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Dual-class voting shares a game-changer for Singapore Exchange (SGX)?

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How often do you get to rub shoulders with a VIP like CEO of Singapore Exchange (SGX) and how would you present yourself? During a recent Chinese New Year celebration dinner hosted by SGX, I got a chance to meet the CEO, Mr Loh Boon Chye, who made a surprise appearance. Although it was a brief encounter, my impression of CEO Loh was that he is certainly larger than life and came across as a really humble person. This is in deep contrast to his controversial predecessor, the late Magnus Bocker.

Frankly, I prefer the current CEO because of his business-friendly policies such as dual-class voting shares and the adjustment of quarterly reporting for listed companies. His approach marked a huge change of tone for SGX, which used to be regarded as high-handed among the investment community.

The revolt

On looking back, the past few years had been a period of great chaos for SGX, not least because of the various changes implemented by Magnus Bocker, coupled with major trading disruptions and meltdown of penny stocks. There were heroes on both sides. Evil was everywhere.

Indeed, Magnus Bocker was certainly one of the most enigmatic leaders who have ever graced Singapore corporate world. Coming to Singapore with a huge reputation as a deal-maker, he took charge of SGX back in 2009, at the peak of the Great Financial Crisis.


As the former CEO, he delivered impressive results for SGX and had been a huge driving force for changes. As a result, share price recovered from $4.72 in 2009 to reach a peak of $8.74, a level not seen after his departure in June 2015. In this regard, I am careful not to portray Bocker as the villain because of his significant contributions to SGX.

But his achievements came at a price as he stepped on the toes of many people through his various policies aimed at enhancing the structure of Singapore stock market. In particular, he riled the trading representatives by scrapping the lunch break in 2011.

His goal was to enhance the trading volume in SGX so as to compete with regional rivals like Hong Kong and Japan stock exchanges. But unfortunately, many trading representatives did not share his view. Perhaps Magnus Bocker had grossly underestimated the power of local investment community. His actions had led to online petition calling for his head to be rolled and also a letter of complaint against SGX addressed to then Minister of Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam in February 2015.

Within two weeks, Magnus Bocker announced that he decided not to renew his contract and stepped down in June 2015.

Incidentally, Magnus Bocker presided over a period of two major trading disruptions in SGX, the last occurred in December 2014, which could have cemented his fate. Nevertheless, when Loh Boon Chye took over in 2015, he [This is a premium article. The rest of the content is blocked and can be accessible by SG Wealth Builder Members only. To read the full content, please sign up as member.]

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Updated: March 7, 2018 — 2:52 am

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