SMRT turns defensive; claims new CEO meets key criteria amid widespread criticism


SMRT defended the appointment of it’s next CEO Neo Kian Hong today, amid widespread criticism that the transport operator has hired yet another ex-General who does not have prior rail industry experience, that too after a global search.

In a letter published today, the corporation’s vice-president for corporate communications Margaret Teo listed the “key criteria and considerations” the organisation relied on in selecting its new chief executive. These requirements are: “Personal values, leadership qualities, relevant engineering knowledge, track record in operations and people management, and the ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders.”

Teo revealed that a recruitment agency was engaged to help identify a group of candidates who match SMRT’s requirements: “An executive search firm was engaged to conduct a comprehensive global search based on the selection criteria. The interview panel finally decided on Mr Neo Kian Hong as they were particularly impressed with his personal values and leadership qualities.”

SMRT’s representative was responding to criticism over the appointment of 54-year-old Neo – particularly a letter written by Dr Michael Loh Toon Seng who had asked: “With due respect, how did the relevant decision-makers end up appointing another SMRT chief with zero experience in the transport industry, zero experience working in the private sector and zero experience at the board level of any company, let alone a $1 billion company?”

Replying that industry experience was also “considered in the process”, Teo added:

“Of course, a key attribute considered in the final selection was the candidate’s understanding of the needs of Singapore’s commuters and public transport system. 

“The panel recognised that Mr Neo has engineering qualifications and can be well supported by a team of committed and professional rail engineers.

“As the chairman of DSO National Laboratories and the Defence Science and Technology Agency, he has knowledge and good experience in building strong engineering, system acquisition and maintenance capabilities.”

Asserting that Neo has the ability to keep morale high and motivate SMRT staff, Teo concluded that these were the reasons why SMRT chose to give the top position “to a Singaporean with strong leadership qualities and the right heart to serve SMRT and, most importantly, our commuters”.


  1. SMRT I like to take the job! If he can, I can too.
    My resume
    1. Sergeant in the SAF.
    2. Take charge of a platoon.
    3. Well respected by my men. Of which willing to chong with to the death.
    3. No experience whatsoever in running of TRAINS. Armour vehicle no problem.
    4. Will kill who ever fail in his task.
    5. Just make sure SMRT remember to pay me my million dollar salary on time.
    6. So co-incident I am retire too.
    7. Please ensure my table and chair to be fitted with bolts and nuts so it wouldn’t rock if the train fail again.
    8. Please provide me a gold plated bullet proof vest and helmet.
    9. Oh yes and a gold plated sword so I can chop the heads off of those who slack.
    Thank You
    So when can I go for the interview?

  2. Singaporeans are forgiving people, we gave chances to Desmond Kuek when that bitch SMRT appointed failed Singaporeans with a major breakdown.
    Then Desmond Kuek failed with more breakdowns and a flooding in the tunnels, a deep rooted culture problem he failed to address, Singaporeans again gave chances for SMRT too.

    Enough is Enough!!!

    Don’t take Singaporeans as fools!!! SAF is not SMRT training academy for SMRT CEOs!!!

    Start a real global search for someone with real train experience. It takes more then engineering degree. Army experience are irrelevant as SAF doesn’t have trains.

    BTW SAF is also not Minister production factory too!!!

  3. Hmm, personal values, leadership qualities, industry experience. For many companies I’m sure, 2 of the 3 are required. If someone has personal values and industry experience but no leadership qualities, he may not get the CEO job but may be hired to another position and groomed to be a CEO. He knows about the business so he should do well.

    If it were someone with leadership qualities, industry experience but not enough personal values, he can be a CEO but certainly will clash with those whose personal values are different. However those can be changed. The running of the MRT is not affected by the personal values of a CEO as has the industry experience.

    If it were some ex-general with leadership skills and good personal values but absolutely no industry experience. Then please lah, stay at home and enjoy your retirement, drive GRAB or start a company doing what you like to do.

  4. WTF. What can we expect of him. Same army DNA, good for barking orders, press button. May have had engineering degree but what sort of engineering disciplines. There are many types and levels of engineers, .. book engineer. Kia si, Kia su gungho or thinking engineers.
    so which category Neo belongs to.