SMRT Corp faces a string of resignations in the past eight months, most notably in HR

Singapore’s transport giant SMRT Corp has been forced to deal with a series of resignations in recent months, even as its rail service has made progress, The Straits Times reported.

ST observed that around 30 executives in SMRT’s human resource (HR) department have left the company within the past eight months.

The slew of resignations reportedly began in the wake of Gerard Koh’s resignation from his chief corporate officer position in Aug last year.

Mr Koh was in charge of information technology, procurement, human resources and training at SMRT, and is currently the head of HR at information technology group NCS.

Former Singapore Armed Forces colonel Lee Yem Choo, who was tasked to head SMRT’s Thomson-East Coast Line division’s HR department, had also resigned less than a year after taking up the post.

Managing director for HR firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting David Leong told ST that SMRT’s HR department “may be undergoing serious… transformation and business alignment… and those who felt misaligned would resign”.

The slew of resignations, he added, “points to core people-related issues with the new management”, which may be traced to “an adjustment in management style, expectations and deliverables”.

“The new management must step in to manage and hold the core together to lower the fallout rate while it steers to stabilise the ship to change course,” Mr Leong added.

The HR department is not the only one to have observed an exodus of executives and senior staff members, as senior engineers and corporate communications officers had also decided to leave SMRT.

Senior vice-president of maintenance and engineering Chia Chun Wah and chief commuter engagement officer Elaine Koh were among SMRT’s top staff members who had quit the company.

A spokesperson for SMRT told ST: “As we are continually strengthening the organisation to enhance train performance and reliability, we have streamlined and reassigned headcount from corporate headquarters.”

An earlier version of the ST article was published some time last week, but was taken down shortly after.

SMRT is currently led by Neo Kian Hong, a former army general, as chief executive officer.

Mr Neo, who had joined the transport group in Aug last year, succeeded Desmond Kuek, also a former general, who had tendered his resignation earlier last year.

Mr Kuek’s six-year tenure was punctuated by a marked rise in train breakdowns, as well as controversial events such as an accident near Pasir Ris MRT station resulting in the death of two SMRT employees in 2016, a train collision at Joo Koon MRT station that left 38 people injured, and a tunnel flood at Bishan MRT station that led to a 20-hour long disruption in train services.

Mr Kuek is currently the divisional vice-chairman for global wealth management at Swiss banking group UBS.

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