SINGAPORE – There is a “very big difference” between a chief information officer and a chief investment officer, said presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song, stressing that the latter is as important as, if not more important than, being the chief executive of an organisation.
Mr Ng was responding to comments made by Mr George Goh, who is also running for president, at a press conference on Friday.
Mr Goh had said that “if I’m the CIO of my organisation (then) please don’t come forward” to run for president, as the post ranks fifth or sixth, and is not the top job.
Speaking to the media during a visit to Tiong Bahru Market on Saturday, Mr Ng, 75, a former chief investment officer at GIC, said: “I think Mr Goh made a mistake. He thinks that CIO is chief information officer. It is chief investment officer, you see, and that’s a very big difference.”
He added: “I would like Mr Goh to hear from (investment management companies) Bridgewater and Pimco and similar organisations, the CIO is as important as, if not more important than, the CEO.”
He added that he would like to meet Mr Goh for coffee “so that the two of us can sit down together and share our knowledge”.
“I want to learn from Mr Goh his knowledge about business. I can learn from him, but I can also share with Mr Goh my knowledge about the investment business. Because he has not been in the investment business, but I spent 45 years in it,” he said.
In a YouTube video released on Mr Goh’s channel on Friday, he said that Mr Ng and former senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam are “both from the same background”, having held posts at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and GIC.
When asked, Mr Ng said he was at both organisations as a public service officer, not as a political leader or minister.
He said that when he was the chief investment officer at GIC, he made recommendations to the board, which approves organisational and investment policies.
“And when the policies are approved by the board, (which includes) Mr Tharman, I have to execute the policies. I have to make the policies work, the strategies work.
“In other words, for investment management organisation, Mr Tharman was the policymaker; I was the moneymaker.”
Mr Ng was accompanied by his fiancee Sybil Lau at the market on Saturday, where he spoke with stallholders and residents.
Ms Lau, 45, sits on several boards, including SG Enable, a registered charity for persons with disabilities.
Speaking to the media at Tiong Bahru Market, Mr Ng said the president plays an important role in protecting Singapore’s reserves, which helps to keep the Singapore dollar strong and blunt the rising cost of living.
“The important thing is for the people of Singapore to know me… that I’m a human being that comes to the wet market. I’m a single parent, I come here to buy food for my family. I know about the cost of living, because I have experienced it,” he said.
He added that he would like to reach out to young people to help them manage stress, such as by teaching them how to meditate.
“When you meditate, you grow yourself, and then you discover who you really are. You don’t have to perform, you don’t have to conform. You are a unique human being. So, it’s very important for young people to have self-confidence.”
Mr Ng also said he would encourage public speaking and communication in young people of all races.
“Most of our Singaporeans are shy to speak in public. They know a lot of things (but they) must learn to communicate,” he said.
“You don’t have to speak perfect English, but you can speak better. Because unless you can communicate, people do not know what your ideas are.”