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Tan Kin Lian is a Singaporean businessman and social activist, and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NTUC Income. Since stepping down as CEO in April 2007,[1] his activities have included organising public rallies for people who lost their money due to investing in Lehman Brothers' Minibond products to seek redress,[2] and setting up FISCA, an organisation to teach people about long-term financial security.[3] In 2008, he indicated that if sufficient people want him to, he would be willing to stand as a candidate for the next election of the President of Singapore.[4][5] Tan stood in the 2011 Presidential Election and finished in fourth place out of four candidates with 4.91% of votes.

Tan Kin Lian
Born (1948-03-09) 9 March 1948 (age 71)
Alma materRaffles Institution
Years active1977–2007
Political party
Children2 daughters and 1 son
Tan Kin Lian
Traditional Chinese陳欽亮
Simplified Chinese陈钦亮


Business careerEdit

Director and CEO of NTUC IncomeEdit

Tan became the general manager of NTUC Income Insurance Co-Operative in 1977, at the age of 29, subsequently re-designated as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and remained in this position until April 2007.[6] During his leadership the company has grown from having S$28 million in assets in 1977 to more than S$17 billion in assets and over one million policyholders in 2007.[6][7]

Tan ran NTUC Income with the aim of providing the best value to the policyholders. This meant lower fees for insurance agents, encouragement of direct selling practices which bypassed the agents altogether,[8] and low operating expenses (throughout his 30-year CEO term Tan flew economy class, even on long haul flights). This management style clashed with some of NTUC Income's board members, who preferred the Co-Operative to be run on a more commercial or professional basis, and even advocated it to be privatised. The board asked Tan to step down after completing his 30-year term at the helm.[9]

Other positionsEdit

Tan’s 2007 CV mentions more than 60 directorships and other corporate appointments.[10] Of these, the most notable is the chairmanship of International Co-operative & Mutual Insurance Federation (1992–1997),[11][12][13] an international organisation which at that time represented 123 insurance groups in 65 countries, employing 260,000 people.[14][15] The total assets of the members of this international federation totalled US$1.5 trillion (1997 figure).

Post-retirement interludeEdit

Since retiring from NTUC Income in 2007, Tan provides free financial advice and opinions on current affairs through his blog,[16] and establishing Financial Service Consumer Association (FISCA)[17] to teach people about long-term financial security. During the 2008 financial crisis, he organised public rallies for people who lost their money due to investing in Lehman Brothers' Minibond products.[2] The rallies resulted in a petition to Singapore government, signed by 983 investors.[18]

Friendship with Ong Teng CheongEdit

Tan was close to Ong Teng Cheong, the fifth President of Singapore. When Ong was elected as President, Tan presented him a set of orchid motif ties in different colours, which were commissioned by NTUC Income and made in the United Kingdom.[19] Ong liked the tie in red color and used it on a number of important occasions, including Nomination Day and his inauguration as the President of Singapore.[19] He also wore it for his presidential portrait which was displayed in government offices and other organisations.[19]

Tan was involved in several causes promoted by Ong, such as the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), the first Singapore expedition to Mount Everest, and the President's Charity. Tan promoted the SDT performances to the policyholders of NTUC Income and later joined the board of directors, where he served for 12 years.[20] NTUC Income became one of the main sponsors of the Mount Everest expedition.

During the last two years of Ong Teng Cheong's term, Tan chaired the President's Charity event to raise funds and to promote the Singapore Dress.[21] When Ong's wife died, shortly after the second charity dinner, Tan organised 1,000 messages of condolences from Singaporeans, submitted through the Internet, and presented the book to Ong.[22]

Awards receivedEdit

  • Friend of Labour Award in May 1978
  • The Public Service Medal (Pingat Bakti Masyarakat) in August 1983
  • The Rochdale Medal in July 1992
  • The Financial Personality of the Year Award in August 2000
  • 2001 International Management Action Award
  • The Public Service Star in August 2004
  • The Leading CEO Award in June 2005

Personal lifeEdit

Tan is married to Tay Siew Hong and has two daughters, one son, and two granddaughters.[23] He enjoys making puzzles (Sudoku, Logic9,[24] and Shape Quiz[25]) and online games (Family Life, Business Simulation)[26] that stimulate creative abilities and teach risk management.

Political careerEdit

Tan was a member of Singapore's governing political party, the People's Action Party (PAP), for 30 years but left in 2008 because of inactivity and disagreement with the party's value system. He was previously the party's branch secretary at Marine Parade for three years and was chosen in 1977 by Goh Chok Tong, then a new Member of Parliament (MP), to test a pilot scheme for setting up block committees, now known as residents' committees. For the first 10 years, Tan was active in Marine Parade constituency but became inactive for the next 20 years, after he moved to Upper Thomson and later to Yio Chu Kang areas.[27]

According to Tan himself, he was asked to stand for elections to Parliament twice, in 1979 and 1985 (exact dates uncertain). He declined both times, earlier because of his work commitments and later because he disagreed with the direction of the party policy on issues such as National Service and the Graduate Mothers Scheme.[28]

2011 presidential electionsEdit

Tan speaking to the media after submitting election forms

Tan sent early signals in 2008 that he wants to be Singapore's next president.

On 7 June 2011, Tan announced that he would be running for the presidency. Following this, he promised to donate a significant part of the S$4 million presidential salary to a specially formed charity and circulated several statements outlining his position on the role of the president, including a controversial statement on safeguarding the reserves.[29] The statements drew a mild rebuke from senior members of the Singapore government, who attempted to publicly clarify that the elected President has only "custodial powers" and not "executive powers". In response, Tan issued another statement, where he agreed with the limitations but nevertheless stressed that "the president does not need to be armed with strong executive powers to make an impact. A well qualified and properly elected President will make his impact through the power to persuade, to influence, to counsel, to convey feedback and if necessary, to articulate informed positions on specific issues".[30]

On 7 July 2011, Tan submitted the presidential eligibility forms.[31] Tan had submitted his application for the Certificate of Eligibility under a Special Clause, citing his experience as CEO of an insurance cooperative with a shared capital of S$500 million and assets of S$17 billion. He was granted the Certificate of Eligibility on 11 August 2011 along with the other three candidates.

Tan's election poster on a lamppost along River Valley Road.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Tan said whay his main reason for running: "Many people said they want voice, they want to be heard. I think I probably represent the person who has got ears to listen and is able to think independently." Tan thinks the role of the Elected President should be expanded and has suggested, for example, having the President's Office produce an annual report detailing the country's reserves. "I recognise that the President cannot be a second centre of power but that does not mean the President cannot do anything, because in order to make good decisions it's better to have several points of views," he said. Tan has pledged to donate a significant part of the annual S$4 million presidential salary to charity.

In response to rumours circulating that Tan would be dropping out of the presidential race early, he has refuted such claims and expressed that he would be filing his nomination papers as planned on 17 August 2011.[32] He submitted his nomination forms on 17 August. In his nomination day speech, Tan was the only candidate who spoke in four official languages of Singapore (English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil).

Tan advocates[33] the need for the burden of National Service to be shared by all segments of the society, including females and noncitizens.

Tan's symbol is a "Hi-5". He explained "the raised hand signifies willingness to do public service, while the five fingers signify his values of honesty, fairness, positive attitude, courage and public service."[34]

In less than three hours of the vote count, Tan conceded defeat. He got the lowest votes of all the candidates, with only 4.9% of the votes. For failing to achieve at least 12.5% of the votes, Tan also lost his S$48,000 deposit.


  1. ^ Lorna Tan (10 September 2007). "New Income chief creates new buzz". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 18 April 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b Shiyin, Chen (18 October 2008). "Singapore Investors to Seek Compensation on Lehman Minibonds". Bloomberg. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  3. ^ "New consumer watchdog to look after interests of retail investors". Channel NewsAsia. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Making money from cyber chatter". Asiaone. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Tan Kin Lian eyes elected presidency". AsiaOne. 23 November 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Transition – NTUC Income" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2011.
  7. ^ "NTUC Income – About Us".
  8. ^ Dhaliwal, Rav. Income sets up info centre for walk-in customers. The Straits Times, 25 Dec 1990
  9. ^ Wong Lim Hoh, Robin Chan. Ex-Income Chief asked to quit co-op. The Sunday Times, 7 Aug 2011
  10. ^ "CV of Tan Kin Lian up to 2007". Archived from the original on 26 March 2012.
  11. ^ Kooi Cho Teng. NTUC Income general manager to chair world body. The Business Times, 16 June 1992
  12. ^ Income GM first Asian to head world insurance co-op. The Straits Times, 16 June 1992
  13. ^ "International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) (1997)".
  14. ^
  15. ^ "ICMIF – Who We Are".
  16. ^ "Tan Kin Lian's Blog".
  17. ^ "FISCA". Archived from the original on 2 July 2011.
  18. ^ "Petition to Singapore Government – 983 Signatures".
  19. ^ a b c Koh, Veronica. Singapore's very own – the President's Tie. The Straits Times, 25 Dec 1993
  20. ^ Cheah Ui-Hoon. Have dance, will travel. The Business Times, Singapore, 19 June 1999
  21. ^ Record $400,000 raised so far.. The Straits Times, 25 Aug 2001
  22. ^ Tan Kin Lian. LETTER – Fly flag at half-mast for First Lady's funeral. The Straits Times, 3 Aug 1999
  23. ^ "My granddaughters – Vera and Nadya".
  24. ^ "Learn Sudoku, Logic9".
  25. ^ "Shape Quiz – New Layout".
  26. ^ "Online Portal for various games and applications developed by Tan Kin Lian". Archived from the original on 29 August 2011.
  27. ^ "Tan Kin Lian eyes presidency". Straits Times. Singapore. Archived from the original on 16 March 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  28. ^ "Smears in blog".
  29. ^ "Safeguarding the Reserves".[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "Statement by Tan Kin Lian – role of the Elected President".[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Han, WeiChou (7 July 2011). "Presidential hopefuls Tony Tan and Tan Kin Lian submit papers". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  32. ^ Choo, Evelyn (14 August 2011). "Tan Kin Lian not pulling out of presidential race". Today. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Tan Kin Lian's Blog: Burden of National Service". 23 August 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  34. ^ See, Sharon (18 August 2011). "PE: Candidates unveil election symbols". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 22 August 2011.

External linksEdit