Annual Report 2017
We have enjoyed a good year. The Group recorded in 2017 an after tax profit of $3.39 billion, an increase of nine per cent. The Board has recommended a final one-tier tax-exempt dividend of 45 cents and a special dividend of 20 cents per ordinary share.
2017 started with a subdued outlook in the context of uneven and tepid economic growth for some years in the region and globally. As the year progressed, growth strengthened in tandem across the world which led stock markets to rally and commodity prices to recover. Even as growth uncertainty has eased, geopolitical uncertainty has never been greater in decades with changing national policies, balance of power shifting across the Pacific and tensions arising from the Korean peninsula.
Moreover, just as much uncertainty lies ahead for every enterprise with the pace of innovation and the use of information and technology gathering inexorably. In my whole career, I do not recall any other period with such rapid and momentous disruption in both the business and social sectors.
At a time such as this, we have to assess carefully and yet have to act as boldly and decisively as before to face these mounting challenges in growing the Bank, continuing to take the long-term view with prudence and vigilance for risks as well as opportunities.
Growing Our Franchise
Central to UOB’s performance through the years has been its considered and bold moves in building its regional franchise. At the Board retreat in Malaysia last year, we appreciated the far-sighted decisions made to extend our business there since 1971. With the merger of OUB in 2002 in Singapore and Malaysia, UOB is now one of the leading foreign banks in Malaysia with almost 5,000 staff in 45 branches across the country serving our customers. UOB Malaysia now sits alongside UOB Singapore as our two core markets.
With the two underpinning the Bank’s franchise, we have the capacity and ability to deepen our presence in other Asian markets such as Indonesia, Greater China and Thailand, as well as in newer markets such as Myanmar. In 2017, we became the only Singapore bank granted approval to establish a subsidiary bank in Vietnam. The continued investment in UOB’s regional franchise is imperative to bolstering our position as a leading bank of and in Southeast Asia.
Equally crucial, we have to press on in innovation with new technologies and business models in Singapore and the region. For example, we enhanced our award-winning mobile application, UOB Mighty, and have introduced it to the region, beginning with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. We have also launched a digital banking business in Vietnam and will be rolling it out to other subsidiaries progressively.
The Board and Management
The strategy and success of the Bank require the full teamwork of board, management and staff aligned to serve the long-term collective interests of its shareholders and other stakeholders.
The Board has been preparing for change and attended closely to its succession and renewal programme. The responsibility for the Bank’s future now rests on the collective efforts of this renewed Board.
Ours is a committed management team with a range of talents whose effort is collective and focus is singular towards the Bank’s success with an ownership mindset.
Together with the fine and loyal staff in the Bank, we are ready for new challenges.
Since joining the Board, I have observed strong shareholder leadership in contributing to stability and continuity within the Bank. Just as importantly, such leadership should also bring dynamism so needed in changing times as experienced in the past. In this regard, we continue to value the close involvement of our significant shareholders.
As I finish my term today, I do wish to express my deepest appreciation to the UOB team – fellow Directors, Management and the many UOB colleagues with whom I have worked – for supporting me and helping to make my term over the past six years a satisfying one.
I would like to acknowledge Dr Wee Cho Yaw’s leadership over the many decades and contributions to UOB’s successful growth and expansion. I also thank him for inviting me to serve on the Board and wish him a happy retirement. I warmly welcome Wong Kan Seng as the new Chairman of UOB and wish him and all Directors, including new members Michael Lien, Alvin Yeo and Alexander Hungate, even better years ahead as they lead us forward.
Hsieh Fu Hua