A list of CEOs in SG most favoured by the media in 2020

Following his title of most prominent CEO in the eyes of the media in 2019, DBS' chief executive Piyush Gupta has once again outperformed other CEOs in terms of volume of media mentions, gaining the title of "most visible CEO in local media" in CARMA ASIA's annual CEO Brand Report this year. This comes as Gupta communicated DBS’s strong global presence and commitment to actively create jobs to help the community through this difficult pandemic period.

Gupta's media visibility was largely generated by social mentions, with 77% from social media and 23% from mainstream media. Out of the social mentions, 11% of the sentiments were positive, while 33% were negative. While Gupta had the highest percentage of negative sentiments out of the other CEOs mentioned in the report, he was also the only one that saw a percentage of positive sentiments. The rest of the mentioned CEOs either had neutral sentiments from social media, or neutral sentiments mixed with negative ones. 

CARMA ASIA's report, which measures the visibility and favourability of Singapore’s top CEOs in local publications, also saw agribusiness company Wilmar International’s CEO Kuok Khoon Hong crowned the most favourable CEO. According to the report, Kuok presented Wilmar to be resilient, financially sound and supportive towards the community by securing the “biggest donation in The Straits Times School Pocket Fund’s history”.

Kuok's media visibility stemmed mainly from mainstream media (67%) as compared to social media (33%). Social media engagements around Kuok were also on Wilmar’s investment in local company Sea. Netizens commented about the previous working relationship between Ye Gang, the chief operating officer of Sea Limited and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong, which led to Wilmar’s investment in the company.

The 10 top most favourable CEOs in Singapore are as listed:

  1. Kuok Khoon Hong, Wilmar International
  2. Tan Yew Chin, CapitaLand
  3. Peter Kaliaropoulos, Starhub
  4. Samuel Tsien, OCBC Bank
  5. Piyush Gupta, DBS Bank
  6. Wee Ee Cheong, UOB Bank
  7. Chua Sock Koong, Singtel 
  8. Loh Chin Hua, Keppel 
  9. Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi, Frasers Property
  10. Goh Choon Phong, Singapore Airlines

CARMA's favourability rating system is gauged by considering multiple aspects of articles mentioning the CEOs. These include the headline; length and placement of the story; accompanying photos; number and quality of sources; positive and negative messages; and the general tone of the article. 

Traits of favourable CEOs

Most of the favourable CEOs were found to communicate the resilience of the companies, as well as how they value their people and the community at large during the pandemic.

CapitaLand's Tan accentuated CapitaLand’s strength as a real estate developer in Singapore through timely completion of its latest office development amid the pandemic, while OCBC's Tsien picked up a leadership award of “Best Managed Bank” during the pandemic and presented the bank to be financially sound and supportive towards the community amid the global pandemic.

Meanwhile, UOB's Wee presented the bank to be supportive towards frontline workers and the vulnerable as the bank introduced various COVID-19 relief initiatives. Similarly, Singtel's Chua showed its support for the community by launching its SG$3 million community care package.

In a statement to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, CARMA ASIA’s managing director, Andrew Nicholls, said some common traits that favourable CEOs exhibited were: strong communication skills, adaptability, emotional intelligence and social responsibility. He also said that it is important for CEOs to be vocal in a time of crisis. In a period that has shaken confidence, the pressure on CEOs to provide guidance and reassurance to shareholders, employees and customers has intensified.

According to Nicholls, CEOs can build trust and favourability by underlining where their previous statements were followed by decisive action. "Knowing when to engage is also key," he added, highlighting that most of the CEOs in the report appeared in less than 5% of their brand's coverage.

“The report identifies how CEOs of Singapore’s top brands have distinguished themselves during a challenging year, while illustrating how in-depth communications analysis provides a strategic advantage to organisations navigating uncertainty,” Nicholls said.

Although Singapore Airline's Goh did not rank high on the list of most favourable CEOs, he came in first when it came to the number of engagement on social media. Goh received the most social engagements with discussions on his leadership. This comes as he communicated to the media on Singapore Airline's recruitment freeze, pay cuts and retrenchment, as well as initiatives such as its "flights to nowhere", Restaurant A380 @Changi, home-delivered premium meals and tours amidst the pandemic.

Trailing behind Goh is DBS' Gupta, as he had frequent communication around DBS’ efforts to navigate the COVID-19 crisis this year. Additionally, Gupta also publicly spoke about the issues surrounding his citizenship status at the time of appointment as DBS’ CEO, which caught a lot of attention from both the media and the public.

Amidst his social media mentions, Gupta received positive comments for his experience and skills as a banker, as well as leading DBS to be named the world’s best bank by Global Finance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, he was criticised on his nationality before his appointment in DBS and for his claim that the management team was fully made out of Singaporeans. He also received backlash for not being a home-grown CEO, as netizens felt that it was “about time to get a local CEO for DBS”.

Gupta is followed by OCBC's Tsien, Singtel's Chua, StarHub's Kaliaropoulos, UOB's Wee, Keppel's Loh, and Wilmar's Kuok. 

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(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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