Herman Ronald Hochstadt
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Herman Ronald Hochstadt (b. 1933, Singapore - ) is a former top civil servant with a wealth of experience gleaned from working across a number of ministries. Hochstadt has also been a corporate leader and Singapore's High Commissioner to a number of African countries.
His grandfather John Hochstadt was the founder of the Singapore Casket Company. Hochstadt remains a prominent figure in the Eurasian community and is the Patron of the Eurasian Association. He has written of his hopes for the community to promote a sense of self-purpose and advancement within the wider context of the Singapore community.
Education and early career
Hochstadt was educated at St Andrew's School in Singapore, before attending the University of Malaya, where he was president of the Raffles Society. In 1959, he edited a collection of short stories titled The Compact: A Selection of University of Malaya Short Stories 1953-1959. The book is considered one of Singapore's first short story collections.
After his graduation, Hochstadt joined the Ministry of Finance as an Assistant Secretary in 1960, before going on to fill similar positions at the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A contemporary of Hochstadt's and fellow St Andrew's School alumnus, Ngiam Tong Dow, recalled that Hochstadt, Sarjit Singh and himself were the first three administrative officers to join the Singapore Administrative Service after the People's Action Party came into power. Ngiam contrasted their working styles to that of earlier civil servants; as officers of the new government, they often worked from scratch to build new institutions, as opposed to their predecessors who focused on maintaining the status quo.
In 1965, Hochstadt became the Acting Director of Manpower at the Ministry of Defence. At the time, a newly-independent Singapore had to build up its military from scratch and Hochstadt helped to lay the foundation for the Singapore Armed Forces, in part by converting officers from the police force into military officers.
Hailing the can-do spirit of his contemporaries in the civil service during the early days of Singapore's self-governance and the post-independence period, Hochstadt once said: "We came into the public service ... at a time when there were only two choices - do or die. You don't have a multitude of choices. So we were all fired up by the push that you had to deliver, because it was simply a question of survival."
Accomplishments in the public service
Hochstadt was also part of a historic delegation that included then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye and Minister for Foreign Affairs S. Rajaratnam on the occasion of Singapore's admission to the United Nations on 21 September 1965. Hochstadt was in charge of coordinating logistics for the mission. But he missed the moment when Singapore was admitted to the world body as he was taking an urgent call to arrange flights.
Of the mission, he remarked: "It was an unusual experience. We lived out of a suitcase for two months and did everything on a tight budget. There was a lot of apprehension as to what the future held and a lot things we had to learn, yet a certain euphoria as well."
Hochstadt is considered to be among the pioneer group of top civil servants, a group that includes the likes of J. Y. Pillay, Howe Yoon Chong, George Bogaars, Hon Sui Sen, Ngiam Tong Dow, Sim Kee Boon, Andrew Chew, Phillip Yeo and Lee Ek Tieng.
In 1970, Hochstadt became Deputy Secretary at the Treasury. Two years later, he was appointed Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications, where he stayed until 1976 when he took a similar role at the Ministry of Education. He received the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1978.
Hochstadt was noted for his organisational abilities and willingness to listen to opinions from the ground. While at the Ministry of Education, he built a good rapport with teachers and principals, and over 700 of them turned up at a farewell dinner to mark his departure from the ministry.
In 1980, Hochstadt was appointed the Deputy Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), to coordinate details of the merger between MAS and the Currency Board.
He also took on the chairmanship of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority board, started in 1980 to build and operate Singapore's MRT network.
After 29 years in the civil service, Hochstadt retired from the public sector in 1989, with his last appointment being Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Law. He was awarded the Public Service Star (BBM) in 1998.
He has also served on the boards of government and public bodies such as the Presidential Elections Committee, Presidential Council for Minority Rights, Civil Service College and Singapore International Foundation. In 1995, Hochstadt became one of the Pro-Chancellors of the Nanyang Technological University.
Having been on the board of shipping group Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) since 1972, Hochstadt took the position of chairman at NOL in 1984. At NOL, Hochstadt oversaw the company's S$1.3 billion acquisition of American President Lines Ltd in 1997, creating one of the world's largest shipping groups. The year before, NOL had acquired two European shipping lines in P & O and Nedlloyd. In preparation for the deal, Hochstadt and other NOL executives met with the United States Secretary for Transport, Federal Maritime Commission and American unions.
Earlier in his time at NOL, the company was publicly listed and the Singapore government reduced its share to 30%, which enabled NOL to be taken off the United States Controlled Carriers list. This move gave the company a leg up in the US market, which Hochstadt acknowledged as one of NOL's main markets. Adding another feather to its cap, NOL was also one of the first major shipping lines to have vessels built in China, in the mid-1980s.
During the initial years of Hochstadt's chairmanship, NOL faced financial losses during a slump in the shipping industry from 1984 to 1986, recording a full-year loss of S$60.1 million in 1986. The company instituted cost-cutting measures, including wage freezes, a flexible wage scheme, and negotiated more favourable terminal and bunkering charges. NOL returned to profitability with a then-record full-year profit of S$50.7 million in 1987. Hochstadt retired from NOL in 1999.
He also served as the executive chairman of the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of Singapore (ECICS) from 1980 to 1991 and Inno-Pac Holdings from 1989 to 1991.
Hochstadt has also served on the boards of Thakral Corporation, Parkway Holdings, Cycle and Carriage Ltd, Acma Electrical Industries Ltd and Singapore Reinsurance Corporation. He has also been a director of Temasek Holdings and chairman of Bukit Turf Club.
In 1990, Hochstadt was appointed as Singapore's non-resident High Commissioner to Mauritius and Tanzania. He was made Singapore’s Special Representative to South Africa in 1992 and became the High Commissioner to South Africa in 1995 when Singapore upgraded its diplomatic representation in the country. Hochstadt has also served as Singapore’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.
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(Call no.: 338.7613875095957 ELI)
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(Call no.: 959.57003 SIN -[HIS])
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Hochstadt feted by 700 at farewell dinner [Microfilm: NL 10633]. (1980, May 16). The Straits Times, p.16.
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Hochstadt to be deputy managing director of MAS from May 2 [Microfilm: NL 10527]. (1980, April 13). The Straits Times, p.12.
Hochstadt to take over from Bogaars? [Microfilm: NL1180_1]. (1981, July 3). The Straits Times, p.36.
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(Call no.: q327.5957 LIU)
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(Call no.: 959.5705 NGI)
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The information in this article is valid as at 11 May 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.