Welcome Address by Mr David Gerald, Founder, President & CEO, SIAS for Investors’ Choice Awards 2023 Presentation Ceremony on 8 November 2023

Date: November 8, 2023

Guest of Honour, the Honourable Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Grace Fu, Dr Tony Tan, Former President of the Republic of Singapore & Chief Patron of SIAS, Mr Daniel Teo, Chairman of SIAS, Distinguished Guests, Friends from MAS and SGX, Corporate Leaders, Investors and Friends from the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for taking the time this evening to attend SIAS’ Investors’ Choice Awards Presentation Ceremony. I have been urged to keep this welcome address as short as possible. In the past, my speech usually ran to eight pages. Tonight, to keep you engaged, it will be no more than 3 pages so please give me your ears.

This is the 24th edition of these awards, which is today an event that has grown in importance since 2000, when it was first introduced.

From its humble beginnings when only the Most Transparent Companies were recognised.  SIAS’s awards today encompass many more categories, including a new one which I will soon introduce.

As always, the aim is to recognise those companies and individuals who have made outstanding contributions towards raising the standards of corporate governance practised in Singapore’s financial market.

After all, improving governance and levelling the playing field for retail investors has been a central mission for SIAS ever since it was founded in 1999 and I promise you this will not change.

For instance, in addition to recognising well-governed companies, since 2002 SIAS has been rewarding the efforts of financial journalists whose reports are relied on by retail investors for their informed investment decisions.

Over the years, we have expanded our categories to include the best retail brokers as well as those companies who excel in shareholder communication. Last year, we introduced the Investors’ Choice Outstanding Chief Executive Officer Award to recognise CEOs of public listed companies who have demonstrated competency, integrity, excellent communication, good corporate governance, and financial performance.  We had invited the retail investors to nominate their candidates for this CEO’s Award.

This year, we are introducing a new category, which is the Singapore Corporate Sustainability Award (SCSA) aimed at recognising companies, which have displayed commendable Environmental, Social and Governance practices or ESG, the corporate buzzword.

I am sure you will appreciate the importance and timeliness of such an award, given how ESG has risen in prominence in recent years, with more and more investors demanding that companies they are invested in exhibit strong commitment to preserving the environment and good governance whilst ensuring equitable treatment for people of all genders and races.  Based on an article by EY[1], companies that perform well on ESG are believed to be less risky, better positioned for the long-term, and better prepared for uncertainty. To equip our investors, SIAS conducted 6 webinars on ESG over the past two years.

It is heartening to note that according to South-east Asia Climate Outlook 2023 survey conducted by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore (published in ST 13 Oct 2023), as compared to other ASEAN countries, Singaporeans are most positive about government’s ability to protect them, and mitigate and adapt to climate change, revealing a high level of trust in the social compact that they have with the Government.

In Singapore, it has been observed that public listed companies have reached a level of maturity in their sustainability reporting, particularly in areas such as disclosing materiality, sharing non-financial performance data, setting targets, engaging with stakeholders, and establishing governance structures within their boards. Aligned with the latest sustainability reporting requirements by SGX, which now includes climate-related disclosures as the main component, the STEMS framework for the SCSA has also assessed companies’ disclosures in this aspect under the “Environment and Climate” dimension.  Investors are also expecting companies to incorporate ESG considerations in their businesses and to disclose their initiatives accurately and in a timely fashion.

However, there remains room for improvement among these listed companies in Singapore for its climate-related disclosures. You can enhance your efforts by actively involving your boards and management in the oversight and management of climate-related risks and opportunities. Conducting scenario analysis to gain deeper insights into the company’s resilience in the face of climate-related risks and opportunities is another area where progress can be made. Additionally, it is worth noting that external assurance of sustainability reports is not yet a common practice among listed companies in Singapore. It is anticipated that more companies will start adopting assurance practices for their sustainability reporting in order to improve the accuracy of the information provided.

As for the Singapore market’s overall standard of governance, I am heartened to note that the average overall Singapore Corporate Governance (SCG) scores continued its upward trend and reached 60.5% in 2023 over a six-year period from 2018.

SIAS has, over the years, introduced several initiatives to help improve corporate governance practices amongst listed companies for the benefit of their stakeholders. As you know, listed companies receive questions from SIAS on their annual reports in areas of corporate governance, business strategies and financial performance. The idea is to improve the quality of meetings and promote better engagement between the boards and shareholders. I am pleased to inform that in FY22/23, about 76% companies responded to our 3 questions sent to them on their Annual Reports. We do ask questions on ESG, wherever appropriate.

The Corporate Governance Week programmes update and inform corporate governance practitioners and investors on current trends and standards in governance. We meet boards and senior managements with their shareholders on our platform to provide better understandings of issues that arise from corporate actions. We educate investors on emerging issues from corporate actions and investment products to make better informed decisions.

Tonight’s event has been organised since year 2000 to bring to investors’ attention, the companies that govern their capital well and provide investment opportunities. We reward companies that excel in good corporate governance practices, and we celebrate their achievements tonight.

Investors should note that research done shows that the Singapore Corporate Governance Award winners have regularly outperformed the STI Index.

In closing, I would like to say that next year SIAS will celebrate its Silver Jubilee or 25th anniversary, I invite everyone here to join us in the activities to mark this important milestone. SIAS is grateful to all who have believed in us and supported us this far and I call on all investors, Corporates and Regulators to continue supporting us.

Our deepest appreciation to first of all, our Guest-of-Honour, Ms Grace Fu, for gracing our event, to all our donors, sponsors, endorsers, and supporters of today’s event and our Corporate Governance Week 2023, including the Management Committee of SIAS and SIAS team that has worked tirelessly to make this event a success.

Thank you and enjoy the evening!

[1] “Why ESG performance is growing in importance for investors” by Matthew Bell, 9 Mar 2021