Former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song has announced his intention to run in the Presidential Election.
SINGAPORE: Former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song on Wednesday (Jul 19) announced his intention to run for the Singapore presidency.
The 75-year-old, who was speaking to the media after collecting eligibility forms from the Elections Department (ELD), said his bid was prompted by "recent concerns about the integrity of our national institutions".
President Halimah Yacob’s six-year term expires on Sep 13 and she has said she will not stand for re-election.
The ELD has said that the Presidential Election may be held at any time from Jun 13, and if it has not been held by the expiration of the term of the incumbent President, it should be held shortly after.
Mr Ng was born to a Teochew family and grew up in a mud-floored attap house in Kangkar, a fishing village located where Sengkang is today.
In an interview with the Straits Times in 2012, he recounted how life was not easy for the big family with 11 children who depended on his father’s income as a fish auctioneer.
“One of the things which made me sad was my mother having to borrow money from neighbours when things got desperate,” he said.
Being the second eldest child, Mr Ng felt the weight of responsibility from young and would help his father out at the fish market and look after his younger siblings.
Kangkar was “infested with gangsters” then and Mr Ng, who was baptised a Catholic when he was seven years old, credited the Catholic church and his school Montfort for keeping him focused on his studies.
Mr Ng received a Public Service Commission scholarship to study physics at the then-University of Singapore. He later obtained a Sloan Master’s degree in management from Stanford University.
He married his schoolmate from Montfort, Patricia, in 1972 and had three children, aged 50, 47 and 33. Mrs Ng died in 2005 from stomach cancer.
He is engaged to Ms Sybil Lau, a Canada-born Singaporean who is 45. She started her career as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs and has been managing her family's wealth since 2009.
Her profile on networking site LinkedIn states that she sits on the boards of American billionaire Ray Dalio’s family office in Singapore and SG Enable, the government-established agency which helps people with disabilities. She is also an independent director of WELL Health Technologies, a Canadian operator of clinics, and a partner at venture builder The Delta.
Chinese language daily Shin Min reported last Saturday that the couple have known each other for four years and that Mr Ng's children are supportive of their relationship.
Mr Ng started his public service career in 1970 as an investment analyst at the Ministry of Finance’s overseas investment department.
He moved to the Monetary Authority of Singapore when the central bank was formed in 1971 to take over the role of managing Singapore’s reserves.
In 1986, Mr Ng joined GIC and headed the equities and bond department. He held other posts, including managing director of public markets, before being appointed as group chief investment officer in 2007 – a position he held until his retirement in 2013.
GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, has said that Mr Ng played a critical role in managing its investments in public markets and vastly expanding its investment capability.
Mr Ng was also the founding chairman of the Singapore International Monetary Exchange from 1983 to 1987. This was the first financial futures exchange in Asia, according to the Futures Industry Association which inducted Mr Ng into its Hall of Fame in 2009.
The derivatives exchange was later incorporated into the Singapore Exchange as its derivatives arm.
For his contributions to Singapore, Mr Ng received the Meritorious Service Medal in 2012.
Mr Ng is currently executive chairman of Avanda Investment Management, an asset management company he co-founded in mid-2015.
Government-linked firms Singapore Labour Foundation, Temasek and GIC contributed about US$4 billion in assets to launch Avanda, according to a Bloomberg report last year.
The report, dated February 2022, described Avanda as one of Singapore’s fastest-growing investment firms with assets having more than doubled to US$10 billion since its launch.
Among his other roles, Mr Ng is chairman emeritus of the Wealth Management Institute at the Nanyang Technological University and serves on investment firm PIMCO’s global advisory board.
PASSION FOR MEDITATION Beyond his career, Mr Ng is also known for his passion for meditation and most notably being the “friend” who taught meditation mantra to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
In various interviews over the years, Mr Ng, who has practised meditation for three decades, shared how meditating has helped him in his personal life and professional development.
He is a member of The World Community for Christian Meditation executive committee and its national coordinator in Singapore.
Mr Ng meditates every day, for 25 minutes each in the morning and evening.
“We live in a very noisy world, and I think people are hungry to find silence, to find solitude. I think you will find that that is perhaps one of the very simple therapies for the busy executive, for the noisy mind,” he said in a 2019 interview with CFA Institute.