Former GIC economist Leslie Teo to join Grab’s data science team

Southeast Asian ride-hailing platform Grab is roping in GIC’s former chief economist, Leslie Teo to join its data science team.

Grab confirmed that Teo will join mid-August, having announced his retirement from GIC in April.

Teo joins Grab after more than 10 years at GIC, where he last served as managing director and chief economist. Prior to GIC, Teo spent another seven years at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington D.C. as deputy division chief and senior economist. He also served for three years as a principal economist at Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Grab has been paying significant attention to beefing up its data science team of late.

In April, the Southeast Asian tech giant confirmed the departure of Theo Vassilakis, Grab’s chief technology officer and engineering lead. According to a Linkedin post, Vassilakis cited a change of personal circumstances that required him and his family to relocate to South China. Vassilakis leaves Grab on June 30, but will retain his role as an advisor to coach senior tech leaders and lead ongoing AI and marketplace optimization efforts at Grab.

Last month, Grab announced an AI recruiting competition aimed at drawing the region’s top tech talent. The top 50 participants of the Grab AI for SEA Challenge will be recruited to Grab’s data science and AI team, with the first winner eligible for a cash prize of S$10,000 ($7,261).

Spotting and hiring tech talent is generally known to be challenging for tech startups in Southeast Asia, particularly for those among the unicorn rungs like Grab, GO-JEK, Tokopedia and Traveloka.

In an interview with DEALSTREETASIA last year, Grab’s president Ming Maa cited this as a “perennial issue” for the company, which has to depend heavily on its tech team to manage over 2 billion transactions at scale.

Grab currently has over 2,000 employees in its tech team and plans to add another 1000 by end-2019. Its data science and AI team has around 250 people.

Maa added that Grab has taken steps to decentralise its engineering team to scale its product and service more efficiently. Its engineering teams currently sit in Seattle, Bangalore and Beijing.