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INTRODUCTION FINANCE CAREER GUIDE 2020 A comprehensive guide featuring descriptions of Banking, Finance and graduate jobs, career advice, and emerging industry trends to prepare students for their future careers.

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CONTENTS PAGE Is a career in finance for you?

Sector Overview


Industries in the Financial Sector ......................... 4 Is a Career in Finance for Me? .............................. 6 How to Pursue a Finance Career Without a Finance Degree ................................................ 8 Postgraduate Pathways in the Financial Sector ............................................................... 10 Survival Guide to Applying for a Job in the Financial Sector ................................................ 12 Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Career in the Finance Industry ............................................... 14

Accountancy and Financial Management



Accountancy and Financial Management at a Glance ....................................................... 42

Crafting Your Resume ......................................... 16

Choosing Your Role and Company in Accountancy and Financial Management ........ 44

Application Tips

Preparing Your Cover Letter ............................... 18 Acing Your Interview ........................................... 20 Tackling Assessment Centres .............................. 22 A Quick Checklist ................................................ 24

Financial Services

Areas of Work Assurance ........................................................... 46 Commercial Finance ........................................... 47 Corporate Finance .............................................. 48 Corporate Recovery ............................................ 49


Corporate Treasury ............................................. 50 Financial Accounting ........................................... 51

Financial Services at a Glance ............................. 26

Forensic Accounting ........................................... 52

Choosing Your Role and Company in Financial Services ......................................... 28

Internal Audit ..................................................... 53

Areas of Work

Risk Assessment ................................................. 55

Actuarial Work .................................................... 30 Commercial Banking ........................................... 31 Insurance ............................................................ 32 Risk Management ............................................... 34 Wealth Management .......................................... 35


Management Accounting ................................... 54 Tax ...................................................................... 56

Features A Graduate’s Guide to Accountancy Jargon ........ 57 Getting a Graduate Job in Accounting ................ 60 Why it is So Important to Qualify as a Professional Accountant .................................. 61

Busting Financial and Banking Jargon ................. 36

The Singapore Economy Looks to Reinvent Itself .................................................. 62

Different Ways to Get into the Finance Industry ............................................... 39

Attain Professional Achievements with ISCA .......................................................... 64

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Banking and Investment


Flicking from the Back


Banking and Investment at a Glance .................. 68 Choosing Your Role and Company in Banking and Investment ................................... 70

Areas of Work Corporate Banking .............................................. 72 Finance IT ........................................................... 73 Financial Markets ............................................... 74 Inter-Dealer Broking ........................................... 75

There are many others vying to get into the industry, so if you find yourself quailing at the thought of such intense competition, turn to page 39 for help.

Investment Banking ............................................ 76 Investment Management ................................... 77 Operations .......................................................... 78 Private Wealth Management ............................. 79 Risk Management ............................................... 80 Specialist Markets ............................................... 81


Structured Finance ............................................. 82

Features A Graduate’s Guide to Investment Banking Job-Speak ........................................... 83 Unique Skills Investment Banks Want in Graduate Employees .................................... 86

According to ISCA on page 64, in accountancy, learning never stops.

Where Success is an Outcome of Challenges, Opportunities and Support Networks .............. 88



AIA Singapore Pte Ltd ......................................... 91 CapitaLand Limited ............................................ 91 DBS Bank Ltd ....................................................... 94 Great Eastern Singapore ..................................... 94

Investment banks are a world away from commercial banks, and, as such, need a host of unique skills, as detailed on page 86.


Manulife (Singapore) Pte Ltd .............................. 96 NTUC Income ...................................................... 96 OCBC Bank .......................................................... 98

Get to know your jargon on pages 36, 57 and 83.

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INDUSTRIES IN THE FINANCE SECTOR What can the main industries in Singapore’s financial sector offer you? Which area is the best fit for your skills, talents and interests? Read on to find out.

Financial Services This industry covers the provision of consumer and corporate financial products, ranging from retail banking to insurance. It also encompasses compliance and regulatory works to ensure safe environments for fair transactions. Employers Financial service providers range from large firms such as retail arms of banks, insurance companies, financial media companies, or smaller firms offering related services such as actuarial consulting or underwriting. Clients Clients can be individual consumers or businesses of various sizes. You may also be providing specialist consulting and key business information to corporate clients. Perks Because Singapore is a regional and global finance hub, the ever-expanding, dynamic and vibrant industry requires and welcomes individuals from different backgrounds, making it a good entry point for non-finance graduates. Moreover, with a focus on client service and opportunities to gain specialist knowledge, a career in financial services also offers early managerial opportunities and a healthy work-life balance.

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Accountancy and Financial Management Accounting and auditing goes far beyond book-keeping or bean counting, involving high-level analysis to help businesses manage their cash flow and financial position. Identifying patterns to assess business risks and translating companies’ financial data into strategic insights are what accountants and auditors do. Employers Working in large multi-national accounting firms like the Big Four means specialising in a chosen field such as audit, assurance and taxation. But for more varied exposure, candidates can look to small and mid-size firms, consider the option of working as an in-house accountant, or seek public service jobs at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Clients The likes of the Big Four cater to large clients such as listed companies and multi-national companies, meeting their financial accounting needs and providing important financial information publicly to investors, creditors, customers and regulatory bodies. On the other hand, managerial accounting helps small businesses make sound financial decisions. Perks The accounting profession is known to be almost recession-proof and promises good exposure for entrepreneurial pursuits. While intense and long hours are a reality during the tax reporting period with the close of the financial year, lull months for accountants and auditors are predictable, given the seasonal nature of the industry.

Banking and Investment This sector covers corporate banking, investment banking, and wealth management, serving both corporates and high net worth individuals. Singapore’s banking industry includes foreign and local banks with career opportunities in the front office, sales and conversion, relationship management, corporate affairs and even positions in the back office. Employers Banks and investment firms are always on the lookout for diverse, dedicated and skilled talent to expand their businesses. Here, positions abound in both generalist and specialist roles much like research analysis, data trading and financial communications in banks, brokerage firms, fund houses and private equity companies. Clients Investment bankers raise capital for companies, handling listings and mergers, while asset managers help affluent individuals grow their financial portfolios. Perks Being under constant revenue pressure promises fast-paced and challenging work, early responsibility and rewarding remuneration. Banking and investment also denotes the opportunity to work alongside resourceful and motivated individuals.

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IS A CAREER IN FINANCE FOR ME? Wondering if you have what it takes to build a career revolving around the world of money? Here are the most valued personality traits and skills for key roles in finance.

Financial Services

Careers in financial services require client-oriented talents versatile in acquiring knowledge for specific markets and industries. Hours in financial services can be retail-based or flexible in nature, depending on the types of clients and their needs. Retail banking professionals serve people from all walks of life at bank branches and call centres, covering shifts including weekends. Graduates can be trained to manage a retail bank branch, even as they enjoy continued professional development in other aspects of banking. In the insurance industry, observation, communication and negotiation skills are needed alongside emotional intelligence and fluency in product knowledge. Financial services professionals are driven by performance, client satisfaction, and a commitment to innovative product and service delivery. Actuarial careers in insurance companies require numerical and problem-solving strengths, calling for degrees in math, applied math or statistics. To provide expert advice to organisations and clients, actuarists gain specialist knowledge through training to build their credentials.

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Accountancy and Financial Management

Banking and Investment

Accountants help organisations manage finances to comply with legal regulations and plan for the future. An ability to fulfill business interests while maintaining strong moral principles is highly valued in this area. If you enjoy working with people, numbers and concepts, can communicate effectively, and have an interest in the business world, accountancy could be for you. By u n d e rs t a n d i n g how companies function and make money, accountants handle new projects and clients by asking the right questions and following the right leads. Moreover, you also have to convey complex information in a professional and jargon-free manner to clients and work well with colleagues at all levels. The first few years in accountancy are intense as you will work towards professional qualifications while holding a full-time job, but employers usually provide support by granting study leave.

Investment banking is a datafocussed role for those with excellent analytical, technical and numerical skills. Client management and teamwork come in handy, as do resilience, the endurance to work round the clock, and being on call to monitor changes in different markets – also making time management skills and accountability to shareholders essential. The environment in banking and investment is target-driven, with pressure to make the right decisions at the right time for strategic earnings, particularly for the trading division. As investment management firms generate returns for clients through investments across a wide range of businesses, countries and products, investment managers and advisors have to make intelligent investment decisions apart from succeeding in client service. As experts in particular areas of the financial market, they dispense valuable insights to clients and colleagues. With specialist knowledge and extensive research, investment management professionals are keenly aware of implications that may arise from certain decisions made besides understanding how financial markets work. Confidence in client servicing is also needed, especially when investment decisions are made on their behalf.

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HOW TO PURSUE A FINANCE CAREER WITHOUT A FINANCE DEGREE Having a finance-related degree is most certainly an advantage when it comes to finding a job in the competitive financial sector. However, if you do not have a degree in that area, it does not mean that you have missed the boat – the finance industry is one of the most diverse industries talent-wise, after all. Here are seven ways you can jump onto the bandwagon.

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1 Get a relevant internship and work hard The best way to get a glimpse of the financial sector is to experience it. An internship does exactly that, allowing abundant exposure to different departments and giving you a better understanding and clearer perspective of the various roles and skills required and helping you figure out which path you are most suited to take. Besides providing valuable learning experiences and knowledge, you will also have the opportunity to score an excellent reference from your mentor and have something tangible to highlight when you are gunning for a full-time role in the future.





Find your advantage


Get a foot in

Business and finance graduates may be essential in making up the bulk of any company in the financial sector, but graduates with non-related degrees are important too. For example, those with a degree in the humanities are known for being strong in interpersonal and communication skills, offering a more macro perspective, and deriving different insights and approaches to problemsolving. Given the global nature of the financial sector, competency in languages is also a highly-valued and desirable quality when it comes to client relations and financial market research. Identify the transferrable skills you possess and highlight them in interviews.

Go onto LinkedIn or even your own social media networks to find people who are not only already in the financial sector, but with careers you are interested in pursuing; they can help you learn more about the industry of your choice and open doors to opportunities out there. The more people you reach out to and speak with, the more well-informed you will be regarding your options. Be sure to do your own research beforehand and prepare intelligent questions while demonstrating your knowledge. The bottom line is to take the initiative and reach out to as many people as possible, so don’t be afraid to approach, and connect with, alumni from your alma mater and mentors from internships.

Aim for a job, even in generalist positions which do not require specialised financial and numerical skills – these roles include those in human resources, corporate communications, and client servicing. In doing so, you build your own network in the industry, and gain training opportunities to equip yourself with the relevant qualifications along the way.

3 Keep up-to-date with financial news Have an acute interest in financial news and macro trends in both local and global markets is vital to enter the financial sector. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make reading financial news part of your regular routine in understanding what is happening in markets around the world. Develop relevant industry knowledge by staying up-to-date with market developments. To understand what moves and shakes the financial sector, turn to publications such as the Financial Times, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Forbes.



Learn the lingo

Lifelong learning

If you don’t know the difference between mutual funds and unit trusts, or what AML and KYC means, it would be useful to browse Investopedia, an encyclopaedia for all things finance-related. More importantly, inculcate an eagerto-learn attitude, challenge yourself to read up and understand concepts fully, look up jargon and build a bank of finance vocabulary so you do not feel lost during networking sessions and interviews.

If you are still in school, consider doing a minor in economics, business, or accounting, or even take up electives in these areas. This is your perfect introduction to the world of finance, and lets you practice your numerical skills. If you have graduated, you can still pursue part-time courses which lead to the relevant certifications for your chosen industry. To reinforce your commitment towards a career in the financial sector, self-studying, visiting the library to look up resources, and immersing yourself in financial publications are essential.

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POSTGRADUATE PATHWAYS IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR If you want to specialise an area of finance but don’t have a finance-related degree, consider postgraduate study.

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ostgraduate study can help you in securing employment in the competitive finance sector or take you down your desired career path of specialisation. But before you make your move, conduct thorough research to consider your options: Are you furthering your studies for good reasons? Do you meet the prerequisites and where you do foresee yourself going after that?


Do it at the right time and for the right reasons

Consider alternatives as a young professional

Figure out what you want to learn

Heading back to school is for those who want to make a switch to the finance sector and having pursued an unrelated first degree, or those who wish to specialise in a particular area. Therefore, a postgraduate degree is an investment in yourself. But it comes with risks and costs; for instance, you will have to spend time away from the workforce, especially if you choose to study full-time.

For those who have just started out in a finance career, an MBA would be a traditional option for investment banking pathways. However, it is not focussed on technical foundations, unlike the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification (CFA) which costs less and suits early career investment bankers dealing with fund management. Enrolling into a MBA programme, however, is still prestigious, feasible and offers a wide network of contacts into industries beyond finance. However, it is vital to look into the syllabus before enrolling for a programme so that you know what you are getting out of it, and if it offers the right balance of management and technical knowledge that you are looking for. Other short-term courses for qualification attainment include the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), Certified Professional Risk Manager (CPRM), Corporate Finance Qualification (CF), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and the Certificate in Quantitative Finance (CQF). A Master of Science in Finance (MSc) is another viable alternative, and can also open doors to the financial sector for you. Popular choices include the MSc in Applied Finance offered by the Singapore Management University (SMU), the MSc in Financial Engineering offered by the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the University College Dublin’s MSc in Finance offered by Kaplan Singapore, and many prefer an MSc in Finance over a MBA as it does not require much work experience in a related field – one of the criteria for entering an MBA programme.

In finance, you need a strong understanding of theory, business and industry practices; knowledge of markets, trade and investment; and skills in research, numeracy, statistics, analysis and communication. Degrees in FAME subjects also include accountancy skill certifications. In accounting, you need quantitative skills, specialised accounting knowledge, an understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and regulation and industry knowledge. If you are interested in entering the accounting sector but hold an unrelated degree, consider a Master of Accounting or Master of Professional Accounting, in addition to various certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Accountant (CA). In short, choose the right course for yourself after looking carefully at the costs and possible returns alongside your end goal(s), whether it is specialisation, advancement, or something else.

Speak to recruiters If you have already decided on a certain career path, your best option would be to speak to recruiters first as they can advise on recommended courses and where you should take them. At the end of the day, though, you still need to show that you have both the hard and soft skills to get the job done.

Get to know your options Postgraduate options in the financial sector range from Masters of Business Administration (MBA) to Finance, Accounting, Management and Economics (FAME) degrees, as well as professional qualifications for the technical aspects of accounting and financial management.

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A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO APPLYING FOR A JOB IN FINANCE Taking your first step into the financial sector can be a daunting process, especially with how competitive the investment banking, accountancy and financial services industries are.

Application procedures Because thousands of people apply for jobs in the sector, it is important to stand out in the crowd by preparing to face a rigorous recruitment process – like employers screening applicants with various psychometric tests. Ability tests assess general, numerical, and verbal reasoning skills while personality tests, on the other hand, help determine whether the applicant is suitable for the job and able to fit into the company culture. Shortlisted applicants would then have to impress recruiters and prospective bosses in interview sessions, and would likely have to participate in assessment centre exercises on top of that. With so many aspects of the application to prepare for, here are five ways you can be both efficient and effective.

Tips for psychometric tests • Get sufficient rest the night before • Familiarise yourself with the types of questions in ability tests by practising online • Do not overthink for personality tests, as there are no right or wrong answers.

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THE FIVE STEPS 1. Focus your job search

3. Attend career events

4. Embrace technology

While there are countless employers you can apply to in the market, the time used sending generic applications to 50 companies can be better spent focussing on a few preferred companies which you are confident of getting into. Be as selective as possible. A good way is to do some general research – list down potential employers, compare them, come up with a shortlist containing about five to 10 “priority” companies, and finally conduct in-depth research on them. This way, you can better make sure your skills and expertise match what these companies are looking for, thus increasing your chances of landing your ideal job in the financial sector.

Career fairs, industry events and open houses for banks and accountancy firms happen yearround in Singapore. For example, the annual Singapore Universities Recruitment Fair (SURF) provides networking opportunities with numerous participating firms such as PwC Singapore and Deloitte Singapore. Attending seminars and trade shows, such as the Accounting & Finance Show Asia, allows for exposure and networking opportunities. Such sessions offer a wealth of information from insiders. Be proactive in approaching people and make an effort to get to know them while asking intelligent questions. After all, recruitment fairs not only provide an excellent setting for you to speak to recent graduates and find out what their working lives are like, but they also give you the opportunity to discuss any concerns you might have with recruiters. Other than keeping yourself informed with the latest news and trends in the industry, it is also important to find out which companies would be present at the event and prepare specific questions for them. Bring a notepad to jot down useful information such as contact details and application deadlines. As opportunities present themselves at unexpected times, always keep an open mind and welcome any professional exchanges. Last but not least, remember to show a genuine interest in the people you meet!

In this digital era, information is widely available on the internet – even reviews of prospective employers and interview questions they have given applicants. For instance, Glassdoor allows current and former staff of companies to rate and review their employers anonymously. Take the reviews with a pinch of salt, but look out for tips and suggestions on how to tackle interviews with specific companies. Besides using the Internet to understand developments and trends in the financial sector, compare various sources to learn about each prospective employer’s business structure and history. In addition, do your background research to get a good grasp of the environments different potential employers operate in. It is imperative to understand how each big and small player in the industries of banking, investment, accountancy and financial services portray their position in the markets compared to key competitors.

2. Don’t procrastinate Many organisations accept applications year-round, but it is still necessary to check the application processes and closing dates for the companies and jobs you are most interested in. Keep in mind that for the banking and investment industry, application deadlines also tend to be earlier. Apply early because some companies make offers even as applications come in, possibly filling up all the spots even before the closing date.

5. Get involved If you are an undergraduate, think about what competencies and skills are required in the financial sector based on the roles of your interest. From there, take part in extra-curricular activities to develop transferrable skills such as leadership and communication. While you do not necessarily have to join the Math Club or the Investment Club, having a strong record shows that you are a wellrounded individual and a team player, making yourself an attractive candidate to be trusted to work with different groups of people and achieve desired targets. gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020 | 13


PROS AND CONS OF PURSUING A CAREER IN THE FINANCE INDUSTRY It can be tough to make your way in this industry, but the benefits and payoffs have the potential to be generous.

Financial Services Globalisation has been behind much of this sector’s growth, and there are now more options than ever before.

PROS • Potential to bring in a high income • Good working conditions • Regular business hours.

CONS • Fast-paced and high-stress • A cyclical industry.

Accountancy and Financial Management What you think of a career in accountancy and financial management will depend not just on your working style, but your personality as well.

PROS • • • •

A stable industry Clear career path Many opportunities to grow Flexibility in choosing where to work – after all, accountants are found everywhere!

CONS • Work can come off as routine and dull • During peak season, large amounts of stress and long working hours are the norm.

Banking and Investment At the top of your game, you will find yourself showered with rewards many can only dream of, but making your way in this sector is hard and definitely not easy.

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• Opportunities for professional growth • You will get the chance to build a large network • Remuneration.

• High stress and long working hours • Fierce competition.


APPLICATION TIPS Before applying to positions and programmes you are interested in, prepare your resume and cover letter before looking to distinguishing yourself in the recruitment process. Crafting Your Resume 16 Preparing Your Cover Letter 18 Acing Your Interview 20 Tackling Assessment Centres


A Quick Checklist 24

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CRAFTING YOUR RESUME Creating a digital representation of yourself that summarises your professional experiences and best qualities can be a tricky task, especially because you need to quickly grab the attention of recruiters and communicate key points.

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Customise each and every resume sent out First and foremost, tailor your resume to the firm and role you are applying for. Make it obvious that you have made a genuine effort to think about what the company is looking for, and what makes you the best candidate. Conduct your own thorough research and don’t forget to check individual employers’ application procedures – some may have specific requirements. For example, HSBC’s website details the specific format, sections and details applicants are to include in their resume. If you are indicating a career objective at the top, pay special attention to it. Remember to keep it simple and state your ambition. An example would be: “Valedictorian from Nanyang Business School with strong analytical skills seeking an internal audit position at a leading MNC.”


Specify your skills and areas of expertise Instead of a career objective, you can opt for a section on technical skills or your main areas of expertise. While recruiters do not have the time to look through what you did in your previous internships or positions in detail, they are on the lookout for specific skill sets, which you can show through a skill set summary. Alternatively, you can also state your core skill set in each work experience you have. For instance, if you are listing a marketing experience, use a line or two to highlight the key areas of expertise you gained and honed, such as market research, market sizing, interviewing, public relations and business development. On the other hand, if it was a business management position, state the relevant areas of expertise such as executive-level communication, strategic planning, business analysis and client management.

Highlight relevant experiences Think through the experiences you have had and how they might be relevant; don’t miss out on any related experiences, even if they are just shortterm gigs or unpaid positions. You should also mention any work experiences with transferrable skills, especially if these skills correspond to the job requirements. For example, waitressing at a café can be relevant in showing recruiters that you are able to manage and cater to

customers’ needs. This could be helpful if you are applying for a client-facing role, such as being a fund manager, insurance broker, or bank teller. Don’t neglect unique experiences that can help you stand out from the crowd, even if they seem unrelated to finance! Did you spend a summer taking care of elephants in Thailand? Put that in, and be prepared to talk about cross-cultural experiences relevant to investment and financial services careers. Remember to highlight your job rank along with the job descriptions, especially in a hierarchical industry like investment banking, as recruiters tend to take note of such roles. Likewise, state so if your previous job was on a short contract term to prevent misunderstandings about your job-hopping tendencies – something usually frowned upon in the financial sector.

Show your strengths and interests

Quantify your achievements

Time your submissions

Numbers matter in your resume. How else can you measure your impact and the difference you made as an employee elsewhere, or even as an intern? If you were expanding the client pool in your previous role, you can state how many new clients you brought on board within a specific time period. If it was a sales role, state the growth in revenue under your purview. If you have led teams, show their sizes and again, include details of growth and time period, which give the recruiters a good impression of what you have handled and attained before.

Singapore is a global financial hub. Knowledge and competency of at least one foreign language would come in handy in servicing clients or dealing with partners from another part of the region or corner of the globe. Having won an app-building contest or being involved in the robotics club during your university days would also demonstrate your proficiency in IT and coding skills. Do not shy away from briefly including your personal interests at the end of your resume. Particularly, participation and leadership in team sports indicate high potential for success in a corporate environment, while sharing that you can play a musical instrument demonstrates your ability to focus with discipline.

Last but not least, try not to wait until the last minute to apply as application deadlines are occasionally brought forward due to overwhelming responses. First impressions aren’t everything, but they definitely make a difference. Likewise, presenting a strong resume will help immensely in the process of landing your dream job in the financial sector. Good luck!

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PREPARING YOUR COVER LETTER With such fierce competition in the financial sector, a cover letter could do wonders in helping you stand out.


ot all companies require a cover letter along with your application, but it is always advantageous to have one as it shows sincerity and provides an additional platform for you to impress recruiters before moving on to the interview part of the recruitment process. Here are some tips to help you write a compelling cover letter that could become your golden ticket to an interview!

1. Show, don’t tell Keep the standard structure; start with a brief introduction of yourself and explain why you are dedicated to pursuing a career with the company. Be clear on the specific position you are applying for, explain why it is of interest to you and convince the hiring manager that you are a good fit. Be succinct and avoid falling into the trap of rambling too much on your personality, skills and qualifications – recruiters can assess these for themselves when they go through your application and resume. Similarly, avoid describing yourself with words such as “passionate” and “ambitious” as these qualities are better exuded in person during the interview.

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2. Prove your competence

3. Demonstrate your enthusiasm

4. Do a thorough check

Read the job description and address the selection criteria to better highlight relevant experience that could put you in the best position in the running for the job. For instance, if you are applying for a management accountant job, you could mention a 35 per cent increase in returns for a specific project you previously worked on. In the same vein, explain how your skills can be put to good use in the specific role. For example, if you have extensive knowledge in international current affairs, show how it can benefit the investment banking analyst position on offer because markets and investors are affected by key events around the world.

After doing some comprehensive research about your potential employer, make use of the information to include specific aspects of the company that appeal to you and show how you can valueadd to their organisational culture. One way to stand out from the crowd is to mention events organised by the firm that you have previously attended, or if you have visited its booth at a career fair. Name-dropping employees that you have met would also add a more sincere touch to the cover letter. By showing your enthusiasm in networking and initiative in building relations with the company, you can score an advantage over other candidates.

Last but not least, take a break from your cover letter and check it again later; you are more likely to spot any mistakes with fresh eyes. After that, print it out and pore over it. If this is the first time you are writing a cover letter, get someone with a good command of the English language to help you proofread it. Use a spellchecker to prevent grammar mistakes as these errors reveal a lack of attention to detail, which is a big no-no for the financial sector. On the other hand, having clear and appropriate points in your cover letter will show the recruiters your effective communication skills and strong writing skills.

Sample Cover Letter

Dear Mr Lim, I am writing to apply for the Marketing Data Junior Analyst position with the Consumer Banking Group at DBS Bank, as advertised on My conversations with current employees at your networking session in June this year have reinforced my interest in the bank and cemented my belief that I have the expertise and skills that you are looking for. Throughout my three years of study at Nanyang Business School in Nanyang Technological University, which included a 10-week professional attachment with DBS Bank, I have developed a practical understanding of creating impactful marketing campaigns for financial institutions. In addition, I participated in a 6-month internship with Standard Chartered Singapore where I gained valuable experience in analysing customer data for valuable insights to help internal stakeholders and management create segments, as well as review the marketing communications plans for optimal results. My resume is enclosed for your consideration. I am keen to discuss any opportunity in person and am available for an interview at any time. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Yours sincerely, Jane Poh

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ACING YOUR INTERVIEW Interviews always seem scarier and tougher than they actually are! With sufficient preparation, you can breeze through job interviews in the financial sector with no sweat – if you know what to expect and remain calm.


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Revisit the job description and your application forms

Having found you to be a good fit for the role at first glance from assessing your application materials, employers are looking to get to know you better at the interview stage. This is the time to impress recruiters and let them know how you can contribute to the job and company. First, make sure you have a clear idea of what they already know about you, and how your profile fits into what they are looking for in terms of how you stand out and where you lack. Do you, for instance, possess a specific language skill set which they hope to tap into for certain markets? How much do you know about the financial sector if you do not have a finance-related degree? You can show how you are keen to make up for this by demonstrating knowledge of how financial markets work, as well as displaying an understanding of the firm’s business objectives. Similarly, if you come from a related area of study, just how much do you know about real world application of the technical knowledge you gained in school? Do you have internship experiences which taught you about client servicing, an important aspect of roles in the financial sector, through hands-on experience?



Anticipate common interview questions

Think through from the recruiters’ perspectives and expect questions tailored to the specific role and company you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to a local bank like DBS Bank or OCBC Bank, be prepared to explain why you are choosing a home-grown bank over an international one, and vice versa in the converse situation. Having an awareness of the company’s positioning will also help you understand what is at the top of recruiter’s minds. For instance, if you are applying to enter a small accounting firm as a fresh graduate, decipher if the company wants you for an area of specialisation or as a generalist, and tailor your answers accordingly. When asked about your strengths and weaknesses in your personality and professional behaviour, be prepared to list examples of prior work and study experience which demonstrate what you have been through and how you adapted to become a better person.


Stay informed about the industry

Keeping abreast with the latest market trends and news is crucial for a career in the financial sector. For example, a potential investment banker would be required to be well acquainted with major stocks from around the world and able to explain how historical milestones affect movement in the markets. In addition, make reading the financial news a habit, keeping in mind that knowledge from various finance publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, the Business Times and The Economist, could come in handy during interviews. Be prepared for questions like “Tell me about a recent development you read about in the news and how do you think it will affect the financial sector.” Be careful not to get too carried away when answering as that might come across as arrogance.


Prepare a list of targeted questions to ask

At some point of time, you would likely be asked “Do you have any questions for me?” This is an opportunity to engage and impress the recruiters with intelligent questions, demonstrating both insight into the industry and your enthusiasm to work for the firm. For example, you can ask about how a recent industry trend has affected the firm, or how the company has positioned itself against competitors for long-term prospects. Asking smart questions helps to end the interview with a lasting impression. This is also the part which can help you make a decision if you are handed more than one offer eventually, as it gives hiring managers a chance to impress you in turn. From these answers from across the table, you can also gain deeper knowledge about the company’s plans for the years ahead. Be careful when you cannot help but ask cliché or generic questions such as “How is a typical workday like?” and “What are the working hours?” It might work against you by signalling a lack of research or being overly concerned with the nitty-gritty aspects of the job. However, if the employer takes the initiative to share the perks of the role with you, such as flexibility schemes and training opportunities, take it as a good sign as they are enticing you for the position.


Follow up

On the same day of the interview, send an email to thank the recruiters for their time. Highlight how the conversation helped in affirming your decision to join the firm. You can include specific references to issues discussed in the session to show your commitment and attention. Take the initiative to keep in contact if there are no follow-ups within the next two weeks. Call or email again to reiterate your interest in the role, and find out if there are further steps in the hiring process, such as attending an assessment centre, or taking aptitude tests.

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TACKLING ASSESSMENT CENTRES Often the final stage of the recruitment process, an assessment centre can be both intimidating and gruelling.

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Know what to expect While companies have different components of their assessment centres, they usually consist of a group activity, an individual exercise, and an additional interview. Find out what you should be expecting from the recruiter. And although the company may give you limited details beforehand, you can still browse online forums to better understand the activities planned and gather some useful information from past candidates. Be open-minded and mentally prepared to participate wholeheartedly and show the best of yourself. For an investment banking assessment centre, expect opportunities to present solutions related to products and client servicing. You can rehearse your answers to general interview questions, and keep up-to-date with financial news and economic trends as they are potential questions and information you must know.


Dress well and behave appropriately The test starts the second you step into the venue. Recruiters will observe and pay attention to everything from your outfit to the position you choose to sit or stand in. Remember to be cheerful and polite to everybody, including the receptionist and fellow candidates. This is especially important since banking and financial services are people-centric. Maintain your confidence and composure throughout the day, including during break times in between each segment. After all, with change and challenges constantly rife in the finance and accounting sectors, a stable temperament is crucial.

Group activity This segment usually splits candidates into small groups to tackle a problemsolving task – its main purpose being to assess not just your ability to communicate, but your capacity for teamwork as well. As group dynamics and teamwork are crucial in most firms, it is imperative you show recruiters that you are a confident team player who can voice opinions and support others at the same time. But keep in mind that it is not a competition; you will be assessed against the recruiter’s criteria and not against the other candidates. By knowing everybody’s names and asking for their input if they have not had a chance to speak yet, you can show your customer service and communication skills. Articulate your ideas clearly but be careful to not dominate or interrupt the discussion. Most importantly, stay calm and considerate at all times, especially when dealing with difficult situations – yet another opportunity to show why you’re fit to join the financial sector.

Individual exercise You might be given psychometric tests similar to those you were given online in an earlier part of the recruitment process, usually so that companies can verify the findings. Otherwise, recruiters would likely give you a case study to solve and ask you to give a presentation on your recommendations. The questions in these exercises can run the gamut from choosing which potential company to acquire, how to respond to new technology in accounting, or even how to handle difficult customers. Besides testing your financial acumen, the purpose of this exercise is to test your analytical and reasoning proficiencies, as well as your communication and persuasion skills. Focus on key information and plan your time well.

Take everything in your stride If you are not offered a position after going through the tests in the assessment centre, there is no need to be disappointed. Instead, treat it as a learning experience – you have had the chance to experience a “day of work” in that company, and test out whether the firm is the right fit for you. After all, it is not just about you impressing the firm, but the other way around too. In addition, you could try to reach out to the company and ask for some personal feedback on how you can improve and prepare to ace the next assessment centre. Competition is fierce in the financial world, but you can take the learning points from one failed situation as valuable experience to continue making your entrance into the sector.

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A QUICK CHECKLIST If the idea of applying for a graduate position or programme leaves you feeling a little lost, here’s a brief recap to make sure you have everything!

Your resume After you’ve gone through it several times, don’t be afraid to get others to go over it

Keep it clear and simple Make sure your resume and cover letter are easy to follow and free of mistakes

Apply and impress! There’s no one right way to apply, so apply speculatively, online and directly. If you’ve been called up for an interview, dazzle them!

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FINANCIAL SERVICES Discover the financial services industry in terms of its areas of work, and how you can prepare yourself for a career there.

Financial Services at a Glance


Choosing Your Role and Company in Financial Services


Areas of Work Actuarial Work 30 Commercial Banking 31 Insurance 32 Risk Management 34 Wealth Management 35 Features Busting Financial and Banking Jargon


Different Ways to Get into the Finance Industry


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FINANCIAL SERVICES And once you’ve entered, you’ll quickly find that the financial services industry allows you to build a broad range of transferrable skills, preparing you for managerial roles across different areas of work in the future. Many aspects and roles in this expanding industry are serviceoriented and client-facing, though, so skills required include communication, customer service and negotiation. In addition, skills in problem-solving, leadership, teamwork and time management are vital, as is the ability to pay attention to detail.

Getting in

About the Industry In this guide, “financial services” encompasses a wide variety of job roles in the financial sector, all of which have a direct effect on daily life. While monetary remuneration for financial services are typically not as high as those in the investment banking industry, they are still attractive and comfortable. The working hours are also less intensive, and a healthier work-life balance can be achieved. Moreover, according to the financial services industry transformation map unveiled in 2018, plans to develop

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Singapore into a leading international wealth management hub and full service Asian infrastructure financing hub will create an estimated 3,000 jobs a year.

Must-have skills Being successful in the financial services industry is not only about numerical abilities, critical thinking and analytical skills. As it stands, a finance-related degree is not even a prerequisite for most roles in the sector; a genuine interest in client service and a willingness to work with numbers are all you really need to make a good start in the industry.

Due to the vast spectrum of job roles in the financial services industry, it is generally open to graduates from different backgrounds, so there is no need to worry if you lack relevant work experience or a finance-related degree. Most employers offer structured training, ensuring you are up to speed in any technical areas and also brushing up your soft skills. New hires can look forward to orientation and onboarding programmes which seek to provide broad-based knowledge and a good understanding of the key functions, core values and ethics of the company, and what drives their operations. Many firms will also match you to a mentor to help you make the most of your opportunities, as well as a buddy to provide support.


Areas of Work There are numerous different financial services jobs available in the market to suit everyone. Here are some key paths in financial services:

Retail banking Retail banking, or consumer banking, is mass-market banking, serving individuals in local branches with savings and checking accounts, credit cards, mortgages and personal loans.

Insurance Insurance professionals protect both individuals and companies against potential financial risks by helping to safeguard clients’ financial assets in the case of an unexpected event.

Financial regulators oversee the financial markets to create safe and fair services for everyone, and ensuring trust in the economy. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) oversees all financial institutions in the country and acts as a watchdog in the industry.

Actuaries predict and assess the likelihood of an event and evaluate its financial risk through the use of data and statistical techniques before communicating key findings to clients and stakeholders.

Regulatory work

Actuarial work

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CHOOSING YOUR ROLE AND COMPANY IN FINANCIAL SERVICES Regardless of your field of study, jobs in the financial services industry are aplenty and within reach. It simply takes some research into the different firms and roles available before you decide which one is the most suitable for you.

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Firms in the industry Employers in the financial services industry include firms that provide specialised financial services much like actuarial consultancies and underwriting, retail banks such as DBS bank, and insurance companies like NTUC Income. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Ministry of Finance (MOF) are regulatory bodies in this industry, ensuring compliance is observed in financial transactions and activities. In this industry, employees in larger companies tend to be placed on a quick rotational scheme where they gain a broad understanding of the business by experiencing a variety of work in different departments for a short amount of time. On the other hand, joining a smaller firm offers more flexibility and ownership over your individual work, a potentially friendlier environment, and exposure to senior management that could accelerate your learning.


The ideal candidate

Roles available There are many career possibilities in the financial services industry, including: • • • • • • • •

Actuary Bank teller Branch manager Insurance broker Loss adjuster Product manager Risk manager Underwriter

As retail banks in Singapore continue to adopt sophisticated methods such as data mining and predictive data analytics, datasavvy candidates who also boast strong IT skills are in demand. And with the digital transformation having an increasing impact on the financial services industry, banks and financial institutions are reinventing their client service strategies. For example, instead of queuing up at banks or ATMs to withdraw cash, more people are opting for cashless payment methods such as mobile banking. Other than catering to the younger generation who have new expectations of accessibility to banking and financial services, firms see themselves as bearing partial responsibility to make sure no one is left behind in the digital transformation journey. Besides skills like analytical thi nki ng , teamwo rk an d communication, the ability to innovate and provide fresh perspectives are valued by these organisations who wish to stay relevant in today’s society. Customer service remains one of the most important aspects of this industry. Besides kindness and empathy, market intelligence and analytical skills are required to offer value-added services to ensure customer satisfaction. For example, having exemplary persuasion and negotiation skills are not enough for a financial services consultant; he or she would also need to be able to see things from the client’s perspective, identify their individual needs, devise corresponding financial planning strategies, and help clients make informed decisions.

Working in the industry The financial services industry is a dynamic and competitive one where you have the opportunity to take ownership of your work, gain management responsibilities early on, and still be paid handsomely. Compared to investment banking, the financial services industry guarantees a much healthier work-life balance – and is very suitable for those who like to work hard and play hard! However, in a recent report by the Business Times, a survey found that retail investors in Singapore have a low level of trust in the financial services industry, highlighting that a lot of work needs to be done to build credibility in client relationships and for the overall industry. Last but not least, if you decide to pursue a career as an actuary, bear in mind that employees are often required to balance fulltime work and challenging studies when attaining professional qualifications in order to progress in their careers.

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ACTUARIAL WORK Actuaries help business organisations predict and manage risks.


s an actuary, your work will revolve heavily around the prediction, evaluation and management of risks using a combination of commercial awareness and statistical and mathematical models. As you may also be invited to advise clients about your findings as well as help them develop potential solutions, your job scope can be very diverse, encompassing a good mix of client-facing and calculation tasks. Some key day-to-day responsibilities include analysing statistical data, preparing reports and presentations, and working with IT professionals to develop and update systems to incorporate solutions to the risks. In some cases, you may even be assigned to develop an entirely new financial product. Actuaries are greatly needed in a variety of sectors, including banks and financial services organisations, insurance companies, specialist consultancies, and even accounting firms and investment banks.

Starting out While you are generally required to possess sufficiently high grades in an actuarial science degree, some employers do accept graduates with a background in other numerate degrees, such as statistics, economics, finance, or mathematics – provided you showcase a strong understanding of the financial industry. Having a degree in actuarial science may also exempt you from some of the professional qualification exams that you need to take to become a certified actuary. Graduate employees typically start their career as a trainee, assisting senior colleagues in their duties as they train and pick up the necessary skills required to advance in this career. Hence, you’ll likely spend a big portion of your time handling calculations and using preconstructed models to generate financial forecasts.

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As you gain more experience, you will be given greater responsibilities such as leading projects, constructing, updating and analysing financial and forecasting models, and handling client relationships.

Career progression Most employers encourage you to begin studying for a professional qualification or fellowship as soon as you get on board, which often translates to a challenging time balancing work and study. However, most organisations are very supportive, offering financial assistance and ample study leave to lighten this struggle. Upon gaining their qualifications, most actuaries tend to specialise in a specific area of interest, gaining in-depth knowledge, experience, and reputation as an expert in that particular field. That said, there are many actuaries who have found opportunities in other seemingly unrelated areas of management as well. For instance, actuaries have been known to venture into infrastructure and climate change projects, as well as the healthcare and data science industries.

Skills required Aside from possessing a high level of numeracy skills, you need to be good at problem solving, research, and analysis. Good interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills are also important as your job scope includes presenting data and solutions to clients, most of whom possess a minimal understanding of actuarial science. Accountability is equally important as it’s crucial that you diligently follow up on your clients throughout the process of implementing a solution. Actuaries should also be flexible, adaptable, and able to handle ambiguity as the job scope can be very diverse, with ad-hoc tasks and projects regularly interrupting your day.




Pros and cons As an actuary, you’ll be involved in a variety of tasks and industries, making your job an extremely interesting and challenging one. This is made even more exciting by the rapid development of the financial industry by IT and technology, leading to new risks and the need for creative solutions. Actuaries also enjoy steady career advancement and attractive remuneration, especially upon obtaining a fellowship from a recognised actuarial association. That said, the workload may get stressful and lead to extra hours – especially when you’re in the process of pursuing a fellowship.


COMMERCIAL BANKING The commercial banking sector mainly involves serving customers in their daily financial needs.


etail banks, or commercial banks, provide consumers and small businesses with a variety of financial products and services that range from bank and savings accounts, mortgages, loans, personal credit products, as well as remittance services. Some retail banks even offer services such as stock brokerage, insurance, wealth management, and private banking – although these are usually delivered through another division or an affiliate of the bank. However, with the finance industry rapidly adopting financial technology (fintech) innovations and solutions, it has become necessary for retail banks to continuously adapt their services and facilities in order to sufficiently serve their customers, including rethinking features such as mobile banking services, online security measures, new products and collaborations, as well as customer service. Like most sectors of the finance industry, the retail banking sector is constantly regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Starting out There are diverse opportunities for graduates in commercial banking, ranging from risk management and compliance to marketing and IT. Most major banks typically run specialised graduate programmes to recruit potential candidates to their function of choice, and management associate programmes are also especially popular. Most graduate programmes offered are rotational in nature and span a total of two years, giving you the opportunity to experience different areas of work within the department to gain an understanding of the organisation’s business as a whole. Besides learning about your role on-the-job and through formal training programmes, you may also be attached to a mentor to guide you along your various responsibilities as you move from one department to another. Upon

graduation from the programme, you will be assigned to the role that suits you the best. Also, depending on your programme, you may be put in charge of managing small-scale projects, be involved in creating new products and services, provide technical support to colleagues or other divisions, or even handling customers on the ground. In most cases, most candidates will work a regular 9-to-5 shift, but certain roles may require you to pull the graveyard or weekend shift.

from that, having excellent organisational and management skills will also stand you in good stead, as will commercial awareness.

Career pathway The career path for graduates working in this sector can be very diverse due to the sheer variety of products offered by each bank. Career advancement can take place vertically – where you climb up the corporate ladder to take on managerial positions – or horizontally – where you transition from managing products such as mortgages and personal loans to a different division, such as private banking. You can also consider obtaining professional diplomas or other qualifications to help you with your career progression. It is also a good idea to consult your mentor for ideas on how you can go about developing your career.

Skills required Employers in this sector generally welcome graduates from any academic background – unless the position requires specific technical skills. So, to be a standout applicant in this highly competitive sector, you should focus on developing your soft skills, in particular the ability to manage projects well and work in a team, as well as communication and interpersonal skills. Good customer-facing skills are also tremendously important as a big part of your job scope will revolve around assisting customers in their queries. Aside


Both sides of the same coin The commercial banking sector is fast-fast-paced, exciting, and offers a relatively good work-life balance. In addition to that, excellent benefits such as lucrative year-end and additional bonuses, as well as varied growth opportunities, make working in this sector extremely attractive. That said, be aware that this sector can be relatively stressful, especially during crunch time, such as the launch of a new product. You may also find the working environment to be quite structured, with plenty of red tape in place.

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INSURANCE A highly diverse field that offers a constantly changing work environment.


areers in the insurance industry may be immensely wide-ranging, but they ultimately revolve around the safeguarding of an individual’s or entity’s financial assets in the event of an unexpected occurrence.

Starting out There are diverse positions that graduates can expect to start out in this industry. Here are some of the more popular ones:

• Graduate underwriter Underwriters are responsible for determining a client’s eligibility for a policy, additional terms and conditions that are part of the plan, and the premium the client has to pay. • Claims management trainee As part of the insurance claims department, you’ll be involved in assessing the validity of submitted claims, as well as liaising with policyholders to ensure that the repayment process is completed as safely and efficiently as possible. • Trainee loss adjuster The job scope of a loss adjuster is relatively similar to that of an insurance claims handler – such as checking the validity of a claim and establishing the causes of a loss, among others – except they typically work as an independent third party, and are attached to specialist practices instead of insurance companies. Insurers generally seek the services of loss adjusters, instead of claims managers, for more complex claims.

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• Business development, business finance, and sales graduate roles While responsibilities for this position vary according to the employer’s area of speciality, working in the business division usually involves a mix of duties such as promoting services to potential clients on top of identifying and following up on new opportunities. • Graduate insurance broker Insurance brokers help clients match their needs with the most suitable insurance products for the best premiums. • Trainee actuary Actuaries advise their clients and help them forecast and manage financial risks through the application of financial and statistical theories. • Graduate product manager Product managers at insurance companies are responsible for creating, testing, and launching new insurance products for potential customers. Their responsibilities may include market research, sales forecasting, and regulatory compliance. • Operations management In this role, you will be primarily responsible for managing and encouraging the customer service department.


Variety of products The type of work involved in your role also greatly depends on the employer’s area of speciality in terms of the products offered. The following are the main types of insurance products:

• General insurance This encompasses the different types of insurance policies save one – life insurance. • Commercial and corporate insurance Crafted specifically for business organisations, it protects them against unforeseen events such as theft, property damage, liability, or other disruptions to their day-to-day operations. • Life insurance Life insurance is purchased as a form of financial protection and aid for named beneficiaries in the case of a premature death. • Personal insurance Consisting of a range of insurance contracts that protect an individual financially in the event of a misfortune, common examples of this type of insurance include policies for personal automobiles, properties, and illnesses.

• Reinsurance Usually purchased for insurers, it acts as a risk management strategy for them. For instance, when an insurer foresees itself encountering a financial strain due to an unexpectedly large pay-out for his or her clients, they may opt for reinsurance as a method to mitigate that risk.

Keep in mind, though, that the insurance industry is always expanding, and that these are only basic products. To score at job interviews with insurers, it’s important that you read up on other unique offerings the company has as well.

Skills required Employers in this industry value graduates with skills in customer service and numeracy, as well as an ability to react promptly and give good attention to detail. Generally, most employers will state a preference for numerate, business or management-related degrees. While this is especially true for actuary positions, graduates from all degree disciplines are usually welcome to try for other roles in the sector. Your employer may also urge you to sit for examinations conducted by professional bodies. The certifications obtained are usually vital for career progression.

Support functions Insurers require a wealth of expertise to support their core business, such as technology specialists, marketing, and HR personnel. While your main employer will likely be insurance companies, insurance brokers, retail banks, and supermarkets are very welcoming of graduates as well. You may also want to consider specialist consultancies, where specific roles in life insurance or loss adjustment are carried out. Most large employers offer training or graduate schemes to help you adapt to your new working environment. The schemes are usually rotational to provide diverse experiences to help you understand the company better. Others, on the other hand, will rely on on-thejob training, as well as formal or informal mentorship programmes from senior team members.

Ups and downs If you enjoy meeting new people and working in a stimulating environment, this could be an industry worth exploring. However, be aware that certain positions in the insurance industry can be deskbound with relatively little variety, such as the underwriter position. On the other hand, if you’re working as an insurance sales representative, you can look forward to a lot of travelling opportunities.

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RISK MANAGEMENT Risk managers help companies navigate through financial uncertainty and potential risks.


isk managers help organisations avoid losses by analysing, advising, and managing potential risks on their behalf. Through close observation of the company’s risk appetite, financial limits and business parameters, they ensure that businesses avoid running into financial risks such as fraud, as well as market, credit, liquidity, operational, and health and safety risks. Usually hired by banks, insurance o rga n i s at i o n s an d co mmerc i a l businesses such as engineering and energy companies, a big part of a risk manager ’s responsibilities revolve around conducting detailed research and risk assessments for clients, which means a lot of time will be spent poring over documents, reports, statistics, and market trends.

Starting out Graduates typically get on board through rotational graduate schemes, where you will get the chance to experience a variety of roles before specialising in one. Most executives start out as part of a small team, picking up essential skills on the job as they assist their colleagues with their tasks. Graduate employees are also typically assigned mentors to guide them along in their work and oversee their progress within the organisation. While most of your training will be done on the job, there is also a range of external training courses available for career advancement purposes. You would also need to acquire professional qualifications if you intend to specialise in particular areas, including technology and fraud. The job scope can be very diverse from the get-go – one day, you could be meeting clients and surveying sites, and the next, writing reports and helping to flesh out preventive recommendations.

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Skills required Employers generally prefer applicants with industry-relevant degrees – such as in business, law, economics, or management. Many employers are also giving increasing importance to relevant work experience, so obtaining an internship can give you a leg up in this sector. In terms of soft skills, it’s vital that you develop excellent interpersonal and communication skills as you’ll be expected to work with people from diverse backgrounds. At the same time, you’ll need to have good problem-solving and analytical skills, as well as a good eye for detail. Good negotiation skills, commercial awareness, and an ability to be forwardthinking are immensely important as well.

Good and bad Risk managers must be prepared to work under great pressure and stress, especially in times of crisis. Work can also be extremely fastpaced, and you would need to be highly adaptable to succeed in this sector’s quickly-changing environment. That said, many risk managers enjoy their role because of the excitement that comes with the diversity of day-to-day tasks.


WEALTH MANAGEMENT Wealth managers play an important role as trusted advisers across a range of financial issues.


ealth management is for those who wish to deal with high net-worth clients. Aside from providing professional services in investment advice, wealth management also comprises of services in financial advice, banking, accounting and tax services, retirement planning, as well as legal or estate planning. This area of work involves a holistic approach to all parts of a person’s financial life and allows high net-worth individuals to have a single wealth manager to coordinate all the financial services needed to manage their assets, on top of meeting their families’ current and future financial needs.

Career overview Not all wealth managers work in banks – positions can be commonly found in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and some may even be self-employed. However, in banks, wealth managers typically only recommend financial products provided by the bank they work for, instead of products available on the whole market. As a graduate in this field, you will generally start off with a role in a in the back office as an administrator or paraplanner. As an administrator, you’ll be involved in supporting the company’s business, though as a paraplanner, you’ll instead conduct research on the best products on the market to recommend clients. Gradually, you’ll rise up the ranks and progress into a wealth management role. Alternatively, you may enrol yourself into a graduate scheme. It is also possible for individuals to switch from professions in accountancy, law and other financial services to wealth management.

Required skills Although recruiters accept applications from all disciplines, a numerate degree such as economics, accounting and finance will put you at an advantage. Business and law degrees, as well as courses in risk management, investment and taxation will also catch recruiters’ eyes. Solid mathematical abilities are a must. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are key and you need to be able to explain complicated matters in a simple and clear manner to clients. Analytical skills are also essential as you will be responsible for giving the most suitable advice to your clients’ in response to their problems and situations.

Advantages and disadvantages Wealth managers can sometimes experience considerably high levels of stress, especially at the start of their careers, due to a number of factors. For one, the financial services industry is highly dependent on domestic and global markets, which are volatile at times – and clients can have emotional reactions to market changes. However, wealth managers relish helping clients make sound decisions for success in their financial well-being.

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BUSTING FINANCIAL AND BANKING JARGON A familiarity with technical terms can impress employers and colleagues alike, but it is important that you use them correctly. Here’s an A-Z jargon guide to help you understand key terms used in the financial services and banking industries.

Coupon (n.) What is it? No, it’s not the coupon you redeem. In banking terms, a coupon refers to the annual interest rate due on a debt product, such as a bond or a loan. You wouldn’t be quite as happy to receive this kind of coupon! Example: A $1,000 bond with a coupon of 5% pays $50 a year. Quite often, these interest payments will be semi-annual, whereby the investor will receive $25 twice a year. Deductible (n.)

Arbitrge (n.) What is it? The practice of making a profit from trading on two markets simultaneously. Such trades profit by exploiting price differences of similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms. Example: If the price of wheat in Indonesia is lower than in Singapore, buying in Indonesia and simultaneously selling in Singapore will allow you to earn in the difference. In a financial context, if the stock of company X is traded at $10 on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGE) while it is simultaneously trading on the Indonesian Stock Exchange (IDX) for $10.50, a trader could exploit this arbitrage by buying the stock on the SGE and immediately selling the same shares on the IDX.

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Bear market (n.) What is it? If you’ve heard of the banking term “bear,” you can most likely guess what a bear market is. A bear market is any market where securities prices exhibit a declining trend for a prolonged period of time. Since bears attack by clawing down, this term is associated with a falling market. Example: The recession following the great Wall Street stock market crash in 1929 can be referred to as a bearish market. With investors struggling to get out of the market by selling their stocks, the market incurred huge losses which led to a sustained decline in the economy, known as the Great Depression.

What is it? The amount of money an insured individual pays before the insurance kicks in. Example: Imagine your deductible is $500, but you incur medical expenses for $2,000. In this case, you will pay the $500, and your insurer will pick up the remaining $1,500. However, if your entire medical bill is $500 or less, you will pay the entire amount and your insurer will pay nothing. Elevator Pitch (n.) What is it? A brief speech or presentation that outlines an idea for a product, service or project, it is delivered in a short period of time – as short as an elevator ride, which is usually about 20 to 60 seconds. Example: If you’re looking to market your product and present it as something worth investing in, you would want to use an elevator pitch to get straight to the point in order to capture the client’s attention.


Fixed Term (adj.) What is it? An investment vehicle, usually in the form of a debt instrument, which has a fixed time period of investment. A fixed-term investment has the investor parting with his or her money for a specific period of time. The principal investment is later repaid to the investor at the end of the investment period. Example: A term deposit is an example of a fixedterm investment, where investors deposit their funds with a financial institution for a specified duration. They are not allowed to withdraw their funds until the end of that duration. Ghosting (v.) What is it? An illegal practice wherein market makers collectively attempt to influence the price of a stock. Corrupt companies engage in this to profit from the price movement. Example: When a firm buys or sells a large amount of a certain stock with a second firm doing the same causing a buy or sell frenzy, the two firms ghosting – who are supposedly competitors – can then profit as the market is unaware of their collusion. Honeypot (n.) What is it? A security measure used in banking security to detect, prevent and dismantle cyberattacks by luring the perpetrators to a specific area of a computer system. The term is taken from the idea of a bear stealing honey from a honeypot, which serves as a temptation for the bear. Example: Banks lay traps for cybercriminals trying to hack into their information systems using honeypot software.

Indemnity (n.) What is it? A principle whereby the insurer seeks to place the insured in the position he or she was in prior to a loss. Example: The insurance company agrees to indemnify – used as a verb – the policyholder against any claim arising from a breach of professional duty. Jointly and Severally (adv.) What is it? A legal term that describes the liability of a group of people bound together by an agreement, often in the context of a loan. In short, all parties are obligated to perform as required under contract, under any proportionality. Example: If a bank loans $500,000 to three people jointly and severally, then all three individuals are responsible for repaying the total amount of the loan to the bank. Keep and Pay (n.) What is it? An allowance that lets a bankrupt individual keep an asset under the condition that he or she continues to make payments. Example: Keep and pay allows you to not have your home repossessed, although the bank could liquidate that asset if necessary. Lapse (v.)

Middle office (n.) What is it? This is the area or function of a bank that does not generate profit, but instead supports the front office in financial and legal matters. In essence, the middle office is responsible for managing risk and ensuring all transactions are executed correctly. Example: The treasury is part of the middle office, alongside the legal and risk management departments. Nearshoring (v.) What is it? The practice of outsourcing work to companies in another country, but with the benefits of a closer offshore location. Example: Nearshoring to Indonesia is better than offshoring to China because of the country’s proximity to Singapore. This not only makes contact easier, but it is also more efficient and reduces running costs. Opportunity Cost (n.) What is it? A benefit that a person could’ve received, but gave it up to take another course of action. In other words, it is an alternative given up when a decision is made. Example: When making big decisions like investing in treasury bonds, clients will likely diligently research the pros and cons prior to making this decision in order to outline the potential opportunity costs.

What is it? The non-renewal or cessation of a privilege, right or policy as a result of inaction. Example: An insurance policy will lapse if the holder does not pay the premiums.

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Parallel Loan (n.) What is it? This is a useful term for graduates who are looking to join the international banking segment. A parallel loan usually involves two parent companies taking loans from their respective national financial institutions before lending the resulting funds to the other company’s subsidiary. Example: In a parallel loan, ABC, a Singaporean company, would borrow Singaporean dollars from a Singaporean bank. On the other hand, XYZ, a Malaysian company, would borrow Malaysian Ringgits from a Malaysian bank. ABC would then lend the Singaporean funds to XYZ’s Singaporean subsidiary and XYZ would lend the Malaysian Ringgits to ABC’s Malaysian subsidiary. Quid Pro Quo What is it? A Latin phrase typically used in financial circles to describe a mutual agreement to exchange goods or services of roughly equivalent value. Example: A soft dollar agreement is a quid pro quo agreement whereby Firm A uses Firm B for research. In return, Firm B executes all of Firm A’s trades as an exchange of services. Recourse (n.) What is it? The legal right for the lender to collect the pledged collateral in the event that the borrower is unable to satisfy the debt obligation. Example: Recourse lending provides protection to financial institutions, as they’re assured to have some sort of repayment, either in cash or liquid assets.

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Seed Capital (n.) What is it? The initial capital used to start a business that usually comes from the founders’ personal assets, or from their close ones with the aim of covering initial operating expenses and attracting venture capitalists. Example: Seed capital is needed to support the preliminary activities for the launch of XYZ company, such as market research, product research and development, and business plan development. Turnkey Business (n.) What is it? A term to describe a business that is ready for immediate operation. Example: ABC is considered a turnkey business as it has a proven, successful business model that merely requires capital and labour. Underwriting (v.) What is it? The process of determining whether to accept a risk or not, and, if so, what amount of insurance the company is willing to take on as acceptable risk, and at what rate. Example: Underwriting helps insurance companies manage risks and accurately price risk in order to adequately cover the true cost of insuring policyholders. If an applicant’s risk is deemed to be too high, underwriters may refuse to cover it.

Vulture Capitalist (n.) What is it? Not to be confused with venture capitalists, this kind of capitalists invest to exploit and profit from unsuccessful individuals or organisations that lack the resources to achieve success. Example: Vulture capitalists typically purchase a controlling interest in a troubled company and use its own assets as collateral for the loan used to purchase it. The vulture capitalists will then sell the company at a profit. Yield Burning (v.) What is it? The illegal practice of underwriters marking up the prices on bonds for the purpose of reducing the yield on the bond. Example: Yield burning was attempted to reduce the amount of tax that was incurred on fixed-income investments. Zakat (n.) What is it? A term used in Islamic finance to refer to the mandatory process for Muslims to donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes. Example: Examples of wealth liable for Zakat include gold and silver, paper currency held in cash or in the bank, tradable assets owned by a business, herded animals, and crops.


DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET INTO THE FINANCE INDUSTRY The finance industry extends numerous opportunities to think out of the box – but not many know that just getting into the industry itself presents a chance for graduates to flex their creativity and create their own moments and prospects.



hether you’re looking for a graduate job or an internship, the finance industry is a competitive field – and something outstanding on your resume may go a long way in helping you gain some prominence amid a sea of other applicants even as it helps you cultivate some experience and knowledge.

Apply speculatively Smaller financial institutions, which usually specialise in actuarial work or insurance loss adjustment, generally do not have structured graduate or internship programmes, so one way to ask about available positions is to speculatively send in your resume along with a cover letter. State who you are and what you are looking for – such as shadowing or work experience – as well as your relevant experience and what skills you can lend the company. While you should include the reason, or reasons, why you chose that particular company, ensure your resume and cover letter are concise and to the point as recruiters may not have the luxury of time to go through a protracted application. Moreover, remember to call the company ahead of submitting your application to ask who you should send and address your application to – applications sent to a specific person tend to have a higher chance of being reviewed. There are numerous benefits to applying speculatively to companies, such as potentially expanding your network, showing a prospective employer your genuine interest, and giving you space to develop your acumen in a specific area of the industry.

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Attending or organising a career fair Career fairs give students and employers a platform to mingle and network while also extending the chance for students and graduates to take a good look at the diverse opportunities and positions available. On the other hand, there’s actually nothing to stop you if you want to organise your own event. You will likely have to involve the career centre at your university, and it certainly wouldn’t be easy, but the experience would definitely help you in your career search later. Attending a career fair will get you acquainted with recruiters and help you build your network. But setting up your own event will not only give you those benefits – it will also show prospective employers your commitment to joining the industry, your innovation, and, for certain, your initiative.

Be a treasurer All university clubs and societies need a treasurer, and if you have stepped into the role, potential employers will be able to infer that you’re not just a team player, but also capable and skilled enough to take the needs of an organisation into consideration while also managing and handling budgets and money. Other skills being a treasurer will instil in you is communication, time management, problem-solving and commercial awareness – skills employers in accounting and financial management look out for. All in all, this position will not only grant you experience relevant to the industry that can be added to your resume, but also give you something to talk about in interviews.

Entrepreneurship Firms in the finance industry always keep an eye out for students with skills in entrepreneurship, and students who set up small businesses while in university usually end up impressing them. Although these ventures are typically not very big, they show prospective employers your commercial awareness, business intellect and ability to budget.

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Not only will running a small enterprise give you something interesting to talk about in interviews, you will be able to pick up a number of transferrable skills such as problem-solving, planning and budgeting that will prove useful when you’re looking for a graduate job. In addition, you will be able to make some extra cash for yourself.

Get an overseas internship Nabbing an internship out of the country for a financial company can give you a head start over other graduate applicants, and for the duration of the application process, the skills and experiences you picked up from your time abroad can definitely set you apart. In addition, employers will be able to perceive your adaptability, confidence and commercial awareness, as well as global and communication skills. Other benefits of getting a placement overseas are, among other things, expanding your network to include international contacts and employers, and the chance to develop a variety of transferrable skills.

Joining or starting a network If the opportunity to join a group interested in accounting and financial management presents itself while you are in university, take it and begin building your network. Otherwise, if you don’t want to restrict your membership to your location or university, you can keep an eye out for groups on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. If you can find no such group, consider starting one of your own. This will not only showcase your initiative to future employers, it also may extend the chance for you to meet other professionals and students you may not have crossed paths with. Getting the chance to meet and talk with others who share similar interests is just one benefit – the chance to network and show your genuine commitment to a career in the industry is another.

Mentoring Look for a mentor with experience in the area you wish to enter, and who is able to help you form your network even as they counsel and encourage you. They can be a seasoned professional or a graduate trainee, either clueing you in on what skills recruiters and employers want or guiding you through the application process with different employers. Whatever it is you are looking out for in a mentor, you don’t even have to restrict yourself to just one – if you have a few mentors, you will be able to glean more from their different experiences. However, as professionals in the industry usually keep hectic schedules, you may want to start with your own university alumni or family and family friends. You can even consider social media platforms such as LinkedIn as well as networking events – though if you want to follow this route, express your desire for a mentor and intention to keep in touch. One of the advantages of having either a mentor or a few mentors is getting the guidance you need from working professionals in the area you want to join first-hand. On top of that, you will also get the opportunity to leverage on their network and pick up some pointers on how to make yourself more attractive to employers.


ACCOUNTANCY AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Find out about the accountancy and financial management industry with reference to its areas of work, and how you can prepare yourself for a career in it.

Accountancy and Financial Management at a Glance 42 Choosing Your Role and Company in Accountancy and Financial Management 44 Areas of Work Assurance 46 Commercial Finance 47 Corporate Finance 48 Corporate Recovery


Corporate Treasury 50 Financial Accounting 51 Forensic Accounting 52 Internal Audit 53 Management Accounting 54 Risk Assessment 55 Tax 56 Features A Graduate’s Guide to Accountancy Jargon


Getting a Graduate Job in Accounting


Why it is So Important to Qualify as a Professional Accountant


The Singapore Economy Looks to Reinvent Itself


Attain Professional Achievements with ISCA


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ACCOUNTANCY AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT About the Industry Every organisation needs an accountant – and with accountancy and financial management qualifications, one can find work opportunities with all kinds of organisations, ranging from the “Big Four” – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – to smaller accountancy firms, as well as public and private sector employers. Being in the accountancy industry will also give you a good perspective of how businesses are run, opening doors to for you start your own business if you want in the future. In recent years, businesses have started to use digital technology such as cloud accounting software and applications to increase efficiency for accounting and financial management, so graduates now have to upskill to stay relevant in the industry.

Must-have skills Besides excellent numeracy skills, employers look for candidates with strong communication and analytical skills, the ability to work in a team, and commercial awareness. Employees are also required to cope with the intensity of working and studying at the same time, with effective time management skills and resilience. With new technological developments infiltrating the finance industry through financial technology, accounting professionals also need to keep upto-date and have strategic views on potential risks and opportunities.

Getting in In Singapore, graduates who want to enter the accountancy and financial management industry usually go through two routes. They may have completed a diploma or degree in accountancy, and go on to work in a junior position while continuing the pursuit of professional accountancy qualifications, or, if they do not hold a related degree, join an accountancy firm if they have completed or intend to complete certification programmes. In Singapore, there are numerous certification programmes offered by professional bodies such as the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) to choose from. Aspiring chartered accountants who wish to practice locally must also complete the “Singapore CA Qualification,” developed by the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC). 42 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020


Areas of Work In the accountancy and financial management industry, it is typically expected that you first identify an area of expertise. Some areas of specialisation include:


Tax advisory

The main role of the assurance department is to review financial data and working procedures of a company in order to accurately update investors on whether their money is used effectively.

Tax consultants are engaged to advise management on tax-related problems and offer solutions. They also help clients understand complex tax laws and assist them with the filing of returns, especially during the annual tax-filing season that runs from 1 March to 18 April.

Internal audit Internal auditors are responsible for monitoring key business areas to assess financial risks and operational inefficiencies, devising and presenting solutions to management.

Risk assessors are tasked to methodically identify and evaluate potential risks before recommending appropriate measures. This field of work allows companies to capitalise on opportunities while considering all factors in making major decisions.

When businesses fail, specialists in this field decide if it is possible to keep the business running through certain measures. Otherwise, they are in charge of helping creditors, suppliers and employees salvage remaining capital.

Risk assessment

Corporate recovery

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CHOOSING YOUR ROLE AND COMPANY IN ACCOUNTANCY AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT The world is your oyster; global demand for accountancy and financial management skills means that you can find a job anywhere in the world.

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Firms in the industry Besides the Big Four, firms such as Grant Thornton Singapore, RSM Singapore and BDO LLP are also popular choices among accounting graduates and jobseekers looking to pursue a career in accountancy and financial management. In this industry, joining a bigger firm could translate to specialisation at an earlier stage and exposure to high-profile clients, while experiences gained in smaller firms would largely depend on the scope of offerings and clientele of the company. In smaller firms, employees are expected to be more generalist, though they tend to receive more opportunities to be involved in business development, securing and maintaining client relationships for the firm. On the other hand, large multi-national organisations are more likely to have the resources to invest in their employees’ education and provide a more attractive training package – including overseas travel opportunities. However, you should also be aware that many large firms require employees to be bonded to the company for a period of time. If you choose to pursue a position in the public sector, you will come across a vastly different scope of duties, work environment and exposure.


Working in the industry

The ideal candidate

Roles available The accountancy and financial management industr y is constantly growing, and offers a wide range of career paths. Here are some main roles you can consider • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Assurance consultant Auditor Commercial finance manager Corporate finance advisor Corporate recovery specialist Corporate treasurer Finance director Finance controller Forensic accountant Internal auditor Management accountant Risk assessment officer Tax advisor Risk manager Underwriter

Enthusiasm and excellent interpersonal skills are necessary, and will come in handy when communicating with clients and liaising with colleagues. It is also important to have an acute commercial awareness of current issues in the industry, as well as the ability to simplify and explain complex information to people unfamiliar with accountancy and finance. Good numeracy and analytical skills are also undoubtedly essential, as are problem-solving, multitasking and time management skills to face challenges and meet tight deadlines. Certifications from professional bodies such as ISCA and ACCA Singapore are important for a career in accountancy and it is vital to secure these qualifications early in your career. If you are looking to join this industry, it is imperative that you are not only self-motivated, but also committed to working and studying concurrently when required.

Accountancy and financial management professionals have the opportunity to gain a unique insider’s perspective on how different businesses are run, which will later help you move up the corporate ladder or start your own business. Another perk of being an accountant is having the chance to attain an internationally recognised professional qualification – often funded by the company. In recent years, digital technology has started to revolutionise the financial sector, and the accountancy and financial management industry has not been spared; firms and organisations are now using cloud accounting, software and applications to streamline processes and increase productivity. Although the career path of an accountant is widely known to be recession-proof, continuous training is necessary for employees to keep up with changes in the industry and enhance their job prospects. The hours may be long, especially for job roles like auditors and tax advisors whose peak period generally falls in between January and April, but otherwise, employers in the accounting and financial management industry generally enjoy a healthy worklife balance. The job might also involve some overseas travelling, depending on where your client is based.

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ASSURANCE Auditors perform “investigative” duties during internal and external audits for companies.


ssurance focusses primarily on the reviewing of financial data and documents of a company to test the soundness of its accounts. This process, called auditing, serves to “assure” the owners and the clients of the legitimacy of the company’s records, and will also guide the company’s subsequent financial planning and investments. Assurance services generally encompass two types of audits, annual and internal. During annual audits, which are mandatory for most companies in Singapore, the company will engage an external auditor to inspect its accounts. The resulting audit reports will then be presented during Annual General Meetings (AGMs) for decision-making purposes, or used for the company’s yearly filings. Internal audits, on the other hand, are domestic versions of annual audits performed by a company’s own accountants. This form of audit is not compulsory, but business organisations are encouraged to do it as it will help them align their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) with the company’s missions and goals. It also keeps accounts systematic and clear throughout the year, translating to a more ordered, stress-free annual audit for both the company and its auditors. Aside from auditing duties, assurance services also carry out various “investigative” duties. These include due diligence on potential mergers and acquisitions, or assessing an organisation’s sustainability and its standards of social and corporate responsibility.

General overview Starting out, you are usually expected to juggle on-the-job training and the pursuit of professional qualifications at the same time. Though possibly hectic,

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this arrangement will give you the chance to apply and test your theoretical knowledge in the actual working world, giving you great working experience from the get-go. If you enjoy travelling and meeting new people, you may be a good fit for this job. You will be required to travel often — possibly even abroad — and this will expose you to various interesting opportunities early in your career, broadening your professional perspective and equipping you for future responsibilities as you continue to grow into the position. You will be working in teams most of the time, so good teamwork and communication skills are a must. Building a good rapport with your team will not only enhance your work experience, but also ensure that you have moral and professional support during the more demanding periods of the job.

Required skills You need to have a keen mind to get through the professional courses, as they can be fairly challenging. The good news, however, is that your degree does not necessarily have to be finance-related – you can become a chartered accountant as long as you possess the necessary professional qualifications. Work experience is an important factor in this profession, so internships and prior working arrangements will stand you in good stead if you hope to enter this field. As mentioned earlier, good communication and team-building skills will also help you in the long run given the team-based nature of the work. Self-confidence and critical thinking are also important traits. As this job will require you to face a variety of situations, you need to be able to portray yourself

as someone who is both competent and able to think on your feet. There may be times where you will have to read between the lines and dig up information not readily offered.

Pros and cons One of the grouses about working in assurance is its long working hours, especially during the tax season between February and April – you may even be required to work on weekends as well. The work may sometimes become both repetitive and gruelling as you may be expected to rush deadlines while maintaining the accuracy of your calculations. These, however, may only be minor shortcomings in the face of benefits such as the opportunity to travel, build business connections, and gain an in-depth understanding of the inner workings of various companies and business sectors.


COMMERCIAL FINANCE Manage and guide the organisation’s cash flow and revenue generation for maximum profit.


ommercial finance is the key driving force behind a company’s sales operations and performance. Those working in this field are responsible for managing a company’s cash flow and revenue generation, and they also advise the company on business strategies that should be employed for maximum profit. Commercial finance managers are required to evaluate the performance and worth of the company’s products and services. Following that, they will have to make the necessary policy arrangements or build essential commercial strategies to advance the profitability of the product or business. Their advice then becomes the guiding factor for other departments — such as sales and marketing — to make their own business decisions and targets. In essence, this means that commercial finance managers are responsible for striking a balance between making a profit for the company, sponsors, and investors, and attracting customers. Other duties that fall under the scope of commercial finance include specific product research, tracking sales performances, and the calculation and projection of possible upcoming yields and trends. Based on these predictions, commercial finance managers may sometimes be involved in developing new products and campaigns. Most companies will place new recruits in training programmes, putting them in a position with a fair amount of responsibility to hone their skills in management, communication and persuasion. Moreover, even as you work towards your professional qualifications, you may be tasked with advising on financial controls and analysing financial information to help your colleagues make key business decisions.

Skills required As a commercial finance manager, you need to be constantly aware of the organisation’s business direction as well as broader trends in the marketplace. Excellent communication, teamwork and presentation skills are necessary for extensive correspondence with nonfinance colleagues as you will work in teams to process information given, and to come up with plans and strategies based on a collective analysis of the situation. Aside from people skills, you will also need to harness your analytical skills. The ability to think on your feet and an attention to detail will help you in the long run, as commercial finance managers are required to come up with quick, effective solutions for lastminute emergencies. Time management and organisational skills are useful for the urgent completion of analysis and provision of recommendations before a large product rollout.

Highs and lows Working as a commercial finance manager often comes with plenty of pressure as you will be multi-tasking most of the time. Your decisions will directly influence the productivity and output of your company, which means that there will be high pressure on you to perform. One such instance is the generation of daily sales and finance reports for management decisions. This position is a great opportunity for those seeking to venture into a management career as a thorough understanding of the business world can be gained.

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CORPORATE FINANCE Corporate finance comprises of lead advisory, transaction support, and compliance roles that help businesses increase capital and shareholder value.


he principal purpose of corporate finance is to monitor the capital structure of a business organisation, and to increase its shareholder value through the sales of its investments and securities. The selling of bonds, debentures, and common stocks also fall under the scope of this field. Corporate finance includes a broad spectrum of positions, such as advisories for companies’ shareholders or owners on the issue of mergers and acquisitions, as well as for management buy-outs to increase the company’s worth and sustainability.

lawyer in corporate finance ensures that companies comply with legal aspects in mergers, acquisitions, and all transactions. Thus, corporate finance lawyers need to be aware of red tape and loopholes to guide companies successfully through a particular transaction. You will need to acquire sector-specific expertise if you intend to pursue a career in corporate finance, most of which will be obtained when you take up the professional qualifications needed for your post.

Working life

Aside from the sector-specific qualifications, working in corporate finance calls for excellent communication skills to deal with various parties of interest. You need to be both influential and persuasive when meeting brokers or striking deals with parties concerned, and an ability to get your message across to colleagues and decision-makers with no backgrounds in finance is also vital. Confidence is an important trait for exuding professionalism when meeting clients – something you can gain with familiarity and experience – and teamwork and adaptation skills, apart from numeracy and analytical skills, are valued. You should also have a solid understanding of the areas of business that your company or potential merger companies are involved in. Keep in mind that career progression is dependent on your ability to network and generate deal flow.

A field populated by various professionals including lead advisors, accountants and auditors, and even lawyers, a quick glance shows that all work towards the common goal of raising capital. Each role serves a different function, contributing to different parts of the process. While lead advisors analyse the financial landscape to recommend the best and safest ways for a firm to raise capital, given its risk appetite, accountants and auditors, in contrast, perform transaction support work by verifying the financial security of potential merger companies. They perform “undercover” labour, where they look into the accounts of companies that have expressed interest in merging or getting acquired. They check to make sure that the accounts of these companies are “clean” – free of fraud allegations – and are, therefore, safe for acquisition. Lawyers, on the other hand, attend to the legal aspects of these transactions. A

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Required skills

Advantages and disadvantages Long hours and prolonged pressure are some expected working conditions in corporate finance. However, opportunities abound for working closely in talented teams, translating to less rank-oriented tension and friendlier superiorsubordinate relationships. The push to do well, however, is amplified with performance being constantly monitored.


CORPORATE RECOVERY Bringing afflicted businesses back to health.


sually appointed on the recommendations of banks, lawyers, and accountants, corporate recovery entails providing assistance to ailing businesses. Hence, specialists in this field are responsible for analysing the state of the business and advising on subsequent steps. In situations where corporate recovery professionals believe it is possible to rescue a company, they will suggest a range of corporate, debt, and equity restructuring strategies to aid in business objectives. If recovery is not feasible, it falls upon them to help the company salvage as much monetary worth as possible from remaining assets to repay outstanding debts. In Singapore, the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Singapore (IPAS) exists to provide guidelines and training for both existing and aspiring corporate recovery specialists.

Working life Working in the field of corporate recovery is exciting and challenging as cases range from multi-national companies to small chain stores. Team sizes vary according to the scale of the case. While you will be involved in the entire process of recovery and rescue, from corporate re-organisation, debt restructuring, and informal discussions to formal insolvency procedures, you will also be expected to specialise over time.

Skills required Graduates with academic backgrounds related to business and economics have an edge over others to start out in this field. However, graduates from non-related fields bearing exceptional negotiation skills are welcome. People

and persuasion skills are of the utmost importance for managing stakeholders, creditors, and laid-off employees. Skills such as analysing complex financial information and working in flexible settings are also valued, and you will be expected to have empathy for others while remaining resolute in your directives as you will frequently interact with staff before they are laid off.

Benefits and pitfalls In corporate recovery, prioritising work is a key strategy as you will be working on several cases at the same time. Other than handling employees affected by lay-offs, you will need to pitch difficult decisions to reluctant managers. On a more positive note, you will get to expand your network and also learn about trending markets in realtime – good preparation if you’re looking to go into consultancy in the future.

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CORPORATE TREASURY The “treasurer” department of the business organisation, corporate treasury looks to keep immediate cash for priorities and necessities.


company’s internal division that ensures sufficient immediate cash to fund priorities and demands, it involves constant monitoring of the liquidity of the company’s finances, as well as cautious managing of its various monetary risks. In addition, corporate treasurers are often required to advise on, and prepare, financial policies and controls that can aid in funding the company. It is also the job of a corporate treasurer to look into how financial service providers can help to reinforce the company’s financial security. Because of this, corporate treasurers have to be attentive to releases of new loan schemes, foreign exchange rates, and banking and credit facilities in order to keep the company’s financial plans updated.

Working life Most graduates who enter corporate treasury begin as treasury analysts or treasury accountants, where they receive on-the-job training. You will also be expected to take professional qualifications on the side with the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) in Singapore, or other equivalent professional bodies in order to advance in your position. At the entry level, you will usually start with general duties such as cash management and providing financial advice to other areas of the business. As you climb the corporate ladder, though, you can begin to specialise. However, keep in mind that the duties of a corporate treasurer can be diversified, depending on the projects and cases handled at a particular time. On most occasions, you will have to work closely with senior management and manage large sums of money. As a corporate treasurer’s work is largely tied to the company they work for, the working hours are fairly stable except during periods of urgent deadlines.

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Skills required You need to be well-informed of your company’s goals, the business and economic climate, and the condition of the international banking sector. Such knowledge will indirectly strengthen your decision-making skills, helping you avoid pitfalls and potholes in the market, especially during forecasting sessions and pooling arrangements. Though it would be to your advantage if you happen to possess basic accounting knowledge, it is usually not a prerequisite. Rather, the abilities to work according to procedures and simplify complex matters for the benefit and comprehension of senior management are more important.

Strengths and weaknesses Corporate treasury entails a close working relationship with your company’s senior management, which means that — depending on company culture — you may often be pressured to perform. Anxiety can also come due to the responsibility of handling large sums of money during transactions. Working in corporate treasury, however, gives you a broad overview of the inner workings of organisations, especially through the allocation of their funds. This is a line of work that remains largely unchanged – yet necessary – across various industries, so it can offer you plenty of flexibility among potential employers over the course of your career.


FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING Constantly assessing and evaluating performance of the organisation.


rimarily concerned with the regular analysis and reporting of a company’s financial state, the reports produced measure the “health” of the company and offer crucial information about the performance of the business, which is important to external investors such as shareholders and banks. Through these reports, they are able to evaluate if it is worth investing further in the company. Other organisations, such as suppliers, also rely on these reports to decide if they want to continue providing their products and services to a company, or if it would be safe for them to extend any form of credit. The information gained from these reports also keeps the company’s internal management up to date about the cash flow, which is crucial for decision-making. Ultimately, financial accounting ensures the transparency of a firm’s accounts and keeps it accountable to both its partners and customers. In Singapore, the practice of financial accounting is governed by the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC). They are responsible for formulating Singapore’s Finance Reporting Standards (FRS), a standard that should be adhered to by all practicing financial accountants in Singapore.

Working life Financial accountants usually find employment in departments such as auditing, treasury management and cash flow, as well as the reporting of new or potential acquisitions. You will generally start with a training programme that allows you to acquire an overall understanding of your company’s business and enabling you to observe the way finances are associated with other departments. As with most finance positions, you will also be required to pursue the necessary professional qualifications as you train on-the-job. Your first few years as a financial


accountant are generally quite hectic as you will be required to put in plenty of hard work, most of which will involve number-crunching duties. Other responsibilities include forecasting account balances, statutory reporting, and controlling direct and indirect taxes. After you have started specialising in a specific area, your work will be determined by the projects you are involved in.

Skills required Attention to detail and the ability to communicate complex findings in layman’s terms are valued, besides an analytical mind, good numeracy skills and a willingness to develop interdepartmental relationships. This is because financial accountants draw relevant conclusions based on minute details found in their analysis of the company’s accounts, and report these findings in a comprehensive manner to senior management. Working in Singapore requires you to be familiar with the country’s financial reporting standards (FRS), accounting systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), and other relevant government policies.

The good and the bad Starting off in financial accounting entails a certain pressure to perform and hectic beginnings in your work life. However, it helps you acquire a wide range of relevant knowledge and skills, particularly in technical accounting and leadership. More than that, the comprehensive nature of this line of work also prepares you for the future if you decide to branch out and specialise in other areas of accountancy.

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FORENSIC ACCOUNTING Performing investigative processes to expose frauds and illegitimate financial practices are part of a day’s work.


orensic accounting is a niche within the field of accountancy that employs accounting and financial skills during investigations of fraud, disputes, and suspected transgressions. It is a forensic accountant’s responsibility to identify and uncover illegitimate financial practices to identify suspects and recover illicit funds, making the nature of the job sensitive. Some forensic accountants, however, specialise in fraud risk management, working to reduce the likelihood of financial fraud. Depending on their job scope, forensic accountants may also work with law enforcement authorities and lawyers, and may even be requested to act as expert witnesses in court.

Working life Most graduates spend some time training and gaining experience in an audit or forensic department before they go into forensic accounting, although some are hired directly. At the beginning, you will have to persist through much low-level data analysis – creating spreadsheets and checking financial records and written records for relevant information. But with more experience, you will be given heavier responsibilities such as conducting individual investigations.

Required skills Although having a finance-related degree as well additional training in criminal justice or law enforcement are significant advantages, you will first be required to obtain a recognised professional qualification. Most firms in Singapore accept qualifications such as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and Chartered Accountant of Singapore.

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Other than identifying the source of fraud to pin down the culprit with good numerical skills and an inquisitive and analytical mind, you will need to exercise caution and question all information. Remaining focussed at all times, bearing in mind the key issues of the case and being aware of the significance of the information being analysed are important as well. All information has to be handled with care and attention to detail; important evidence might be hiding in the depths of seemingly trivial data. Portraying a professional image at all times reflects an identity of independence, integrity, and credibility – traits that cannot be stressed enough in this field. As a representative of your company, you will need to convince your clients that you stand for objectivity and unbiased judgement.

Virtues and shortcomings Some of the obstacles you can expect include uncooperative clients or emotional employees who either feel wronged or that their loyalty to the company is being judged. Work can also get tedious and laborious at times, with routine record analysis. However, the sense of satisfaction is immense when cases are solved with the discovery of crucial pieces of information. You can also get to travel and meet professionals from diverse and interesting backgrounds, such as law enforcement officers, forensic technicians, lawyers, and even private investigators.


INTERNAL AUDIT Internal auditors are the accounting “housekeepers” of a company, ensuring accounts remain clear and precise.





nternal audit caters to domestic checks within a company, where a team of auditors is brought in to inspect the accounts for the organisation’s own inhouse use, as opposed to external audits. The company’s administration then uses these findings to improve on business operations and strategies. Along with the report, internal auditors may advise the administrative department on the performance of the company, as well as the financial risks incurred. It is also their responsibility to test the adequacy of the risk controls that have been put into place and advise on necessary adjustments. Internal audits are not compulsory, but are highly recommended. Internal auditors here are governed by The Institute of Internal Auditors Singapore (IIA Singapore).

Working life As a new graduate in this field, you will start off as an audit assistant, spending much of your time reviewing accounts on site, interacting with the staff and management for more information, and taking samples from the record for testing purposes. As you climb the corporate ladder, you will be assigned heavier roles during audit jobs, particularly strategic ones. You may have to evaluate information security and risk exposures, and advise company management on the necessary fine-tuning.

Required skills Having extensive knowledge of accounting software products, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and processes, and the local accounting systems of the company will be to your benefit.

Effective communication skills and good language proficiency – particularly if you can speak multiple dialects – is another added bonus as these may help you liaise more successfully with the staff and management during your assignments. As much of the information internal auditors need for their reports come from an unsorted array of accounts and interviews, you will need to possess a keen eye for detail and an analytical mind to make proper sense of the materials. While it is important to maintain a level of professional scepticism when faced with the surface information provided, internal auditors also ought to possess a high level of independence and adaptability for the project-based nature of work. More than that, you will need initiative to conduct your own research on the organisations you will be auditing.

Pros and cons An internal auditor gets to dabble in a wide variety of sectors, though this means that you’ll have to learn a great many things at the start of your career. Moreover, gaining diverse knowledge about various organisations will give you a broader and more objective perspective about the commercial world. Patience and motivation are essential, however, for you may encounter difficult employees during your interviews at companies as they may not see the point of your work. Overlapping deadlines are also a bane in this line, but the satisfaction derived from contributing to a company’s achievement of their business goals is tremendous.

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MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING Management accountants use their financial prowess to make informed business decisions and drive change within organisations on a strategic level.


anagement accounting is a sector that brings together accountancy, finance, and management to generate information that aid company leaders in decision-making and implementation of financial strategies. The responsibilities of management accountants are two-fold – they provide critical information to management about the state of a company, and may also be business partners who take an active role in planning and strategising a company’s business policies. As management accountants draw conclusions from financial information obtained, generating business-specific insights to present strategies for companies to navigate the ever-changing commercial environment, advice offered can range from product design economics and the cost of running production lines, to IT solutions planning and human resources management. Management accountants also need to be able to see the business from a complex global perspective. In this respect, good management accountants are as aware of global trends as they are of specific, local issues to each process of the business, and are able to see how both factors interact and affect the company as a whole.

Working life Newcomers to the field usually start with a position in general accounting to pick up various business skills that will be useful for management accounting. If you intend to specialise in management accounting, you will be encouraged to study for the specialist professional qualifications offered by various professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

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Early responsibilities of a management accountant include crunching numbers for internal reviews and helping to prepare the management budget. Once you have established yourself, you may be asked to assist with risk management, identifying trends and opportunities for future investments, and overseeing junior accountants. The bulk of your duties, however, will entail working closely with senior management, as you will advise them in decisionmaking and strategy planning.

Required skills As with most accounting positions, having a business- or finance-related degree, or a relevant professional qualification – such as those offered by CIMA – will be beneficial. A credible management accountant possesses a good foundation in SAP management software, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and financial analysis and reporting skills. Good communication and persuasion skills are also highly critical for translating complicated concepts and data for management, as well as promoting your ideas and opinions. Additionally, management accountants ought to be equipped with leadership and decisionmaking skills. As you progress, you should develop the ability to observe local trends with international perspectives in order to decide on the value of potential investments.

Highs and lows This is a challenging field that not only comes with enjoyable mental stimulation, but diverse and taxing duties as well. On top of that, knowing that you have helped companies settle in a direction, especially the more successful ones, can be particularly satisfying.


TAX Helping clients and business organisations reconcile between taxation demands and tax laws.


ax advisors play the role of consultants, supervising tax problems for clients and advising them on tax laws. Advice is dispensed in three broad areas, in terms of tax implications of business dealings, costeffective decisions to taxation demands, and the implications of change in tax laws and the tax system. Aside from major corporate tax issues such as compliance – tax returns – and transactions much like mergers and acquisitions, other specialist areas of tax advisory include employee issues like stock options and CPF contributions, indirect tax services such as advising on VAT, GST and import duties, and personal or business taxation services for high net worth clients.

Working life Most tax advisors start off as trainees in a tax department of a professional services firm as they study part-time for the professional qualifications needed to become a chartered tax accountant. From there, you may choose to move to an organisation that focusses exclusively on taxation issues, or specialise further in certain fields of taxation. A full-fledged tax advisor prepares taxes for clients in such a way that it helps decrease the amount of tax that needs to be paid while still complying with government tax regulations. This includes research into previous tax fillings, attending strategy meetings with clients, and preparing presentations on their tax liabilities to keep them updated.

Skills required A finance degree is helpful but not essential, though the Chartered Accountant certification is a must. Moreover, all practicing tax accountants in Singapore are required to undertake 30 hours of Continuing Professional

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Education (CPE) each year in order to maintain the quality of their work. The course is offered by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), the Tax Academy of Singapore, as well as selected tax and accounting organisations. You may find out more about this through the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT), an information institute about the tax profession. You will also need to arm yourself with knowledge about the latest laws and regulations in regards to taxation matters to ensure your advice is timely and accurate. More than that, familiarity with the international business scene and tax laws in other countries is essential for dealing with international investments on behalf of your clients. Coping with pressure, as well as practising discretion when handling your clients’ tax affairs, is also important.

Gains and losses Life as a tax accountant is exciting as you may find yourself working in a proposal meeting one day, and on large tenders the next. Tax advisory is also intellectually challenging as you will be helping clients resolve difficult taxation issues. Moreover, you will also find yourself working in teams with varied backgrounds and specialisations, exposing you to different aspects of advisory work. There is, however, considerable stress from juggling multiple projects while pursuing specialised qualifications, even as you keep to tight deadlines. On occasion, you may come across difficult clients frustratingly secretive of their business accounts even though they contracted you for your services.


RISK ASSESSMENT Troubleshoot and catch commercial risks before they even happen to ensure maximum turnover.


isk assessment caters to the systematic process of identifying and evaluating potential risks that may influence a company’s pursuit of its business goals and objectives. As such, this field involves helping businesses recognise risks they may face, and advising on how to engage with these perceived risks while taking into account the risk appetite of the company and potential returns. It can be packaged with governance advisory services, which shed light on the process of running a company to meet expectations of the management, stakeholders, and the staff. On occasion, risk assessment services are also offered along with compliance advisory services, for businesses to get in touch with new laws and rulings issued by the government. Investors and business managers also require risk assessment to make informed decisions and pursue gains while avoiding losses from undertaking investments.

Working life Most graduates who intend to pursue a career in this field tend to start out in a broader area, such as assurance, for training before they decide to specialise in risk assessment. However, some firms, particularly larger organisations that prefer to train graduates in-house, choose to absorb new graduates directly into their risk assessment department. As a trainee, you will be expected to monitor daily business functions, evaluate the efficiency of existing risk controls, and assist with the preparation of recommendation reports for clients. But as you rise through the ranks, you will move on to planning, designing and supervising the implementation of a risk management process and continuity plans for an organisation. In addition, it will be your duty to establish and determine the risk appetite of a company. You will work closely with the executive board and senior management of companies, providing them with

insights on a range of issues, such as security and fraud protection, ecological and social performance, and the management of technology departments.

Skills required Risk assessors should not only possess in-depth knowledge of enterprise risk management (ERM) programmes and Risk Control Self Assessments (RSCA), but also have a comprehensive understanding of the various types of risks that a company may face, locally and internationally. Excellent communication skills are required for reporting to and advising the board of directors, business heads, and department managers. Besides conveying your message in a way that is relevant to each of them, good interpersonal skills and confidence will be a bonus for your client interactions. You will also need to keep abreast of the latest changes in laws and regulations so as to offer clients up-to-date assistance.

Ups and downs The work is intellectually stimulating, particularly with international companies and government ministries, as you will be helping decision-makers avoid risks and capitalise on opportunities. However, this position is chiefly consultative and supervisory, which means you will hold little decisionmaking power. You may sometimes be frustrated when you come across clients who are difficult to convince, or are unwilling to take your advice.

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A GRADUATE’S GUIDE TO ACCOUNTANCY JARGON Employers won’t expect you to sound like an industry veteran in job interviews, but it will help if you know some accounting and financial management buzzwords.


he accountancy industry possesses, like all other industries, an exclusive pool of jargon and acronyms accessible only to those who have spent some time working in the field. Some terms are also company-specific, which means that only the company staff are privy to their meaning, and excludes outsiders and the newbies. For this reason, graduates are usually discouraged from using jargon during their interviews due to the risk of misusing them. Applicants sometimes get ensnared by the false perception that they will sound more educated when they riddle their speech with corporate mumbo jumbo, but this only exposes them to the risk of sounding like someone who is trying too hard to impress the interviewer. However, this does not mean that you should completely shun all traces of jobspeak during your interview! Instead, feel free to sprinkle your replies with some industry-specific terms so that you come across as educated and updated, but not trying to butter up to your interviewer. Here is a list of common accounting and financial management lingo that may help boost your level of confidence as you walk into the interview room:

A ACCA Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. ATTS Association of Taxation Technicians Singapore. ATA Accredited Tax Advisor. A professional certification awarded by the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIATP).

ATP Accredited Tax Practitioner. Another professional certification awarded by the SIATP. Accounting Accountancy revolves around the process of determining, evaluating and conveying important economic findings to relevant parties so as to help them make informed decisions. It examines the interaction between various financial elements in order to produce a summary of an organisation’s commercial health. The three main processes of accountancy are: • Determining information: The accounting procedure begins with the collecting and the recording of data. Economic transactions are documented in a set of “accounts” that operate on a system known as “double-entry book keeping” • Evaluating information: The accountant then assigns economic values to the data gathered, such as valuing available assets and calculating the amount of profit or loss that a business has made during a specified period of time, usually referred to as a fiscal/financial year • Conveying information: Information is useless if not disseminated. Once the relevant data has been properly evaluated and documented, the accounting information obtained will be broadcasted and circulated amongst users of the information in a variety of ways, such as in management accounts and financial statements. Acquisitions Acquisitions are a component of a business specialisation called mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and usually

include the counselling of clients on the purchase and sales of other businesses. Acquisitions usually involve a wide variety of deals – from the buyouts of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multi-national takeovers. Angel investor An individual who contributes capital to the start-up of a company in exchange for non-cash returns, such as ownership equity and convertible bonds. Audit Audit is the examination and validation of the accuracy of a business’ financial statements, done primarily for tax purposes. Its primary purpose is to confirm that the financial statements of the corporation are a true and fair reflection of the organisation’s financial health. Usually performed by an external accountancy firm in order to guarantee impartiality, audits are the main assignments of accountants working under assurance and advisory, and are usually performed at a client’s premise. Audit manager The person in charge of organising and managing the audit teams – usually ranging from 2 to 20 people per team. Audit managers ensure all audits are properly completed, and must also build and maintain a good relationship with the client on the side. They are also responsible for guiding the audit team to its full potential. Audit principal The senior member or partner of an audit firm who gives the final confirmation during an audit process in order to certify the accuracy of the client’s financial statements.

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B Business recovery and insolvency Business recovery experts are usually brought in when a troubled business can still be steered through its difficulties towards a revival and/or improvements. Insolvency experts, on the other hand, are only brought in when the business is caught in a bad enough state that it has to wind up. It then falls upon the insolvency experts to help the proprietors through the liquidation process by selling off marketable assets to pay creditors. Business services A mixed package of accounting and auditing services generally offered to major companies as they tend to need additional services for their development, it may also entail advisory or consultancy services where financial recommendations are customised to suit the growth, goals and improvement of a company’s management systems.

C Capital gains tax Tax that is charged when a fixed asset is sold at a higher price than its acquisition price. While this specific form of tax is not applicable in Singapore, any gains a local company makes by selling off assets will still be taxed as incoming revenue. CA Singapore Chartered Accountant of Singapore. This qualification is managed by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ISCA). CIMA The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. CIOT The Chartered Institute of Taxation. While accreditation from this organisation is not mandatory for tax practitioners in Singapore, its CTA certification is still recognised locally, and may be useful for those intending to work in tax outside of Singapore. CIPFA Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. While this organisation is based in the United Kingdom, it does cooperate with global accounting bodies to advance the field of public sector accountancy worldwide.

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CPA Australia An Australia-headquartered accounting body offering the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) qualification. Completion work The last step during an audit process where auditors carry out a final check to ensure that the audit is satisfactorily completed and that sufficient audit evidence has been compiled for a sound audit opinion to be formed. Computational work The process of preparing and compiling sets of financial statements. Corporate finance This is the field of finance that business organisations turn to when they want to acquire other businesses. A firm of accountants – usually the purchaser’s auditors – will be appointed by the purchaser to evaluate the financial health of the target organisations prior to the actual acquisition. These auditors will also be responsible for communicating the takeover details and negotiating a decent purchase price with the target organisation. Corporate recovery Corporate recovery teams are usually roped in to assist companies in financial difficulties and get them back on track. They are usually engaged during the early stages of a company’s crisis as chances of recovery are typically higher at that point. On the other hand, should a company be left with no option but to close up, the recovery team will assist with the selling of assets, the laying off of staff, and the winding up of the company in general. Corporate tax A levy that is charged to a company’s profits. Managed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), different rates of tax are charged for different types of businesses, and for different levels of profit. CTA Chartered Tax Advisor – an expert in taxation matters who has obtained certification from the Chartered Institution of Taxation (CIOT). In Singapore, tax specialists are governed by the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT).

D Debtors ledger Debtors ledgers are used to document the details of an organisation’s debtors. Disposals When a company trades off its asset(s), or when a corporation is liquidating part of their company. Due diligence The process of enquiries performed when a potential investor or buyer wants to invest in or acquire a company. They will want to check the previous records and financial statements of the target company so as to ascertain its exact value, or to unearth underhanded business deals. This usually entails professional reports by accountants and solicitors, and the whole process must be treated with the utmost confidentiality.

F Financial accounting Financial accounting is a catch-all term for the recording of economic transactions performed by a business, such as bookkeeping, and the subsequent preparation of financial statements from those accounts. The financial information obtained from this form of accounting is usually targeted towards other user groups like the business owners, company shareholders, or IRAS, instead of the company’s executive management. Fiscal year Also referred to as a financial year, it consists of a period of 12 consecutive months which a business selects as its accounting period, and doesn’t necessarily have to follow the calendar year. Fixed asset Physical assets that are used in a company’s operations, usually lasting for more than a year. Forensic accounting Forensic accounting is a field of accountancy that caters to solving civil, criminal, and insurance issues. Those who work in this field employ their knowledge of accountancy and information technology alongside their investigative skills to aid in the examination of evidence in regards to an allegation made in court.


Their clients are mostly lawyers and insurance companies, although they may sometimes be approached by individuals seeking such services for personal disputes.

I ICAEW The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. Income tax A percentage of levies charged on net personal and business revenue. Inheritance tax Tax charged on the properties that a person receives through inheritance or legal succession, usually determined by the current value of the possessions. Singapore used to refer to this as estate tax, but abolished it in 2008. Insolvency Highly related to a company’s liquidity, insolvency occurs when an institution or individual is unable to meet its debts and financial commitments when they are due. Debts are paid through cash, so even if a company’s total assets surpasses its liability, the organisation will still be considered insolvent if the assets cannot be converted into immediate cash to pay off its liabilities. IRAS Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. ISCA Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

M Management accounting Management accounting is about providing financial information to the executive management of a business. Accountants are required to generate both regular and specially-requested reports to assist the management as they monitor the company’s performance and plan future business pursuits. Management consultancy From an accountancy standpoint, management consultancy refers to the activity of engaging qualified accountants for their advice on other matters regarding the management of a company. This can range from financial strategy planning to human resource issues, as well as marketing and IT-related matters.

These accountants are usually expected to possess quite a bit of business experience so that they will be able to give more in-depth advice to their customers. As such, this is a role that only senior accountants with years of exposure to various businesses will be able to play. Middle markets Medium-tier businesses that are too big be considered an SME, but not big enough to be publicly-listed.

N Not-for-profit Non-profit organisations include clubs, societies and associations that are created for the purpose of assisting social growth and improvement. They usually champion social welfare and charity issues, and rarely gain profit. Even if they do make revenue from the activities they run, any money made must not be used for the personal benefit of the proprietor. Rather, the money should be channelled back to the organisation to be used for the benefit of society.

O OMB Owner-managed business.

P PAYE Pay-As-You-Earn – an income tax payment system where an employee’s tax and other national insurance contributions are deducted from his or her wages before it is paid out to the employee. Private client services A service that caters to high networth individuals where the accountants engaged will manage the customers’ accounts and investments for them, as well as construct long-term financial planning that is personalised to their needs and goals. Public practice Loosely termed as “freelancing” accountants. Such practices provide accountancy services to clients as independent professional consultants, instead of as employees of a firm. Public sector accountancy The practice of accountancy in the government, local authorities, and public corporations.

S Seed investment The initial funds used for the establishment of a company. It usually comes from the founder’s – or cofounder’s – personal assets, but can also be made by banks, venture capitalists, or angel investors. SQP Singapore Qualification Programme – a compulsory programme to take if one wants to practise as a chartered accountant in Singapore.

T Taxation (Tax) Tax work is usually divided into two major disciplines: • Tax compliance: This area of taxation work entails filling in and submitting tax returns on behalf of clients. Duties include compiling the necessary documents required for fillings, ensuring compliance with tax agency requirements, and informing clients if there are any tax changes which affect them • Tax advisory and planning: A consultancy-oriented area of work where tax professionals will analyse a company’s financial accounts and recommend changes as to how their clients can structure their finances for minimum taxation within the boundaries of local legislation. These two tax disciplines are not isolated from each other. In fact, if they are to provide the best service for their clients, cooperation from both sides is necessary. Tax professionals working in tax compliance will sometimes need to refer to tax advisors for updated information during the course of their work, and vice versa. Workload-wise, tax professionals tend to spend more time working in the office, and keep regular hours better than auditors do. There are also numerous sub-specialisations within the area of tax, each with their own specific set of jargon. Tax liability A person’s tax commitments, derived mainly from their owned properties and earned income.

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GETTING A GRADUATE JOB IN ACCOUNTING If you think you’re fluent in the “language of businesses,” a.k.a. accounting, and are looking for a graduate job in the industry, here are some tips to get you started.


egardless of the size of the company, accountants play a vital role, whether by working in firms that service external clients, or by being part of the finance department of either a commercial or public sector organisation. A career in accountancy will suit you well if you’re keen on helping businesses make sound economic decisions through monitoring and reporting a company’s finances. To that end, you’ll need to be adept at accumulating the necessary information for companies to decide on how to effectively manage their finances and plan for the future. On the other hand, a career in financial management will involve the strategic planning and management of a company’s funds to facilitate efficient operations. Essentially, you will be assisting the company direct the flow of its finances to achieving their objectives.

Skills you will need Besides numeracy and analytical skills, accountants also need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to effectively convey reports and act in the capacity of a business advisor. Good time management and organisational skills will also help you through busy peak periods. Commercial awareness will also give you a good point of reference when dealing with your clients. And, as in all other jobs, being able to work in teams as well as possessing initiative and being motivated are coveted in the industry.

How do I get the job? The most common route to becoming a qualified accountant is to apply for a graduate programme with an accountancy firm. Public and private companies also recruit graduates for accountancy roles in their finance departments. Several factors will affect your decision on where you should apply, but one of the most important criteria when choosing a programme or company is whether or not it offers you the opportunity to undertake courses that will help you qualify as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in Singapore.

The application process Depending on the firm, employers either use online application forms or request personalised resumes and cover letters for the preliminary selection process. If you successfully stand out, you will be invited for an interview. At some stage in the process, you may be asked to complete various tests ranging from those that evaluate your general ability, numeric or verbal reasoning assessments, aptitude tests, or even personality tests. Further interviews might follow as employers continue sifting through potential candidates. Many organisations accept applications year-round, but it’s always worth checking with individual employers – a few do specify early closing dates or advise early applications. Also, before applying for a position in a firm, completing an internship will help you get a better idea of whether a career in accounting or financial management will play to your strengths.

What’s working life like? In an accountancy firm, you can expect to spend a substantial amount of time out of the office visiting and auditing clients on-site. Working in finance departments in commercial or public companies also involve playing an integral role in the organisation. In both instances, there may be off-peak and peak periods – the latter would mean a heightened level of pressure during busier times such as financial quarterlies and closing of accounts at year ends. Such periods aside, however, accountants generally enjoy a reasonable work-life balance. 60 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020


WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO QUALIFY AS A PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANT? Getting those letters after your name represents more than your achievements – it represents the skills at your disposal.


hough it involves a high level of difficulty and the lofty standards of accountancy qualifications means you will have to study very hard, earning a qualification from a recognised professional body in the accountancy sector affords you more benefits than drawbacks. For instance, you can prove to prospective employers and clients that you not only have the necessary skills and training needed to do your job well, but that you also have the discipline to persevere through such a vigorous course. The designated letters that will be added behind your name will also give you a degree of prestige, and can be the vital difference between a successful career and stagnation. Moreover, in Singapore, there is no need to earn a degree before becoming an accountant – instead, you can opt to pursue professional qualifications.

In the sector Singapore’s accountancy sector boasts several professional bodies, from those that specialise in certain areas to others that cover all aspects of accountancy. It takes approximately three years to earn a qualification from a professional body, and typically involves a number of examinations and practical work experience. While it is possible to study full-time at an academic institution without working, membership with professional bodies usually cannot be gained without some work experience. Because of this, in Singapore, most choose to study and work concurrently, and most employers are willing to give time for you to study.

Making a choice While your employer may influence the professional qualification you choose, if a choice is given or you are deciding which employer to work for that offers different qualifications, future career plans should be taken into account. There is no one qualification easier than another – all adhere to high standards. Instead, the differences actually lie in your chosen area of employment, the syllabus, and training. However, no matter the qualification you choose, membership of a professional body will not only show potential employers your drive and ambition, but will also equip you with the skills needed for a successful career in accountancy.

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THE SINGAPORE ECONOMY LOOKS TO REINVENT ITSELF A string of challenges confronts Singapore as it seeks to maintain its status as an Asian economic success story.

By Cameron Cooper


ingapore has long been touted as a shining example of Asian success. Add the fact that the island state is perfectly located to ride on the coat tails of the economic growth of neighbours such as China and India, and it is easy to see why Singapore has prospered in sectors such as manufacturing, finance, and logistics and transport. A raft of international, economic and social challenges is now buffeting Singapore, however, and the headwinds demand a response from government and business if momentum is to be maintained. Economic growth came in below expectations at 1.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, with manufacturing experiencing a dip. Manu Bhaskaran, CEO of consultancy group Centennial Asia Advisors and author of a Lowy Institute report on Singapore, acknowledges the threats facing the nation, but remains upbeat about its long-term economic prospects. “Singapore should be able to sustain growth of about 2.5 per cent plus or minus for the next few years, so long as there is no global recession and so long as we can avoid a major surge of protectionism,” he says, referring to the rise of trade barriers and economic nationalism in jurisdictions such as the United States (U.S.) and Europe. Changes will be required, though.

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Location, location, location On the doorstep of Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam and enjoying ties with juggernauts China and India, Singaporean businesses have geographic advantages. Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank, nevertheless advocates building even closer partnerships with neighbouring countries, taking the possible chance to ramp up participation in existing or mooted free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP). “[We should also be] promoting the Smart Nation push [to harness new technologies] and start-ups, embarking on digital transformation, as well as encouraging bilateral economic cooperation in strategic areas like high-speed railways and education,” Ling says. The Lowy Institute report, titled Getting Singapore in Shape: Economic Challenges and How to Meet Them, opines that disruptions stemming from new technologies, the changing structure of international competitiveness and growing economic nationalism could pose a threat to Singapore’s future economic potential. While Bhaskaran draws comfort from Singapore’s location and long-term business and infrastructure advantages that have enabled it to act as a regional hub, he also warns that Hong Kong and Bangkok are trying to challenge that standing. “Our regional hub – port, airport, financial centre, business headquarters – remains competitive due to the critical mass we have attracted. Plus, we have massive savings that can be used to bolster the economy when needed and that provide a source of recurring income, enabling us to step up spending on social safety nets without large increases in taxes.” Bhaskaran said, adding that Singapore has a regulatory environment that “companies all over the world find attractive, along with a reputation for safety and security.”


Economic success story

Smart investment

Headwinds to navigate

The transformation of Singapore’s economy over the past five decades has driven rapid economic growth, propelled by a number of power sources such as thriving financial and business services centres, an impressive maritime and air transport presence, and its status as the regional headquarters for thousands of multinational companies. Chng Lay Chew FCPA, CFO of the Singapore Exchange, notes that Singapore is now Asia’s largest foreign exchange (FX) centre by trading volume, having hit US$914 billion notional in the 2018 calendar year – more than twice that in 2017. He puts the growth down to the continued migration towards exchange traded FX products from the over-the-counter market, along with “advanced trading infrastructure, and adoption of technology and electronic platforms in the underlying cash markets” that enable investors “to easily hedge their positions across over-the-counter and listed derivatives.” The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also recently discussed plans to speed up the routing of trades via other FX centres by encouraging major foreign exchange participants to build their systems in Singapore. For now, though, the broader economic outlook for Singapore is unclear, with Ling suggesting near-term GDP growth prospects “look somewhat subdued,” in part because of a slowdown in global growth, moderation in the IT demand cycle and China’s economic deceleration, among other factors.

In light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has called on the nation to build its position as a “Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise.” Already, Singapore is leading the way in raising capital and increasing market penetration in the fintech sector, while more generally Heng wants Singapore to continue to build its role in what it has done best while developing new market strengths. “At the Singapore Exchange, we operate a securities market that facilitates companies from many countries to come and raise equity or debt capital and for investors to deploy their capital,” Chng said, commenting that there is a trend for companies to use the Singapore Exchange derivatives platform and products to manage their risks in asset classes such as commodities and currencies. Singapore has also highlighted sustainable finance as an area of potential growth. “The Singapore Exchange itself is part of this,” Chng continued. “We have made sustainability reporting mandatory for all our listed companies. Efforts are accelerating to grow products that support sustainable goals and sustainability such as the issuance of green bonds.”

But the list of threats Singapore must address is daunting. Chief among them are rising costs, modest innovation capacity and declining productivity growth. The Lowy Institute argues that the keys to dealing with such challenges are “top-down policy interventions” from government, and spontaneous “bottomup adjustments” from the corporate sector. Without bold responses, the Lowy Institute believes Singapore’s economic model may not be able to overcome its domestic and external challenges. On the other hand, however, Manu Bhaskaran argues that tackling productivity is at the heart of a number of issues. Productivity aside, the Lowy Institute report recommends that companies target high-growth sectors in Singapore such as finance, hub services, logistics, urban solutions, health care, the digital economy and advanced manufacturing. There is an onus on government to adopt a more active role to support growth and innovation. Bhaskaran adds that Singapore must also build greater resilience into the economy, while also building capacity for “flexible adjustment”, whereby the economy can more quickly respond to international market forces.

Reproduced with permission from CPA Australia

Interested to learn how you can complete the CPA Program in just 12 months? Or how becoming a CPA could support your career goal? Register for a CPA Australia’s ‘Become a CPA’ information session at

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ATTAIN PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS WITH ISCA Learning doesn’t stop upon graduation; in fact, post-graduation is the perfect time to attain professional certifications. Read on to find out how ISCA encourages accountancy graduates to develop professionally.


pskilling to increase employability is not a new concept, and it is becoming especially vital in the accountancy profession, where digital innovations are changing the very nature of the industry on a global scale at an ever-accelerating pace. Now, more than ever, accountancy professionals have to continuously upskill and update their technical knowledge and skill sets. Recognising the value employers put on lifelong learning and the desire of accountancy professionals to upskill, ISCA offers accountancy graduates pathways for professional development. Interested accountancy graduates are welcome to apply for the ISCA Associate Membership. Associates (ISCA) are professionals with an accountancy degree or an equivalent accountancy qualification, working in the accountancy profession across diverse sectors and industries. After becoming an Associate (ISCA), they can enhance their designation with the recently launched ISCA Professional Business Accountant Programme (ISCA PBA) or embark on the Chartered Accountant of Singapore Pathway.

Chartered Accountant of Singapore Pathway Chartered Accountants are qualified accountancy professionals equipped with financial expertise and business acumen. They are valued by employers and recognised as holding the highest standards in ethical and professional conduct. Chartered Accountants of Singapore, or CA (Singapore), can be found across industries in various job roles from finance managers to audit partners and C-Suite executives. A Trusted Mark of Excellence and Distinction – Chartered Accountants are often entrusted with key positions to lead organisations as they possess the skills and foresight to add value to businesses. The CA (Singapore) designation remains the highest form of professional designation conferred by ISCA.

Did you know? ISCA is the Designated Entity to confer the Chartered Accountant of Singapore, or CA (Singapore) designation, a prestigious title accountancy professionals strive to attain and distinguish themselves with in their journey towards professional excellence.

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ISCA Professional Business Accountant Pathway P r o fe s s i o n a l Accountants in Business (PAIBs) who do not intend to take the Singapore Chartered Accountant Qualification (SCAQ) and become Chartered Accountants have an alternative pathway to build competencies for their career progression. Aligned to the ISCA PAIB Framework, the ISCA Professional Business Accountant (ISCA PBA) Programme is tailored to equip accountancy professionals in business with the emerging skill sets and knowledge needed to handle dynamic business situations by focussing on practical business cases.

The key feature of the ISCA PBA Programme is its online learning. Run on an e-learning platform, this 30-hour course will cover topics in the areas of Professional Values and Ethics, Technical Excellence, Leadership and Personal Empowerment, Business Acumen, and Future Finance skills. The ISCA PBA designation validates the expertise and knowledge that ISCA’s Associate members have acquired as accountancy professionals highly valued by employers and the industry.

Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants 60 Cecil Street, ISCA House Singapore 049709 Tel: 6597 5533 Website: Facebook: For membership enquiries, please contact

About ISCA The Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) is the national accountancy body of Singapore. ISCA’s vision is to be a globally recognised professional accountancy body, bringing value to the members, the profession and wider community. There are over 32,000 ISCA members making their stride in businesses across industries in Singapore and around the world. ISCA is a member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), a global family that brings together the members of leading institutes to create a community of over 1.8 million Chartered Accountants and students in more than 190 countries.

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0 0 1 s e r gapo

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BANKING AND INVESTMENT Learn about the banking and investment industry in regards to its areas of work, and how you can prepare yourself for a career.

Banking and Investment at a Glance


Choosing Your Role and Company in Banking and Investment


Areas of Work Corporate Banking 72 Finance IT 73 Financial Markets 74 Inter-Dealer Broking 75 Investment Banking 76 Investment Management 77 Operations 78 Private Wealth Management 79 Risk Management 80 Specialist Markets 81 Structured Finance 82 Features A Graduate’s Guide to Investment Banking Job-Speak


Unique Skills Investment Banks Want in Graduate Employees


Where Success is an Outcome of Challenges, Opportunities and Support Networks 88

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Must-have skills

Money never sleeps. The vibrant financial markets are open 24 hours a day and much of the work in the investment banking industry is spread across global borders and time zones. As one of Asia’s premier financial centres, Singapore also bears importance due to its proximity to emerging markets in Southeast Asia and its stability in the region. As a result, employees in the banking and investment industry are expected to work long hours – 12-hours days are not uncommon, especially for those in front office roles. Moreover, the intensity and stress of the job mostly comes from the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the industry. However, hard work will not go unrewarded as graduates in this industry have excellent structured career progression, have the opportunity to earn some of the highest salaries and bonuses, and have plenty of chances to gain responsibility early on in their careers.

Fast-paced and challenging, work at an investment bank calls for resilience and the ability to work under pressure. A wide range of skills are needed, including that of numeracy, and excellent verbal and written communication skills that will come in handy when presenting complex concepts to colleagues and clients who may not have backgrounds in finance. In addition, a strong understanding of the financial markets as well as the ability to think laterally and discern market trends are essential to help clients make smart decisions on their investments.

Getting in The investment banking industry is relatively tough to break into in Singapore due to the small industry size and many investment banks filling the bulk of their roles through its graduate schemes. However, scoring a relevant internship with an investment bank and performing well for it can give you an advantage in getting a place in a graduate scheme. Networking is also key to opening up potential employment opportunities in banking and investment. Fortune favours the bold, so be sure to conduct your own research on potential employers in the industry. More than that, do not shy away from approaching recruiters directly during career fairs and other outreach events where they look out for outstanding candidates.

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Areas of Work Employees in this industry provide financial services to clients ranging from corporations, institutions and governments to high net-worth individuals, assisting them in meeting financial objectives and maximising returns. Here are some common areas of work:

Investment banking

Fund management

Private banking

Employees in investment banking deal with a variety of financial activities such as performing financial analyses, overseeing mergers and acquisitions, and issuing bonds and securities.

This job entails analysing the stock market and predicting trends. With their knowledge of the markets, fund managers help clients manage their portfolios and achieve specific goals, usually by investing in a variety of securities.

Private banking services involve either advising clients on specific steps to take to maximise their returns, or discretionary services, which allows the bank to make decisions on behalf of clients.

Trading in the financial markets comes with varying degrees of risk. Employees in risk management are tasked to periodically assess, manage and mitigate these risks, ensuring that the banks and financial companies remain profitable and safe.

Dealers working in stockbroking not only monitor and trade stocks, they also give financial advice to investors, contributing to one of the most important functions that keeps the financial market operating.

IT professionals facilitate and optimise business performances by maintaining the necessary systems within which business takes place. Without the IT department, millions of transactions carried out daily may not be completed successfully, potentially causing companies to incur huge losses.

Risk management



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CHOOSING YOUR ROLE AND COMPANY IN BANKING AND INVESTMENT Due to the secure and stable economy in the region, the investment banking industry in Singapore has established itself as a financial hub full of cross-border deals. With multiple firms and roles to choose from, it is important that you thoroughly research this industry before entering.

Firms in the industry Large global investment banks offer a broad range of banking and investment services, including trading on markets and overseeing mergers and acquisitions. Besides banks, financial services firms, such as private equity firms, asset management firms and fund houses, also hire for specialised roles, such as providing independent advisory services, and selling certain products much like hedge funds or derivatives. Inter-dealer broking firms like ICAP act as an intermediary, helping clients negotiate and trade anonymously.

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Roles available Positions in the banking and investment industry mainly fall into three categories – the back office, middle office, and front office. As their names suggest, employees in the front office usually interact with clients by trading and selling products. Middle office roles such as risk analysts, on the other hand, are tasked to directly support the people in the front office. Finally, support services like human resource, technology and operations, are considered back office, and keep transactions and deals running effectively. Some common job roles in this industry include: • • • • • • • • • •

Asset manager Inter-dealer broker Investment banking analyst Investment banking associate Investment management analyst Investment manager IT manager Operation manager Private banker Risk management analyst Trader

The ideal candidate Having a finance-related degree or professional qualifications such as the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) or the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) may be advantageous, but they are not prerequisites. Instead, the main criteria for working in this industry is to have a good understanding of the financial markets, as well as excellent numeracy and analytical skills to think laterally and discern market trends. A genuine interest in banking and investment is also essential; the candidate should be constantly up-to-date about the latest developments in the field. Besides credibility, having excellent communication and negotiation skills are important – especially in a client-facing role such as that of an investment manager or interdealer broker. Last but not least, the ideal candidate should be hardworking and resilient in order to cope.

Working in the industry Due to early responsibilities and a fast-paced work environment, the nature of the job in the investment banking industry is often challenging, unpredictable and stressful. In most companies, employees will be grouped into teams based on their area of specialisation – they frequently work closely together and keep each other motivated. Exposure to intelligent colleagues and top business leaders also provides many learning opportunities and valuable insights into the industry. High salaries, hefty bonuses and other financial rewards are undeniably one of the biggest perks to stay in the job; but keep in mind that working hours tend to be extremely long and employees are often expected to work on weekends, and, on occasion, even around the clock.

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CORPORATE BANKING Providing financial advice and offering a bank’s products and services to commercial clients are what corporate bankers do to help businesses grow.


orporate bankers are employed by commercial banks to offer corporate clients financial services such as treasury advice, loans and credit, trade finance, and more. Typically, clients from this segment range from SMEs to large corporations. A corporate banker’s responsibilities not only include meeting with clients to discuss financial needs and provide financial advice accordingly, but also to offer advice on mergers, acquisitions and capital markets to help in making sound financial decisions.

Career overview Most corporate bankers enter this field through a graduate scheme and start out as analysts. Training usually involves rotations across various teams, allowing you to learn about the different areas of work and develop an understanding of the industry as a whole. You may also receive the opportunity to shadow senior relationship managers to client meetings and observe how they sell the bank’s products and services. During these sessions, you will get to familiarise yourself with key corporate banking products and pick up crucial client-facing skills. After a year or two on the graduate scheme, you will likely progress to a junior or associate level, and will gradually manage clients on your own. As an associate, you will be expected to establish relationships with corporate clients, which may take a few years to build as it requires experience and skill to successfully gain their trust. But to rise up the ranks, you will need to build a strong network of clients to help the bank secure important accounts.

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Required skills A finance-related degree is not necessary to enter this field, and recruiters usually keep an eye out for applicants with skills in numeracy, negotiation, interpersonal communications and analysis. The need to build relationships in corporate banking also calls for qualitative skills and high emotional intelligence. Internship and training experience have become increasingly sought after by employers, so it is advisable to attend apprenticeship programmes and pursue internships during university to acquire a repertoire of skills that can help you maintain an edge over other applicants.

Pros and cons As a corporate banker, you will likely find yourself working with a variety of products as opposed to focussing on just one product in your career. As such, you will get to flex your intellectual and creative muscles as you look to successfully matching the right products to different clients. However, this client-facing role also entails demanding and difficult cases, and the working environment is fast-paced and highstress. Nevertheless, the prospect of upward mobility and impressive benefits for employees makes this field a popular career choice among graduates.


FINANCE IT Thanks to information technology, the banking industry can manage tremendous amounts of transactions daily.


efore the buzz fintech made upon its emergence, changing the financial services landscape, finance IT – which refers to technology applied in the back-end of established consumer and trade finance organisations – had long been in existence. To illustrate this point, Internet banking had been around for quite some time before mobile payment became a breeze. Indeed, technological solutions improved the quality of services provided by banks to their clients – from front-end sales and trading applications to back-end maintenance of quantitative analytics engines, risk analysis systems and data storage solutions – and making finance IT professionals important enablers who facilitate business performance by increasing data quality and security. Demand for IT specialists with excellent communication skills and outgoing personalities is high in the finance industry; banks are heavily invested in creating efficient IT infrastructure and hiring talented specialists within strategic fields in technology, especially in this age and time when digital innovations are constantly revolutionising financial services.

Career overview Beginning with an internship or graduate programme in a financial organisation’s IT department will stand you in good stead if you decide to pursue a career in this field. Job rotations will help you get exposure to various parts of the banking industry. Following that, you will get the choice to either specialise or be a generalist. Working in finance IT is often projectbased, and you will often find yourself navigating teams of various specialists across different departments.

Required skills Successful candidates who manage to stand out are not only up-to-date on the latest technological developments, but also knowledgeable about how they can help support and enable the market. An IT-related degree may give you a head start, but it does not apply to all positions in finance IT. For instance, knowledge of programming languages is not required for business analysts, though applicants have been known to take postgraduate courses to get into this field. Banks want applicants with a keen interest in, and strong aptitude for, finance IT, and who are not only enthusiastic, but also energetic and hungry to learn. Most importantly, candidates need to be innovative. Financial knowledge is a plus but not a must – IT specialists are often recruited for their IT knowledge, not their financial expertise, as it can be picked up on the job. Last but not least, strong communication skills and an ability to work in a team are crucial for liaising internally and externally, as well as working across departments.

Advantages and disadvantages Most graduates working in finance IT gain interesting perspectives on how business and IT come together. Opportunities to learn how to design, implement, and manage a project abound in this fast-moving and high pressure area of work.

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FINANCIAL MARKETS Developing and maintaining relationships with clients is key if you want a successful career.


s the financial markets are where financial assets and instruments – such as stocks, bonds, shares, equities, foreign exchange, and commodities – are created, traded, and distributed, working in the markets is mostly about finding financial solutions that generate revenue and financing or hedging an array of clients, including corporations, financial institutions, and even governments. Experts achieve this by offering analyses and solutions to financial problems, including resources for clients to trade various securities and assets for greater liquidity, much like instant cash. Businesses in markets primarily make money through trading margins and fees, as well as proprietary speculation. As such, trading, sales and conducting thorough research are the three essential components in this field. Networking and relationship management are especially important in this line of work, not just for picking up opportunities to obtain priceless information, but to gain insights on what clients are up to, a more accurate comprehension of the markets, and sometimes, even unreleased intelligence. These can lead to additional income or clue you in on profitable transactions.

Career overview Traders start the day early – usually 7am – to keep up with the opening of the markets, and subsequently spend their time connecting with clients and other traders, exchanging information and making deals. Traders also spend a lot of time booking trades and advising salespeople and interested investors. Sales staff start the day slightly later, and focus on establishing and managing relationships between the firm and its investors, interacting mainly with external financiers. Suggestions for financially profitable deals are made, persuading

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clients to invest. Salespeople also liaise with traders on behalf of clients to ensure that the agreed transactions are successfully carried out. Research staff react to what happens once the traders start exchanging products, which means their day starts even later than members of the trading and sales teams. Research staff make observations and recommendations based on ongoing trends in the markets and pass these on to co-workers in trading and sales to help them make more informed decisions.

Required skills With the exception of positions that deal with complicated financial products and calculations, employers do not necessarily require finance or mathematical degrees for this line of work. Basic numeracy skills will usually suffice, though you must be incredibly accurate. Employers look out for talents with excellent communication skills who also have the ability to build strong relationships and connect easily with other people – all positions usually involve plenty of internal and external communication. Because competition can be very fierce, an internship offers a head start and industry insights that can allow you to hit the ground running in this intense role.

Ups and downs This area of work is dynamic, exciting and comes with long hours. Moreover, it is undeniably stressful, with the constant risk of making a mistake which can incur high losses. Other than the heady excitement and energy on the trading floor, graduates are drawn to the opportunities to network widely and travel as seasoned professionals in this field.


INTER-DEALER BROKING The intermediaries who help clients buy and sell financial instruments.


nter-dealer broking provides a venue where clients – usually corporate entities and financial institutions such as banks – can trade with one another using financial instruments like bonds, stocks, loans, equities and foreign exchanges. Those who work in this field serve as a neutral go-between for clients who wish to trade under the condition of anonymity, maximising investments in an exchange where disclosure of identity could affect the quotation of prices negatively. Inter-dealer brokers advise on the best prices in the market, and can help customise negotiations for the clients’ benefit. Most inter-dealer brokers typically specialise in a particular product, and communicating with clients – whether electronically or over the phone – is at the heart of their work. While those specialising in telephone work usually deal with more complicated products where detailed explanations are crucial, electronic dealers handle simpler products, using specialised terminals to identify clients’ needs and make quick deals.

Career overview Most graduates start out as junior brokers in a team, usually mentored by a senior member, before they move on to become a full-fledged broker. Managerial roles begin at the level of a desk manager, and progress on to director and head of a division. Meetings and rapport building activities with clients are essential. A benefit in the field of inter-dealer broking is that you are less likely to be affected by the volatility of the financial marketplace because your earnings come from a percentage of the deal between two parties, regardless of whether prices rise or fall. In fact, inter-dealer brokers may earn even more during unstable periods in the market, as people tend to trade in greater volumes then.

Required skills A keen interest in financial markets is fundamental, alongside good communication skills and a sociable disposition. Interpersonal skills and credibility are also necessary to build a reputation among clients. Patience is another trait you should cultivate, along with the energy and durability to succeed in a fast-paced environment. The best inter-dealer brokers are professional, composed, decisive, adaptable and able to perform well under pressure.

Virtues and shortcomings Keeping up with instant market changes is exciting, and the working hours are relatively stable, dependent on the opening and closing hours of the market index that you are in charge of. But one of the toughest aspects about working in inter-dealer broking is the high amount of pressure, due to its fast-paced nature. Moreover, it is your responsibility to guide difficult clients who insist on making unfeasible transactions towards a recommended deal as diplomatically as possible. However, the accomplishment that comes with completing a large trade successfully, along with the excitement and social aspects of this profession, are what inter-dealer brokers enjoy in their line of work.

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INVESTMENT BANKING Though this area of work demands much commitment with high levels of responsibility, the payoffs are generous.


nvestment bankers act as corporate advisors for various entities regarding financial activities. In investment banking, responsibilities include the issuance of securities, overseeing mergers and acquisitions, providing financial analysis, managing initial public offerings, and managing investments for corporate pension funds, charities, or high net-worth private clients. Before a company acquires another, investment bankers carry out financial and strategic analyses, assess the price and worth of the acquisition, offer directions on how to bid and pay, and communicate the news to the public markets. Clients may even give an investment banking team with a good reputation the autonomy to deliver and execute deals on their behalf.

Career overview Employers will typically organise structured training programmes lasting a month or so to provide newcomers with the necessary key skills. Most graduates start out as analysts. You will likely be assigned to a senior mentor as you begin navigating a steep learning curve. With experience, you can move up the ranks to become a junior investment banker, performing financial analyses, and condensing and collating data for your clients even as you liaise with them. With seniority, you will be tasked with managing and overseeing the execution of projects and deals. In most companies, investment bankers are grouped into teams based on specialisations, but come together with members from other teams while executing a deal. To that end, you can look forward to expecting plenty of interaction across teams and departments. But with changing landscapes, investors are now moving away from highrisk ventures, placing greater emphasis on risk management and raising capital as

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opposed to mergers and acquisitions.

Required skills As applications from a range of disciplines are welcome in this field, a financerelated degree is not a prerequisite. However, you will need to demonstrate an interest in business and financial markets. The chief requirement for working in this field is a good understanding of the financial markets, as well as the ability to think laterally and discern trends and patterns. Because investment bankers are client-focussed communicators with valuable financial expertise, excellent client-handling skills are a must, and you also need energy and readiness to deal with many different people while providing the best customer service possible.

Gains and losses Be prepared to perform under stress in this line of work, with heavy pressure for extended periods of time. Twelve-hour work days are common, as are working on weekends. While investment banking is a demanding field, it is a rewarding career choice with early responsibility, financial rewards and exciting work. After all, not many other industries offer you the chance to work on deals that fill the pages of the Wall Street Journal, or put you in touch with CEOs of large corporations at a relatively early stage of your career.


INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT Investment, fund, and asset managers build clients’ portfolios through a combination of strategy, research, and insight.


nvestment management, also known as fund or asset management, is about managing clients’ finances for specific goals. Those who work in this field monitor the financial markets to make the most out of their clients’ portfolios by investing in a variety of potential profit-making securities and asset classes. There are two main roles within investment management: the analyst and the investment manager. The analyst produces a strategic game plan, following the markets closely, analysing stocks and predicting trends. To that end, you may find yourself conducting research on oil rig providers, trends in organic food prices and acquisitions by large IT companies – all within the same day. The investment manager then uses this plan to deal with the client’s portfolio, carrying out transactions according to the analyst’s findings. A successful investment manager combines initiative, research, and foresight to make the right choices with their clients’ money.

Career overview Most graduates enter this industry through a graduate programme, starting off as an analyst. Entry-level duties include analysing data from the market, preparing reports, contributing to portfolio decisions, and presenting findings to company management. Some employers may require analysts to focus on only one particular sector, country, or product, while others may want to expose you to as many products as possible so as to gauge your competency and compatibility. Investment managers typically have more client-facing responsibilities, and travel to gain a better comprehension of sectors and products. As the earning potential of investment managers is typically proportional to the success of their investment options, they tend

to remain hands-on to avoid becoming too distant from company analysis, keeping abreast of the latest market trends.

Skills required Possessing a finance-related degree is advantageous but not essential. Rather, enthusiasm and the ability to comprehend the workings of the financial market is more valued. To that end, internships with investment management companies can help you assess your suitability for the field. Most companies, especially international ones, will encourage you to sit for professional papers such as the Investment Management Certificate (IMC), the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), or even the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) paper. Local companies may also want you to take the Capital Markets and Financial Advisory Services (CMFAS) paper. Depending on the services expected of you, you may have to sit for a few different modules. Cultivating an open mind and a tolerance for uncertainty enables you to deal with ambiguity daily. Staying a step ahead of competition through thorough research is also imperative. In addition, there will be times you will need to be able to take a firm stance despite differing opinions among senior colleagues or clients. Good communication skills, tact, and confidence will aid you in getting your points across diplomatically.

Good and bad Opportunities to learn from experienced investors, and to be exposed to the inner workings of various sectors, are attractive to graduates looking to join this line of work. Be it as it may, late hours are common due to the sheer amount of research necessary, especially at the start. In financially uncertain times, career prospects for investment managers can remain largely positive, since expert advice from investment management firms are valued by concerned investors. However, market volatility calls for investment managers to weigh the situation and come up with a contingency plan.

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OPERATIONS In operations, you will be supporting the running of banking and investment organisations, processing transactions and ensuring greater efficiency.


he operations department, also informally known as the “back office,” supports a firm’s revenuegenerating departments by ensuring business activities are performed smoothly, successfully and efficiently. It oversees the entire life cycle of a transaction, from initial preparations such as booking trades for traders, to post-trade processes in settlements. While it does not actively generate revenue, operations’ role is key for business profitability through managing risk and minimising loss. Most roles are either focussed on specialised products such as securities, futures and derivatives, or in specialised functions like settlements, client services, and risk management. In securities operations, for example, you may be responsible for ensuring that desks in linked markets have sufficient capability to communicate with each other. Within the risk function, you could be responsible for ensuring that the company’s internal processes comply with regulatory guidelines.

Career overview Most graduates start in a training programme before being assigned to an experienced analyst for mentoring and more on-the-job training. Your work in the early stages can include introducing a new product or improving a control. Advancements in technology do not just enable companies to trade across multiple product areas and regions, increasing the volume and speed of processes, but also allow them to transact instantly. However, the sheer volume and extreme time sensitivity of transactions means that work can be challenging.

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Required skills Excellent numeracy and analytical skills are needed for assessing and analysing transaction cycles, as well as generating contingency plans. A keen eye for detail and foresight to spot potential problems before they happen along with exemplar communication and listening skills for interacting with numerous internal and external parties are also valued. It is your duty to keep up with the latest developments in the financial services industry, such as regulatory changes and technological innovations. Because this line of work relies heavily on emerging technologies, learning quickly on-the-job and staying flexible in decision-making and scheduling are crucial.

Strengths and weaknesses Troubleshooting problems even before they happen will keep you on your toes. Many firms also encourage self-improvement among operations staff, with plenty of opportunities to forward your ideas for the enhancement of certain controls of the company and your department. That said, you may not always get the chance to see your plans being actively implemented by the front office.


PRIVATE WEALTH MANAGEMENT Private wealth management, or private banking, is all about managing the finances of high net-worth clients.


rivate wealth management, also commonly known as private banking, engages high-net-worth individuals, along with the occasional small-business owner, who are looking for specialised services that cater to their distinctive needs as clients with a larger-than-usual amount of wealth. These services not only include planning and investment management, but also advising on matters such as tax, retirement funds, and family trusts. Private banking clients tend to possess diverse portfolios across a number of industries, so servicing them requires customising and tailoring exclusive solutions for specific clients, something which can only be achieved with indepth, specialist knowledge of each client’s investment options and the industries within. Private banking can be split into two main areas – advisory and discretionary. For advisory services, the bank advises the client on decisions to maximise returns, so that the client can act accordingly while maintaining direct control over their portfolio. Discretionary services, on the other hand, involve a meeting between the client and the bank to discuss an overall strategy which the bank will execute, through appropriate day-to-day decisions, to achieve that aim.

Career overview There are three types of roles in private banking – relationship management, investment, and support. Relationship managers have to identify clients’ needs and problems to offer them solutions from the bank. Developing and maintaining a good rapport with clients is vital, and promoting the bank’s services is at the heart of what relationship

managers do. Investment specialists, on the other hand, analyse the market and provide investment recommendations to clients brought in by relationship managers. In discretionary capacities, they can make investment decisions for the clients. Investment staff also liaise with other product specialists in the bank to get expert advice on certain assets or investment options. Support functions exist to help investment professionals manage client portfolios and research new commercial ideas. It also includes compliance, operations, human resources, and accounting.

Required skills For those looking to work in relationship management, a degree with strengths in marketing, sales or public relations is a plus. Some knowledge about the financial market is essential, along with patience for handling difficult clients, and communication and interpersonal skills. Language skills are also highly valued in such roles, with multilingualism seen as a huge asset. While a finance-related degree is not needed, some private wealth management firms may want you to obtain specialised certifications – such as a master’s in wealth management – before allowing you to climb past a certain point on the ladder. Strong numerical and analytical skills are important as well, along with self-motivation and a willingness and capability to work in a team. Most importantly, you need to encompass trustworthiness and discretion when handling clients’ investments.

Pros and cons Private bankers enjoy certain insights other roles in the industry may not have access to. As high-networth clients use such services to cross-invest their assets, you may get to observe, and perhaps even participate in, various investment strategies to derive the most returns. Most client-advisor relationships tend to last for a long time in this industry, which often translates to good networking resources. You will, however, need to accrue a significant amount of experience in this industry before being entrusted with the responsibility of handling another party’s financial goals. As this is a highly competitive field with numerous firms and coworkers jostling for a small, select group of elite high-net-worth clients, be prepared to work incredibly hard if you want to advance.

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RISK MANAGEMENT Staff in this field educate management in banks and financial companies on risks to ensure these institutions stay safe and profitable.


isk management – also known as risk control – assist businesses by making risks that are being taken known, and keeping it in line with the organisation’s risk appetite. A risk management professional ensures that the company is taking on enough risks for growth and profit, but not beyond the point of a dangerous threshold. There are two main types of risks – credit risk and market risk. In credit risk, you will likely be conducting research on specific industries or markets periodically to assess their current stability, whereas in market risk, you will be evaluating the wider market implications of an organisation’s practices, and adapting its portfolios to avoid triggering excessive risk. The work in this function is varied; you may be involved in the modelling of a new financial product traders are interested in selling, or tasked with reporting and explaining in detail the complexities of a financial product to senior management – who may be unfamiliar with this area of the business. Risk management can also be carried out as part of an organisation’s operations division. In this case, the main responsibilities will be regulatory compliance and operational risk mitigation. You may be asked to file reports to regulators, or assist in the approval of complex trades and transactions.

Career overview An internship in this area of work is a considerable boost. Alternatively, you can start in a graduate training programme, generating reports and analysing valueat-risk figures and risk of loss. Over time, you may be included in discussion sessions with traders.

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It is also important for risk management staff to know the immediate concerns of traders, salespeople, and marketers, so as to have a proactive, rather than reactive, approach towards risk control. Professionals in this area are at the forefront of working with changing banking regulations. To this end, you may be asked to liaise with regulators from government bodies and support complex transactions.

Required skills Good numeracy and analytical skills are vital. In fact, qualifications in mathematics, economics, or science are mandatory for certain specialised risk functions. This field also requires excellent communication skills for presenting and explaining the risks that come with complex financial products to people with little specialised knowledge, thus making an ability to simplify complex information crucial. You will need to keep yourself updated with the development of new financial products, including those from competitors. Curiosity about the states of various global markets – what makes them tick, what might happen in the future, and what such events may mean for the organisation – is another desirable trait.

Ups and downs Creativity is sought-after in this field, driven by the fact that risk management is relatively systems-dependent. As risk models constantly evolve at a rapid pace, the technology required for your data projections may not always be readily available. As having to work manually can be frustrating, you may have to improvise a system. However, you will also be at the cutting edge of new products and trading opportunities, and will be in a role that comes with a high level of influence to shape transactions and how business is conducted.


SPECIALIST MARKETS Developing expertise in a particular sector and client base is part of a graduate’s job in specialist markets.


pecialist market teams are usually experts in their fields, and they typically cover a broad range of tasks from assisting clients in specialised sectors with investment and financing strategies, to mergers and acquisitions between companies within a certain sector. You may be required to deal with different volumes of financial products, depending on the size of your organisation – after all, a bigger organisation may cater to a whole range of sectors, dominating several niches at one time. On the other hand, smaller boutique consultancies focus on servicing several sectors within one area of specialisation. A big part of this job lies in understanding your clients’ businesses and the sectors they operate in, and using that knowledge to look for a way to bridge these two. To that end, it is necessary to start by recognising the needs and wants of your clients in terms of the assets that they possess, their goals, and the steps that they are willing to take in order to achieve their goals before advising them.

in-charge during mergers and acquisitions once you have yourself well enough in the company. More senior members of specialist teams are called upon for expert consultation by CEOs or board members at client companies.

Career overview

Required skills

Graduates starting out in this line usually begin with some training in the company’s products and general investment banking services, though specialist knowledge will be picked up through accumulated experience on the job, as well as learning from more experienced seniors. Depending on the size of your employer and the number of sectors they cover, you may be rotated to service multiple sectors to get a broad-based understanding. As a newcomer to the field, you will likely conduct research and prepare presentations and models for client meetings, as well as analyse your clients’ companies. After gaining more experience, you may be asked to join discussions to generate ideas and solutions for clients. You may even be assigned as the person-

Sector-specific knowledge is the most important thing for those who wish to enter specialist markets, and having a holistic, comprehensive and up-todate understanding of a sector’s inner workings will determine your success in this line of work. Organisations want to hire graduates who demonstrate the ability to absorb information quickly. As such, be prepared to face a steep learning curve, especially at the beginning, due to the sheer amount of highly-specialised knowledge you will need to pick up in a relatively short amount of time. Being flexible and enthusiastic, yet level-headed, will serve you well. Good communication skills are also necessary to enable you to convey your message clearly to clients.

Benefits and pitfalls You may encounter demanding clients with unrealistic expectations, and you will need patience and tact to deal with them diplomatically. Moreover, working hours can be unpredictable with each project bringing different deadlines and peak periods. However, working in a specialist markets team lets you build a wealth of contacts and knowledge, useful for a consultancy career in financial services in the future.

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STRUCTURED FINANCE Working in a structured finance team gives graduates a chance to become recognised experts early on in their careers.


branch of the banking and investment field that specialises in customising financing solutions for companies with unique financial needs, structured finance looks at requirements that fall outside the category of conventional business loans or financial market instruments. To that end, it can cover a comparatively extensive range of instruments such as debt and equity capital, and even mezzanine financing. Structured finance works by creating liquidity and “safe” assets from risky instruments for a business organisation, the risk transferred to different parties involved in the transaction in amounts that are acceptable to them – with proportionate returns for the amount of risk a stakeholder is willing to stomach. Structured financiers start by sussing out specific requirements of clients’ transactions, assets, or projects – all while gaining a good understanding of the clients’ risk appetite through rigorous risk analysis. This involves a thorough examination of all the issues which might affect a transaction, as well as complex modelling of forecasted performance to see how external factors such as commodity prices can influence profitability. Only then can they personalise a suitable combination of debt and other products to help finance the clients’ business successfully.

Career overview Hiring managers looking to fill structured finance roles typically draft selected members who have demonstrated an aptitude for this line of work from the organisation’s graduate trainee programmes. However, they do sometimes run recruitment drives to hire graduates directly. It is commonly expected for individuals to specialise in a particular area after some time, so some graduates may opt to pursue a specialised postgraduate degree

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before entering the field in order to gain a more solid understanding of their chosen business sector in advance. You will usually work in teams of five to 20 people, assembled ad hoc under the leadership of an experienced deal leader for a specific transaction. Most of the time, the deal leader will opt to bring in an eclectic combination of specialists from different sub-sectors so as to get a variety of viewpoints on the issue at hand. For instance, in the case of a telecommunications team, the team leader will want – among many others – specialists who understand the consumer market, experts on financing the building of communication infrastructure, and professionals well-versed in engineering development within the sector and how they affect the industry.

Required skills As recruiters look for a hunger to win, innovate and find interesting solutions to complex problems, graduates are typically brought on for their attitude. Training for aptitude is provided, and sector expertise and financial structuring knowledge can be picked up. Good analytical skills are crucial, as situations have to be dissected quickly and small details caught in order to bring about a creative solution – or jeopardise your risk analyses. As there is much client-facing time, good communication skills are also vital.

The good and the bad In structured finance, you can become a recognised expert in a specific field or sub-sector. It is an area of work for those who enjoy thinking out of the box, having to tailor debt packages and other financing instruments to fit a clients’ specific needs. Overseeing deals from start to finish promises satisfaction, and, as you will be working in a team, you will need to contribute in all aspects, including managing individual processes and finding experts from various areas to help close the project successfully. Working hours can be uncertain as this area of work is project-based.


A GRADUATE’S GUIDE TO INVESTMENT BANKING JOB-SPEAK Bulls, hedging, stagflation... did you just wander into a farmers’ convention? Here are some key banking and investment terms deciphered so you can sound informed at graduate job interviews.

A Analyst A person who studies a market or industry sector and makes recommendations to either “buy”, “hold,” or “sell.” Less glamorously, it also refers to an entrylevel career position in many investment banks and firms.

B Bear An investor who sells with the belief that the prices of the financial product they are selling will fall. Bid price The price which a buyer is willing to pay for a financial product. Bonds Governments or companies can raise capital by issuing and selling bonds. Bondholders investments’ will be repaid with interest, also known as a “coupon,” once the bond reaches maturity. The difference between bonds and loans is that bonds can be further traded between investors, while loans cannot. Broker An intermediary between a buyer and a seller. Brokers will receive a commission if the trade closes successfully. Brokerage The payment a client makes to a broker. Bull The opposite of a bear. A bull is an investor who buys, believing prices of the financial product they are acquiring will rise.

C Capital markets A financial marketplace for buying and selling medium- or long-term funding instruments such as bonds, debt and equity. Chinese walls A term referring to information barriers within investment banks. Such barriers exist to minimise potential compliance or conflict of interest issues. For instance, merger and acquisitions teams and analysts are forbidden from communicating to ensure that potential takeovers will not be affected by analysts advising their clients to buy or sell shares in the acquired company. Clearing The process for making transactions happen – matching the buyer with the seller, and making sure the buyer actually has the cash and that the seller actually holds the securities. Commodities Physical goods that are traded on a global scale, much like oil, petrol, rare metals, or grain. Credit crunch The term commonly used to refer to a severe shortage of money or credit within a market. The start of the “Global Credit Crunch” can be dated to August 2007, when default rates on sub-prime loans in the United States’ housing market rose to record levels.

Credit default swap An insurance-like contract for transferring credit risk. The buyer of the swap makes payments to the seller in exchange for protection in the event of a default. Banks and other financial institutions typically use credit default swaps to cover the risk of mortgage holders defaulting.

D Debt capital markets (DCM) An investment bank division responsible for refinancing or restructuring a client’s existing debt, or raising a client’s debt for acquisitions. The benefit of debt is that it grants a company a greater diversity of funding options, as opposed to relying solely on equity. Derivatives The general term for financial contracts between buyers and sellers of commodities or securities including futures, options, forwards and swaps. The value of a derivative is determined by fluctuations in the value of an underlying asset like a commodity or security. Since they allow profit from the asset despite its rise or fall, derivatives are typically used as instruments for hedging risk.

E Equity Otherwise referred to as shares. Shareholders own a percentage of the company, and have a share in its profits. They also have control of company management decisions via voting rights.

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Equity capital markets (ECM) An investment bank division responsible for structuring and pricing the issuance of companies’ equities, such as at an IPO.

F Futures A contract between two parties to trade a commodity or a security at a fixed price, on a fixed future date.

H Hard market A situation where a product or service is scarce for purchase within a market. The opposite is a soft market, in which the product or service is readily available. Hedge A strategy where an investor acquires a collection of different financial instruments with contrary positions, in order to offset the possibility of loss. Hedge fund A private investment fund that uses a range of strategies to maximise returns while minimising the risk of loss.

I Initial Public Offering (IPO) The date when a company’s shares are released – or “floated” – for trading on the stock exchange. Insider dealing and trading The act of trading using knowledge of non-public – “insider” – information in order to gain an advantage over other traders or investors. This is a criminal offense. 84 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020

Interest rates Lenders demand interest on loans, and the rate hinges on future inflation projections as well as the “real interest rate,” derived by removing the cost of inflation from the interest rate in order to discern its actual value. Borrowers might pay an additional percentage in order to compensate lenders for the credit risk. Investment bank A bank providing financial services for governments, companies, or very wealthy individuals. Generally more exclusive than commercial banks, which provide loans and savings accounts to the general public. Investment trust A collective investment structure where investors pool their money and then commission a fund manager to invest in a variety of stocks and shares on their behalf. A trust can also trade shares on the stock market, though the share price may not always equal the price of its underlying assets. An investment trust’s value will fluctuate with demand for shares on the stock market.

L Leveraged buyout (LBO) A corporate takeover funded mostly by high-risk bonds or loans. Though risky, this move allows the acquiring company to purchase a significant amount of assets in a short time while contributing only a small amount of real capital.

Leveraging The act of using debt to supplement investments. An institution that has borrowed heavily in addition to putting forward its own funds or equity to finance growth is called “highly leveraged.” Libor Short for the “London Inter-Bank Offered Rate,” Libor is the rate at which banks may offer money to other banks. Libor will no longer be published after 2021. Liquidity The ability of an asset to be traded quickly and without changing its market price.

M Market maker The bank or firm that is obliged to quote “buy” and “sell” prices for a financial instrument, and stands ready to trade in said instrument on a regular and continuous basis throughout the trading day. Money market A marketplace for short-term funding, such as certificates of deposit and treasury bills. Money market securities typically have a brief maturity period – less than one year.

O Options These are similar to futures, but provide the buyer with the right to choose whether or not to complete the contract before the fixed date, as opposed to a binding obligation. The buyer must pay a premium on the seller’s futures for this ability.


P Portfolio A collection of securities, financial instruments, and investment options held by an investor. It is also known as a “fund.” Principal (person) A term referring either to an investor who trades on his or her own account and risk, or the owner of a private company. Private equity Equity that is not publically listed on a stock exchange. Trading in private equity is considered a high-risk yet potentially high-return investment – the investor can hold large stakes in an organisation, but the investment will be largely in liquid. Proprietary trading Trading carried out on a firm’s own behalf, using its own capital. Pure risk A class of risk where the only outcome is the possibility of loss. Speculative risk, by contrast, offers the possibility of either loss or gain.

R Risk management The act of managing the pure risks to which a company might be exposed to. This involves analysing all possible risks and determining how best to handle them, either through trading them out, or hedging risk with derivatives.

S Secondary market The trading of a company’s bonds and equities among investors. The “primary market” refers to the initial launching – issuing – and direct sale of the company’s securities. Securities A generic term for bonds and equities. Securitisation The act of turning something into a security, such as combining the collective debt from a number of mortgages to create a financial product that can be traded. Banks that own securities which include mortgage debt earn income when homeowners make mortgage payments.

Settlement The stage once a deal has been made and clearing has taken place, and where stock and cash are transferred between the seller and the buyer. Short selling The investment strategy of borrowing an asset, much like shares, from another investor and proceeding to sell it on the relevant market, hoping the price will fall. The aim is to buy back the asset at a lower price and then return it to its owner, allowing the borrower to pocket the difference. Spread The difference between the bid and offer price of a security. Pocketing this difference after a sale is one way in which banks make profits. Stag A speculator who buys shares upon issue to sell them as soon as they begin trading on the market. They are also called “flippers.”

U Unit trust Also known as a “mutual fund,” the trust issues units which represent holdings of the underlying shares. The fund can then pass profits directly to the individual shareholders, proportionate to the amount of units they hold. This is in contrast to an investment trust, where profits must be re-invested back into the fund. Universal bank An all-in-one bank that offers both investment and commercial banking services to consumers and small businesses, as well as corporate clients.

Y Yield The total return on investment for a security. This is usually expressed as a percentage of the security’s price.

Stagflation A combination of stagnation and inflation, where economic growth slows even as prices continue to rise. Sub-prime loans High-risk loans to clients with poor or no credit histories. Swap rates Borrowing rates between financial institutions. The “lender” bank charges this to the “borrower” bank in order to offset the risk of having to pay the fluctuating Libor rate.

T Toxic debt Shorthand for debt that will very likely incur losses on an investor. This is typically debt that has a very low chance of being repaid with interest, has a phenomenally high default rate, or has grown too large to even be repaid.

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UNIQUE SKILLS INVESTMENT BANKS WANT Loyalty, diplomacy and gravitas. You’ll need to show more than boring old “teamwork” and “communication” skills if you want to nab a graduate scheme in investment banking and management. How to prove it “Tell us about a time when you demonstrated your intellectual ability.”



et’s face it: Everyone thinks they have “good communication skills,” are “team players,” or are “effective problem solvers.” Just take a peek at your friends’ resumes if you don’t believe us. Don’t expect to stand out in the eyes of investment recruiters if you just focus on those old clichés! Investment banks and investment management companies have demanding checklists of skills they look out for in candidates applying for their graduate or internship schemes. On top of that, each firm also seeks unique traits in candidates that match their corporate culture. If you have a specific investment employer in mind and want to catch their attention, you’ll need to know some of the unique skills they are looking for, and know how to prove you’ve got them.

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It goes without saying that investment employers place a lot of emphasis on hiring bright candidates. But what specific intellectual skills are their recruiters actually looking for? Jane Clark, head of campus recruitment (Europe and Asia) at Barclays, says that Barclays seeks candidates who can grasp new concepts quickly. “People strong in learning agility are sharp and thrive in new and difficult situations. Grasping and learning new concepts quickly – whether it is a task, assimilating new information or data, managing a project, or meeting a new client – is important when working in an industry such as investment banking,” she said. “New markets, products, deals and opportunities continually emerge and agile learners are needed to deliver results quickly – even in new situations. A commitment to learning and a hunger for dealing with challenging situations is key.” On the other hand, Deutsche Bank places a greater emphasis on agilemindedness – particularly the ability to deduce the right questions to ask when in doubt, and to quickly identify the most appropriate leads to pursue while conducting investment research. Think of it as a Sherlock Holmes-esque approach to problems, where you need to arrive at the right conclusion based on a combination of elimination, deduction, and extrapolation on the finer details.

Investment recruiters typically judge intellectual ability by your capacity to apply your knowledge to practical situations. They also want to see whether you are quick enough to catch the bigger picture in such situations. For example, perhaps you worked on a project during a previous internship together with a team of other interns. An agile-minded person wouldn’t just complete their assigned tasks – rather, they would be able to grasp how the project they are working on affects their employer as a whole and discern how the other interns’ tasks might influence that outcome. Make sure you demonstrate your ability to act on your deductions too! In the above example, you would ideally take a broader interest in your teammates’ work, and do your best to help them see a better outcome for themselves and reach it. You would also clarify doubts with your supervisor, and make the necessary tweaks as the project moved along.

Innovation The ability to create or identify new opportunities for the business is yet another highly-valued skill in the eyes of investment recruiters. Morgan Stanley specifically cites entrepreneurial drive as a key requirement in candidates. This means that their recruiters look for an applicant’s ability to spot areas in need


of development, and spy opportunities to profit from such a process. Interdealer broker ICAP, on the other hand, specifies that candidates must be innovative, with the ability to not only produce new ideas or insights, but to also constantly seek chances to improve existing processes. Likewise, UBS also lists an appreciation of the need to “challenge accepted practices” under one of their seven core hiring competencies. How to prove it “Tell us about a time when you were innovative.” Many investment firms use processes that have existed for years. However, these processes are frequently tweaked for improvements in accuracy and efficiency. Have you done something similar? For example, perhaps your student society was going to run a food stand for fund-raising. If you decided that you could attract more people to the stand by running a social media marketing campaign and introducing tiered discounts based on word-of-mouth referrals, then you have provided a basic innovation to help your society make more profits!

Resilience The investment banking and investment management industries are well-known as high-pressure working environments. In order to minimise attrition, investment recruiters need candidates who are resilient. Barclays makes no secret that they require candidates who have the capacity to work under pressure, such as dealing with constant deadlines or catering to prominent – and often imposing – clients. This is especially true for graduate schemes that are meant to fast-track applicants to management or leadership roles. Standard Chartered Bank emphasises a need for graduates with the ability to adhere to the highest standards even under intense pressure. This often comes in the form of changing deadlines and dealing with the next bit of new information that comes to light. In fact, employees at the bank will tell you to be prepared to be on call almost 24/7!

How to prove it

How to prove it

“Tell us how you have shown resilience in your life so far.”

“Tell us about a recent development in an overseas market. How will it affect our business?”

Feeling tempted to talk about “balancing” the demands of your degree programme with extra-curricular commitments and a part-time job? We congratulate you for pulling that off, but the truth is that many of your competitors will probably say the exact same thing. Instead, talk about a time when you failed at something or received some constructive criticism over something you could have done better. Then, focus your story on how you worked towards improvement despite your disappointment. At the end of the day, a “resilient” person is one who sees a setback as a challenge for growth.

International outlook Given how investment work functions across time zones and borders, graduates with the ability to operate in an international context are often in high demand. Barclays Wealth and Investment Management’s competencies include “willingness to work abroad” alongside additional language skills. At Goldman Sachs, close to 50 per cent of the bank’s graduate roles require applicants to demonstrate strong linguistic skills. On the other hand, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch looks for graduates who can demonstrate a “global outlook.” Proficiency in various Asian languages is also required for certain roles in Asia Pacific. At Nomura, knowledge of a second language and its associated culture – though not essential – is considered a strong plus. As a Japanese firm, knowledge of Japanese business culture would certainly help as well. UBS’s recruiters once included “international experience” as a key competency. Though it has since been unlisted, the bank still places plenty of emphasis on the global nature of their graduate job roles.

Having an international outlook is not just about speaking to a foreign client or colleague in their language. It’s also about being able to relate to them and understand the market they operate in. Show recruiters that you can identify a key event or socio-economic trend that will affect the markets in other parts of the world. And, more importantly, make sure you can explain why and how it will affect the organisation’s operations in Singapore.

Other skills employers look for Individual investment employers can also have more interesting requirements – some of which you might not even think of. Credit Suisse, for example, looks for the ability to “invoke loyalty in others.” And then there’s Rothschild, which lists “presence” – much like a sense of gravitas and authority – as one of their fundamental skills. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes otherwise great candidates end up letting the air out of their application bids all too easily by trying too hard to showcase their worth at the expense of forgetting the basics. Recruiters at Citi, for instance, bemoan the fact that applicants who have strong academic qualifications or a good understanding of the markets end up letting themselves down by failing to show enthusiasm because they were far too fixated on the technical details instead. Still, at the end of the day, don’t forget that investment careers are – at their core – very much a client-facing line of work. Don’t neglect to showcase the finer points of your people skills, such as HSBC’s requirements for an “outgoing personality” and “good levels of diplomacy.”

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WHERE SUCCESS IS AN OUTCOME OF CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES AND SUPPORT NETWORKS OCBC takes a long-term view on employees, providing graduate talents with a unique two-year Graduate Talent Programme designed to help every individual succeed.

From L-R: Edwin Lee, Lim Lay Hong and Muhammad Zaki


s the second-largest financial group in Southeast Asia by assets, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank) is renowned for its AA-rating by Standard & Poor and Aa1 Rating from Moody’s. Recognised for its financial strength and stability, OCBC Bank is the longest established Singapore bank, consistently ranked among the World’s Top 50 Safest Banks by Global Finance and named Best Managed Bank in Singapore by The Asian Banker.

Challenges to generate growth Challenges often come hand-in-hand with personal and career growth. With good performance, career paths can be accelerated, and OCBC’s Graduate Talents (GTs) are able to fast-track their careers to where they want to be in as little as 24 months, giving them an edge over the rest. A GT who joined the Bank in 2016 with Group Audit, Internal Auditor Edwin Lee found himself working on projects

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that required him to communicate with colleagues either much older or more experienced than him. Thus, as a fresh graduate with limited experience and expertise in the banking industry who also had to juggle the views of fellow auditors and audit clients, Lee quickly learnt how to listen actively. “During project discussions, active listening is essential as it allows you to understand each other’s perspective and discover new ways to make things better,” he explained, adding that it also “allows you to gain stakeholders’ trust in your ability and persuade them to think differently.” Muhammad Zaki, who also entered the Graduate Talent Programme (GTP) in 2017 under Group Operations & Technology, recollected how he was asked to lead a major project within six months of starting. “I didn’t know what was expected of me, and I didn’t know anything about this application given to my team to update. I didn’t even know the changes needed to be made!” The jovial and bubbly man confessed.

Although limited knowledge of the required expertise left him hesitant, Zaki took up the challenge. While he likened it to diving into the deep end of a pool, by the end of the project, he had not only managed to deliver, but also improve processes. “Looking back, the project really gave me a holistic view of what Information Technology (IT) in banking actually does from end-to-end, both from a user’s and a business’ perspective,” he reminisced. “I didn’t know the processes well at the beginning – it was all new to me. But it was from leading this project that I got the hang of it.” Today, Zaki has grown from a fresh graduate to a key contributor within the Systems Delivery team, while Lee is now in Group Audit’s Credit Risk Review (CRR) department, advocating for governance and control within the bank as an independent voice.


Opportunities through exposure While job rotations are not unique to OCBC, what’s different about job rotations in the GTP is that each rotation is customised to the individual. Through stints in core banking functions like Branch Banking, Compliance and Operations as well as at least one other rotation within the GT’s home division, graduates get the exposure they need to understand how their division works in relation with other stakeholders and how the bank operates. Lim Lay Hong, Project Manager of Group Operations & Technology, currently sits on the GT selection committee for her division. Coming from a pure IT background, she explains why job rotations are important. “Banking is huge. You have banking functions, such as consumer, corporate or investment banking, and you have non-banking functions such as portfolio management and other utility functions. You cannot be too focused on one area – there is every opportunity to learn, and an openness to do so is crucial.” “I believe that rotations across departments to understand different functions of the bank is important to a fresh graduate, as you may not have seen or be exposed to different parts, or even know what you may be really interested in,” Lee added. “It trains you to be an agile thinker and to be resourceful. You will get to know people from different divisions through the programme’s job rotations, so you can ask your network for advice on how things work. There is collaborative learning, and you also learn how to adapt and be able to contribute quickly,” he continued. Besides job rotations, the programme also brings all GTs from around the region together for the intense Regional Talent Week. Having been part of the first batch, Zaki shared that he had had the

opportunity to meet and work closely with his fellow GTP peers across the region from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong SAR on a business project – specially designed to give GTs additional exposure and edge, as well as wider perspectives beyond usual roles and responsibilities – that was ultimately presented to senior leaders in the bank. “We were given the business model of a company to analyse and apply to OCBC. You have to understand where the bank is moving towards, and it was interesting as we had to think from the management’s point-of-view. For example, this is what the assigned company does, but how can OCBC leverage opportunities from this situation and bring this company on board such that we can expand our portfolio?” Beyond the GTP, Lee co-led the MultiGeneration Workforce project to explore the different working styles across various generations of employees found in OCBC. “We wanted to find out where the areas of friction and synergies were so we could work better together, and how we can communicate and improve on that. So far, it’s still ongoing,” he elaborated, “Through our work, we highlighted the differences between generations, sharing that though working styles differ, the aim and goal between generations are still the same.”

Culture of learning, culture of care Though both Zaki and Lee have now graduated from the GTP and are progressing well in their careers with OCBC, they were quick to acknowledge that learning does not only take place there. OCBC has over 10,000 learning courses available to employees, and, in 2018, invested in a $20 million threeyear programme, the OCBC Future Smart

Programme, to develop the digital skills of all its employees in order to prepare a Future Ready workforce. Lim, who is also a mentor to new GTs in her division remarked, “Besides drive, you need to be open-minded and have a willingness to innovate and change. We have people with non-IT backgrounds who joined us, and who are very successful today in IT because OCBC can offer comprehensive training.” “Although our GTs may feel as though they are thrown into the deep end during the programme by being asked to lead and drive initiatives, it is designed that way as the bank would be entrusting them with even more important projects in the future. But OCBC also has a deeply ingrained culture of being caring and supportive. So, you are not alone,” she added. To this, Zaki pointed out that there was strong support and group mentorship that helped to guide him along. Citing the mentorship and support that was available to him during his programme as the impetus he needed to give back, Zaki returned as a mentor during 2019’s Regional Week. “Because he has gone through the programme and survived to see the results, he’s now able to give the new cohort of graduates some good advice!” Lim laughed. On what her advice would be to young graduates who are interested in applying for OCBC’s GTP, she said, “Regardless of your area of studies, we will support you with a customised development path that has been designed for you to pick up a broad range of skills during your 24-month journey. You will have mentors, and you will grow your support network beyond your division and region through the programme design. It will be an exciting journey for anyone ready to come on-board!”

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EMPLOYERS Learn more about leading employers in the industry, who are also looking to fill vacancies and internships. AIA Singapore Pte Ltd


CapitaLand Limited


DBS Bank Ltd


Great Eastern Singapore


Manulife (Singapore) Pte Ltd


NTUC Income




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AIA Singapore Pte Ltd

At AIA Singapore, we are committed to being our customers’ life partners, journeying and helping them live healthier, longer and better lives, across generations. Being an AIA Financial Services Consultant is not just another job. You’ll go beyond providing professional financial advice and services – by truly making a positive difference in people’s lives, being there for them through good and challenging times, be it enabling them to achieve their financial goals or leading healthier lifestyles.

Besides that, you’ll be rewarded and recognised for your efforts with incentives and trips as well as opportunities to advance your career – in addition to the flexibility you you will have in charting it.

1 Robinson Road, AIA Tower, Singapore 048542 Web Email

Sector • Banking and Financial Services • Insurance and Risk Management

You’ll also be given a head-start with guided trainings, all the way to helping you achieve your Million Dollar Round Table status.

Jobs available

Join us today for a fulfilling career that’ll give you insights to a rewarding horizon!

Number of employees

Graduate job 10,000 – 50,000 employees

Minimum requirement Degree


Find out more at

CapitaLand Limited

CapitaLand is one of Asia’s largest real estate companies. Headquartered and listed in Singapore, it is an owner and manager of a global portfolio worth S$129.1 billion as at 30 June 2019, comprising integrated developments, retail, commercial, business park, industrial and logistics, urban development, lodging, residential, 8 listed real estate investment trusts (REITs) and over 20 private funds. Present across more than 200 cities in over 30 countries, we focus on Singapore and China as core markets, while continuing to expand in markets such as India, Vietnam, Australia, Europe and the USA. Cultivating a Strong Workforce As a multi-national company, we stand by our credo ‘Building People. Building Communities.’ Our success is built on our strong infrastructure and our diverse and inclusive workforce – which consists of more than 12,100 employees

from over 80 countries. We are always on the look-out for people of high calibre with strong potential to support us and to grow with us. Talent Management We believe that our company is only as extraordinary as the people who contribute to our culture and success. We focus on hiring the best people, and have strategic, integrated and quality learning programmes for continual learning and development in all career stages. We offer opportunities for challenging and rewarding careers where employees are able to continually learn and develop their personal and professional capabilities, all while working alongside a talented, international and diverse workforce.

168 Robinson Road, #30-01, Capital Tower, Singapore 068912 Tel +(65) 6713 2849 Web careers @capitaland @capitaland @capitaland @capitaland

Sector • Property and Real Estate

Jobs available Graduate job


Number of employees 10,000 – 50,000 employees

Minimum requirement Degree


Find out more at

gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020 | 91

John Seet Former headhunter, now planning life goals as an AIA Financial Services Consultant

Linda Chua Fulfilling protection needs since graduation, now touching more lives as an AIA Financial Services Consultant

Ho Shu Swen Formerly in medical research, now empowering lives as an AIA Financial Services Consultant


Jiang Ting Ting Former university lecturer, now offering life advice as an AIA Financial Services Consultant

Chen Haoran Former performing artist, now inspiring dreams as an AIA Financial Services Consultant


DBS Bank Ltd

A leading financial services group in Asia with a presence in 18 markets and “AA-” and “Aa1” credit ratings, DBS is headquartered and listed in Singapore. Recognised for its global leadership, DBS has been named “World’s Best Bank” by Euromoney, “Global Bank of the Year” by The Banker and “Best Bank in the World” by Global Finance. At the forefront of leveraging digital technology to shape the future of banking, DBS has also been accorded the “Safest Bank in Asia” award by Global Finance for 10 consecutive years. DBS provides a full range of services in consumer, SME and corporate banking. Born and bred in Asia, DBS understands the intricacies of doing business in the region’s most dynamic markets. Committed to building lasting relationships with customers, and positively impacting communities through supporting social enterprises, it has also established a

foundation to strengthen its corporate social responsibility efforts. With its extensive network of operations in Asia and emphasis on engaging and empowering its staff, DBS presents exciting career opportunities. The bank acknowledges the passion, commitment and can-do spirit in all of its staff. Job Roles

12 Marina Boulevard, DBS Asia Central @ Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, Singapore 018982 Web Email

Sector • Banking and Financial Services • Investment Banking and Investment Management

Jobs available Graduate job

• Graduate Associate Programme – Operations • Graduate Associate Programme – SME Banking • Skill Enhancement Education & Development (SEED) Programme


Number of employees 10,000 – 50,000 employees

Application period Graduate jobs: Sep 2019 – Jan 2020 Internships: Dec 2019

Minimum requirement Degree

Find out more at

Great Eastern Singapore

A market leader and a well-established trusted brand in Singapore and Malaysia, Great Eastern was founded in 1908. With $85 billion in assets and more than four million policyholders, it has three successful distribution networks. While it operates in Indonesia and Brunei, the Group also maintains a presence in China as well as a representative office in Myanmar. Since 2010, Great Eastern Life Assurance Company Limited and Great Eastern General Limited has held the financial strength and counterparty credit ratings of “AA-” by Standard and Poor’s, one of the highest among Asian life insurance companies. Moreover, its asset management subsidiary, Lion Global Investors Limited, is one of the largest private sector asset management companies in Southeast Asia.

As a LIFE company, inspiring people to LIVE GREAT, we believe every employee is a talent and can make a difference. We are constantly building an engaging environment that fosters effective synergies, creating a place for our employees to discover and develop their potential to the fullest.

Sector • Insurance and Risk Management

Jobs available Graduate job


Job Roles

Number of employees

• Financial Planners

1,000 – 10,000 employees

• Accounting and Finance

Application period

• Actuary

Financial Planners: On-going Graduate jobs: On-going Internships: On-going

• Internal Audit • Investment • Risk and Compliance

Minimum requirement Degree

Find out more at

94 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020

1 Pickering Street, Great Eastern Centre, #01-01, Singapore 048659 Web https://www.greateasternlife. com/sg/en/careers.html Email


Wealth Accumulation


Get started on your wealth accumulation goals and be future ready

Invest on your own terms with affordable premiums

Boost your investment with Welcome Bonus & Loyalty Bonus

Enjoy coverage with no medical underwriting, at no additional cost

Start a conversation with your Great Eastern Financial Representative today. +65 6248 2211 | |

GREAT Wealth Advantage is a regular premium whole life investment-linked plan that provides protection against Death, Total and Permanent Disability and Terminal Illness. Please refer to the product summary for details. Terms and conditions apply. This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The above is for general information only. It is not a contract of insurance. The precise terms and conditions of this insurance plan are specified in the policy contract. As buying a life insurance policy is a long-term commitment, an early termination of the policy usually involves high costs and the surrender value, if any, that is payable to you may be zero or less than the total premiums paid. Investments in this plan are subject to investment risks including the possible loss of the principal amount invested. The value of the units in the Fund(s) and the income accruing to the units, if any, may fall or rise. Please refer to Fund Details and Product Highlights Sheet for the specific risks of the Fund(s). Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance. Protected up to specified limits by SDIC. Information correct as at 17 April 2019. GWAP / Ver1.0 / 201904 The Great Eastern Life Assurance Company Limited (Reg No.1908 00011G) 1 Pickering Street, #01-01 Great Eastern Centre, Singapore 048659


Manulife (Singapore) Pte Ltd

Manulife Singapore provides insurance, retirement and wealth management solutions to meet the financial needs of our customers across various stages of their lives. With over 600 staff employed locally, our diverse presence is bolstered by our multi-channel distribution network which is made up of our agency force, bank partners and financial advisory firm.

Our Corporate Office Careers

Join our team of financial planners

• Economics

As a Manulife financial planner, your efforts and success will be well recognised, with opportunities for fast-track promotions and access to a range of incentives and benefits. Starting from your sixth month with us, you will have the chance to qualify for overseas conference trips. Moreover, as part of our team, you will also be provided with comprehensive benefits such as dental and medical coverage, insurance, and training and development support.

• Finance

Gain access to invaluable experiences across multiple disciplines, and, with ongoing development and leadership experiences, you will be prepared to get even further ahead. Job Roles • Accounting • Business Administration

8 Cross Street, #15-01, Manulife Tower, Singapore 048424 Tel +(65) 6833 8188 Web Email

Sector • Accountancy & Financial Management • Banking & Financial Services • Insurance & Risk Management • Investment Banking & Investment Management

Jobs available

• IT & Computer Sciences • Maths

Graduate job

Number of employees 10,000 – 50,000 employees

Application period Graduate jobs: On-going

Find out more at

NTUC Income

The only insurance co-operative in Singapore, NTUC Income was established in 1970 to make essential insurance accessible to all Singaporeans. We are now the leading composite insurer in Singapore offering life, health and general insurance. Our wide network of financial advisers and partners provide value-added financial advisory that complements today’s digital-first landscape, offering insurance products and services that serve the protection, savings and investment needs of customers at different life stages and across all segments of society. As a company that is made different, we believe in attracting capable and dynamic individuals like you to transform Income. We are ‘In With You’ for your performance, growth, innovation and impact. Discover how you can develop professionally and personally as you build a meaningful career with us.

75 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189557 Web careers/working-at-income

Job Roles At Income, we value what’s withIN. We’re made different, right from the very people who work here. Our folks aren’t cast from the same mould and we embrace everyone’s unique personality, including their core attributes and quirky interests.


Roles you can look at include:

Number of employees

Jobs available Graduate job


• Operations

1,000 – 10,000 employees

• Actuarial

Minimum requirement Degree

• Finance • Information Technology • And many more We welcome all BFA graduates to explore and indicate their interests on our career site.

Find out more at

96 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020

• Insurance and Risk Management


Reimagining Ancient Tragedies with Manulife Protection Plans Manulife (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Reg. No. 198002116D). This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Buying a life insurance policy is a long-term commitment. There may be high costs involved if you terminate the policy early, and your policy’s surrender value (if any) may be zero or less than the total premiums paid. This policy is protected under the Policy Owners’ Protection Scheme which is administered by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (SDIC). Coverage for your policy is automatic and no further action is required from you. For more information on the types of benefits that are covered under the scheme as well as the limits of coverage, where applicable, please contact us or visit the LIA or SDIC web-sites ( or


OCBC Bank OCBC Centre, 65 Chulia Street, Singapore 049513 Web OCBC Bank is the longest established Singapore bank. It is now the second largest financial services group in Southeast Asia by total assets and one of the world’s most highly-rated banks, with an Aa1 rating from Moody’s.

joy does bring out the best in people, and we want nothing less.

We are committed to creating a conducive work environment – one that is inclusive, welcomes innovation and encourage continuous learning and development. Whether you are a Banking major, Finance expert, Accountancy whiz, or a people-person, we see each of your individuality and potential to shine with us.

• FRANKpreneurship Internship Programme

We provide career mobility opportunities across our different business units, subsidiaries or even country offices; from Consumer, Corporate and Investment Banking, to Fintech and Innovation, so you can discover your career interests and niche areas, all within the bank.

• Security Operations Centre (SOC) Analyst

We want you to enjoy, take pride in your work, be passionate, driven and have fun. After all,


98 | gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020

Job Roles • Graduate Talent Programme • Business Development Managers

Sector • Banking and Financial Services • Investment Banking and Investment Management

Jobs available Graduate job


• Customer Service Executives

Number of employees

• Financial Protection Specialists

10,000 – 50,000 employees

• Mortgage Specialists

Minimum requirement

• Personal Financial Consultants

Find out more at




Joseph Phang JOB:

Junior Risk Data Scientist



Joseph is a Junior Risk Data Scientist with OCBC Bank. He obtained his Bachelor of Accountancy and Business Management from Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2018.

“As a data scientist, I need to understand how my colleagues’ work can impact intricate interactions with our predictive model, so it is always great to hear from people across the bank.“

Data science is a multi-disciplinary field that uses processes and algorithms to extract actionable insights from data. Graduating without a background in computer science did not deter me from obtaining this exciting in-demand role. Specialising in credit risk, there is no typical day for me as a Risk Data Scientist. Activities are heavily dependent on project phases, ranging from development to project management. The week can be spent from debugging scripts to communicating concepts to project partners. For context, I am currently assisting in the System Integration Testing (SIT) phase of the bank’s first credit risk scoring model powered by machine learning. 8:30 AM: Mornings are usually the most impactful part of the day. Correspondence from IT project partners the night before may contain reports on connectivity errors between systems or new system requirements or infrastructural limitations. With these, I will craft an impact assessment after communications with our partners, and subsequently update my manager. Brainstorming ensues to decide what changes need to be put in place. For example, we may need to build a new module to receive eXtensible Markup Language (XML) messages from other systems, given the limitations on the initially requested JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) messages. 11.50 AM: Time for a breather with colleagues from different specialties. Lunch is a great opportunity to learn about developments in the bank outside my area of expertise. As a data scientist, I need to understand how my colleagues’ work can impact intricate interactions with our predictive model, so it is always great to hear from people across the bank. 1.00 PM: This is the time to check in with our project partners, which may include business analysts, IT infrastructure

specialists who build ‘bridges’ between systems, or administrators who oversee systems performances. I also get to have fun playing detective, troubleshooting the script to apprehend errors. Should there be no hiccups in project delivery, stress-tests are done to ensure the model’s robustness. This includes creating a supplementary programme to direct a large number or variations of instances into our model to test the model’s resilience to high and varying traffic. Depending on the new requirements that might come up throughout the day, there can be a variety of other tasks to prioritise and undertake. This is where creativity melds with technicalities which is to experiment and try out different strategies. 4.00 PM: If data science models are like paintings, knowledge is analogous to the different brush techniques. The more one knows about the underlying mechanics, the more ways one can create masterpieces. Once the experiment is concluded, I will consult with my manager on the underlying math, workings behind algorithms, or system structures to understand the model better. I appreciate the open environment I work in where I am encouraged to ask questions. My manager is constantly willing to impart his knowledge, which motivates me to grow and learn without any boundaries. After a year on from being new to data science, I have picked up programming languages such as Python and SAS, knowledge on statistical algorithms and project management skills. 6.00 PM: Towards the end of the day, we are up for some laser tag action, the latest in our division sports night series after hockey and futsal. Before leaving, any development work is wrapped up and a major model experiment is triggered to run overnight. Time for the machines to work while we take a break!

gradsingapore Finance Career Guide 2020 | 99

GTI Media is the world's largest careers and graduate recruitment publisher. Founded in the UK in 1988, GTI publishes and distributes more than 100 careers and recruitment products around the globe. GTI Media Singapore would like to thank everyone who has either taken the time to write or find writers for the 2019 issue of Singapore’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers! Editor Sarah Si


Editorial Anne Grace Savitha, Sarah Si Design & production Amirah Azlan, Ili Zainal Advertising Ron Ong, Terence Teo, The GTI Media sales team Marketing & distribution Shirlyn Ting, Tang Weishan, Cheryl Tan Publisher Isaac Hee

Sector Overview 4 Application Tips 15 Financial Services 25 Accountancy and Financial Management


Banking and Investment 67 Employers


International managing director and co-founders Adrian Wood, Mark Blythe GTI Asia Pte Ltd (Company number: 200301978M) 1 Lorong 2 Toa Payoh #05-04 Braddell House Singapore 319637 T+(65) 6294 6505 F +(65) 6294 1043 Printer Times Printer Pte Ltd 16 Tuas Ave 5 Singapore 639340 Š GTI Asia Pte Ltd, November 2019 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means including, but not limited to, photocopying or storage in a retrieval system in any form without prior written consent of GTI. The views expressed in the articles are those of authors and their publication does not necessarily imply that such views are shared by GTI. Whilst every care has been taken in the compilation of this publication, the publishers cannot accept responsibility for any inaccuracies, or for consequential loss arising from such inaccuracies, or for any loss, direct or consequential, arising in connection with information in this publication.

100 | gradsingapore BFA Guide 2020

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Finance Career Guide 2020  

Looking to join the growing financial sector in Singapore and the region? Discover the Financial Services, Accountancy & Financial Managemen...

Finance Career Guide 2020  

Looking to join the growing financial sector in Singapore and the region? Discover the Financial Services, Accountancy & Financial Managemen...