Singapore—SMRT, the leading multi-modal public transport operator in Singapore, has seen an exodus of over thirty human resources executives and senior engineers within the last eight months, which is a puzzlingly high attrition rate.
In April 2018, Desmond Kuek, the company’s CEO left his position after six years with the company, a tenure marked by turbulence. Mr Kuek has since gone on to become the vice-chairman for Swiss investment bank UBS.
During Mr Kuek’s time, the number of train breakdowns rose to an appalling high. Other incidents that occurred during that time included a collision in Joo Koon, a tunnel flood at Bishan that slowed train services, and an accident near Pasir Ris MRT, which ended with two dead SMRT employees.
Shortly after Mr Kuek stepped down at SMRT, it was Gerard Koh’s turn to resign. Mr Koh had been the chief corporate officer in charge of IT, procurement, HR and training.
Mr Koh is the head of HR at information technology group NCS at present.
Mr Koh’s resignation seemed to have opened the floodgates, because after he left SMRT, no less than 30 executives who worked in the company’s human resource department, across different levels, have left SMRT in eight months, according to a report from the Straits Times (ST).
Case in point: Lee Yem Choo, a former Singapore Armed Forces colonel, helmed SMRT’s Thomson-East Coast Line division’s HR department, stepped down after less than one year in his position.
Moreover, two engineers— Chia Chun Wah, a senior vice-president of maintenance and engineering, and another individual who had been the head of Singapore Rail Engineering, the business unit set up by Mr Kuek in 2014 to build and market the company’s engineering expertise, also resigned in the same time period.
One individual from the firm’s corporate communications department had also resigned as well. The ST report states that the department as a whole has been affected by resignations, but the exact number of people has not been made known.
Elaine Koh, the company’s chief commuter engagement officer who stepped into the position in the company that had just been created, also resigned after having been with SMRT for a little more than one year. She will be replaced by David Yeo, the firm’s head of strategic communications, effective May 1.
The same ST report says that additional resignations are expected to occur after the annual bonus is given in May.
On its part, the company says it had “streamlined and reassigned headcount from corporate headquarters,” which does not say much about the recent exodus of company staff.
“As we are continually strengthening the organisation to enhance train performance and reliability, we have streamlined and reassigned headcount from corporate headquarters,” a spokesperson for SMRT said to ST.
The current head of SMRT is former army general Neo Kian Hong, the company’s CEO./TISG
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