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4 things about Ng Kok Song: From poor village boy to presidential hopeful

Ng Kok Song has a public service career in finance that spans over four decades.

Singapore presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song's public service career spans more than four decades. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

The former chief investment officer of sovereign wealth fund GIC is the third person to throw his hat in the ring after former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and businessman George Goh declared the same.

In announcing his candidacy, Ng highlighted the importance of the presidency in safeguarding the nation's reserves, an area in which he has some familiarity given his public service career in finance which spanned over four decades.

Here are some interesting must-knows about Ng:

1. He grew up poor in a fishing village

Ng is the second child out of 12 siblings. His family grew up in Kangkar, a fishing village which is known today as Sengkang. His father was a fish auctioneer while his mother was a housewife. According to Ng, he had lived in the family home – which consists of a thatched roof, a mud floor, and two bedrooms – from birth until he was married at 24 years old.

Ng had to turn down the opportunity to study engineering abroad because his father had lost his voice and could no longer work. He remained in Singapore and started working to help support the family while successfully obtaining a scholarship to study physics at the University of Singapore. Ng gave private tuition to students and used his earnings to support the family.

2. He started his career in public service

Ng began his career with the Ministry of Finance, where he served as an investment analyst in the overseas investment department from 1970 to 1971. He then served at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) from 1972 to 1986, joining the central bank shortly after its inception in 1971 and taking on the role of managing the nation's reserves.

He then spent the next 27 years working in GIC, joining the sovereign wealth fund in 1986. He helped in building GIC's in-house capability for managing global equities, fixed-income investments and currencies, and for sourcing external managers.

Ng was then appointed as the first group chief investment officer of GIC in 2007 and held the position for six years until his retirement in 2013. Throughout his nearly three decades there, Ng helped GIC to navigate several financial crises including the October 1987 market decline, the 1998 Asian financial crisis, the dot-com bust of 2001 and the 2008 global financial crisis.

From 1983 to 1987, Ng was the founding chairman of the Singapore International Monetary Exchange, Asia's first financial futures exchange which was later incorporated into the Singapore Exchange (SGX) as its derivatives arm. This earned Ng an induction into the Futures Hall of Fame in 2009 by the Futures Industry Association for his contributions to the global futures industry. Ng also served as a member on the SGX board of directors from 2013 to 2018 after retiring from GIC.

3. He is an avid investor

In 2015, Ng co-founded global asset management firm Avanda Investment Management with two other former GIC colleagues. He currently serves as the firm's chairman.

Avanda's clientele comprises institutional asset owners that include endowments, foundations, central banks, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, life insurance companies and family offices.

According to a Bloomberg report, Avanda was launched with a contribution of about US$4 billion (S$5.3 billion) in assets from government-linked entities Singapore Labour Foundation, Temasek and GIC. The firm reportedly has more than doubled its assets to about US$10 billion (S$13.2 billion) as of 2022.

4. He is recognised locally and internationally

Ng is Chairman Emeritus of the Wealth Management Institute at the Nanyang Technological University, a position he has held since 2017. He is also on the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute’s Advisory Council for the "Future of Finance" project while also serving on the board of governors of the Asia School of Business in Malaysia and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Ng was a member of the Strategic Committee of Agency France Tresor from 2001 to 2014, an agency that manages the French government's public debt and treasury. The French government conferred on him the Legion of Honour in 2003 as well as the Order of Merit in 2011.

He is also on the board of directors of global investment firm 65 Equity Partners and the global advisory board of investment management firm PIMCO.


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