Herman Ronald Hochstadt



Herman Ronald Hochstadt (b. 1933, Singapore–) is a former top civil servant who worked in various ministries. He was also a leader in the corporate world and subsequently Singapore’s high commissioner to a number of African countries.1 Hochstadt is a prominent figure in the Eurasian community and the patron of the Eurasian Association.2 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.3

Education and early career
Hochstadt was educated at St Andrew’s School before attending the University of Malaya, where he was president of the Raffles Society.4 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.5

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 those 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.6

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.7

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”.8

Accomplishments in the public service
Hochstadt was 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.9 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”.10

In 1970, Hochstadt became the deputy secretary at the Treasury. Two years later, he was appointed permanent secretary at the Ministry of Communications, where he remained until 1976 when he took a similar role at the Ministry of Education. He received the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 1978.11

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.12

In 1980, Hochstadt was appointed the deputy managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to coordinate details of the merger between the MAS and the Currency Board.13

He also took on chairmanship of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority Board, which had been established in 1980 to build and operate Singapore’s mass rapid transit network.14

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.15 He was awarded the Public Service Star in 1998.16

Hochstadt 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 the Singapore International Foundation. In 1995, Hochstadt became the pro-chancellor of the Nanyang Technological University.17

Corporate career
Having been on the board of shipping group Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) since 1972, Hochstadt became NOL’s chairman in 1984.18 At NOL, Hochstadt oversaw the company’s S$1.2 billion acquisition of American President Lines Ltd in 1997, which resulted in one of the world’s largest shipping groups.19 The year before, NOL had acquired two European shipping lines of P&O and Nedlloyd. In preparation for the deal, Hochstadt and other NOL executives met with the United States (US) secretary for transport, the Federal Maritime Commission and American unions.20


Earlier in his time at NOL, the company became publicly listed and the Singapore government reduced its share to 30 percent, which enabled NOL to be taken off the US 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, in the mid-1980s, NOL was one of the first major shipping lines to have vessels built in China.21

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 1986.22 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 1999.23

In addition, Hochstadt has served as the executive chairman of the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of Singapore and Inno-Pac Holdings,24 as well as on the boards of Thakral Corporation, Parkway Holdings, Cycle and Carriage Ltd, Acma Electrical Industries Ltd and Singapore Reinsurance Corporation. He was also a director of Temasek Holdings and the chairman of Bukit Turf Club.25

Foreign service
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.26


Family
Hochstadt’s grandfather John Hochstadt founded the Singapore Casket Company.27



Author
Alvin Chua



References
1. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
2. Pereira, A. A. (2017). They made their mark II: Contributors to Singapore’s developments. In M. Braga-Blake, et al. (Eds.), Singapore Eurasians: Memories, hopes and dreams. Singapore: Hackensack, N.J.: World Scientific Publishing, p. 333. (Call no.: RSING 305.80095957 SIN)
3. Messages for the millennium: The Eurasian speaks on the 80th anniversary of the Eurasian Association. (1999). Singapore: Eurasian Association, p. 9. (Call no.: q305.80405957 MES)
4. Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. National University of Singapore. (2015) Distinguished Arts and Social Sciences Alumni Award 2015 recipient: Mr Herman Ronald Hochstadt. Retrieved from National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences website: https://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/2015/distinguished-alumni-award.html; Eurasian Association (Singapore). (2015). Our city, our home: Singapore Eurasians 1965–2015. Singapore: Eurasian Association, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 OUR)
5. Koh, T. A. (Ed.) (2008). Anthologies – The compact: A selection of University of Malaya short stories, 1953–1959. In Singapore literature in English: An annotated bibliography. Singapore: National Library Board; Nanyang Technological University, p. 181. (Call no.: RSING 016.8208 SIN-[LIB])
6. Ngiam, T. D. (2006). A mandarin and the making of public policy. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 NGI-[HIS])
7. Eurasian Association (Singapore). (2015). Our city, our home: Singapore Eurasians 1965–2015. Singapore: Eurasian Association, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 OUR); Li, X. Y., & Lin, K. (2007, December 28). Two choices: Do or die. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Li, X. Y., & Lin, K. (2007, December 28)  Two choices: Do or die. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Liu, G. (2005). The Singapore Foreign Service: The first 40 years. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING q327.5957 LIU)
10. Liu, G. (2005). The Singapore Foreign Service: The first 40 years. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING q327.5957 LIU)
11. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
12. Hochstadt feted by 700 at farewell dinner. (1980, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Hochstadt to be deputy managing director of MAS from May 2. (1980, April 13). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Taking charge of the MRT in S’pore. (1982, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Hochstadt appointed envoy to Tanzania. (1990, June 28). The Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
17. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
18. Elias, R. (2004). Beyond boundaries: The first 35 years of the NOL story. Singapore: Neptune Orient Lines, pp. 64–65. (Call no.: RSING 338.7613875095957 ELI)
19.NOL in $1.2b deal to buy US group. (1997, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Elias, R. (2004). Beyond boundaries: The first 35 years of the NOL story. Singapore: Neptune Orient Lines, pp. 64–65. (Call no.: RSING 338.7613875095957 ELI)
21. Elias, R. (2004). Beyond boundaries: The first 35 years of the NOL story. Singapore: Neptune Orient Lines, p. 65. (Call no.: RSING 338.7613875095957 ELI)
22. Kumar, S. (1987, March 24). NOL suffers its worst loss but is optimistic. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Raj, C. (1999, April 1). NOL chairman Hochstadt to step downThe Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Hochstadt joins C and C board of directors. (1989, August 3). The Business Times, p. 17; Envoy to Swaziland. (1995, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Koh, T. T. B., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Hochstadt joins C and C board of directors (1989, August 3). The Business Times, p. 17; Envoy to Swaziland. (1995, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 2; Raj, C. (1999, April 1). NOL chairman Hochstadt to step downThe Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Hochstadt appointed envoy to Tanzania. (1990, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 18; Hochstadt named as S’pore’s rep to S. Africa. (1992, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 25; Hochstadt named envoy to Botswana. (1995, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 27; Envoy to Swaziland. (1995, September 21). The Straits Times, p. 2; Singapore envoy to Namibia. (1995, May 23). The Straits Times, p. 24; Li, X. Y., & Lin, K. (2007, December 28). Two choices: Do or die. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Eurasian Association (Singapore). (2015). Our city, our home: Singapore Eurasians 1965–2015. Singapore: Eurasian Association, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 OUR)



The information in this article is valid as at 2015 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.

 

Subject
Hochstadt, Herman Ronald, 1933-
Personalities
Government executives--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies
Law and government>>Public administration