Financial-services veteran Bahren Shaari, head of Bank of Singapore, is a banking success story


Bahren Shaari has led Bank of Singapore as CEO since 2015. Bahren joined ING Asia Private Bank in 2009, and was a member of the management team that continued to lead after it was taken over by OCBC Bank in 2010 and renamed Bank of Singapore. He worked at Swiss banking giant Union Bank Switzerland (UBS) prior to ING.

Under his watch, Bank of Singapore achieved a major milestone in 2018: the financial institution crossed US$100 billion in assets under management, two years ahead of its 2020 target. It had also had a healthy cost-to-income ratio of between 55 and 60 per cent as at the start of 2018, compared to an average cost-to-income ratio of around 73 per cent for pure-play private banks in 2016, according to a Boston Consulting Group study. (Cost-to-income ratio is a measure of a private bank’s cost efficiency.) He also engineered the acquisition of Barclays’ wealth- and investment-management business in Singapore and Hong Kong in 2016, one of his first key moves as CEO.

Bahren has occupied various key positions in the past three decades, including as a board member of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and an alternate member of the Council of Presidential Advisers. The Institute of Banking & Finance Distinguished Fellow was appointed to the National University of Singapore’s board of trustees in June 2021, and is also actively involved in Club HEAL, a voluntary welfare organisation that helps people with mental illness and their families.

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When he was a young auditor seeking to make it into private banking, Shaari sent out about 100 applications before finally getting employed by American Express Bank. 

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