
Obviously, the vast majority of people will not get there. The few who manage to make it to that CEO spot do so with a lot of hard work, strategic career moves, a flair for leadership, good communication and people skills, and lots and lots of networking. Basically, you’ll have to beat everyone else at the corporate game.
In terms of qualifications, your experience and contacts obviously count, but you will also require a bachelor’s degree at the very least. A master’s degree like the MBA will be helpful too but is not 100% essential. In big organisations, the prestige of your university does tend to matter. Many CEOs also constantly upgrade themselves with relevant qualifications pertaining to their field.
Do you have any anecdotes about real-life encounters with CEOs? Share them in the comments!