Despite being only 26, Malcolm Loh has a CV that features an extensive background in banking. Much of it is because of his time spent with DBS, Asia’s premier bank, which gave him the opportunity to kick-start his career when he was still a student.
His first role at DBS was as an intern in the bank’s Private Banking division in 2011, while he was studying for a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE) at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. After going on to receive a Masters in Finance at the HEC Paris business school, Malcolm secured a position at DBS’ prestigious Management Associate programme in 2013.
While he was sure he wanted a career in banking, it was DBS’ multi-faceted training opportunities that won him over to the bank. “With other banks, you usually apply to work in just one department, but at DBS, you are assigned to different departments on a rotational basis,” he says. “The exposure provided by the bank is really more than what a normal graduate would expect.”
Since starting as a Management Associate, Malcolm has worked with the bank’s Operations Intelligence (Analytics) team in Consumer Banking Operations and is currently with the Regional Bancassurance department. He is also president of the bank’s Recreation Club, where he is responsible for organising the annual Dinner and Dance and Family Day events, as well as other recreational activities such as workshops and outings.
It’s a big responsibility, he says. “I have to handle budgets way above my pay grade,” he adds. But this has allowed him to interact with many of DBS’ top brass, which he says he is grateful for. “You get to know how the senior management thinks, and also learn about what your colleagues want. This is not something many graduates will be exposed to so early.”
In fact, Malcolm already had a taste of DBS’ unique hands-on management style during his internship. Most interns at other companies would usually stay behind the scenes, but his boss made it a point to bring him to client meetings, he says. These encounters taught him how to act professionally by observing his boss at work. “It was the best experience of my life,” he says.
As a Management Associate, Malcolm recently helped the bank’s Bancassurance team oversee a project to digitise its forms. He put more than 500 iPads in the hands of the bank’s Relationship Managers across Singapore, and also set up a helpdesk to facilitate the transition with a small team of his own.
These experiences, he says, have allowed him to get involved in a wide-range of activities quickly. They have also opened his eyes to the complexity of the banking industry, and spurred him to work even harder. “I used to think that with every rotation, I would be able to learn everything. But by getting a taste of the different types of work, I’ve realised how much more there is to learn.”
Looking back, Malcolm is satisfied with his decision to join DBS, as the bank has given him a strong foundation for a rewarding career in the banking industry. “I’ve been given a chance to be exposed to so many different aspects of banking, and look forward to more opportunities to grow as DBS is still expanding rapidly.”
At a time of uncertainty for the global banking industry, this has given him the confidence to be a leader in the future of banking, he says. “The bank’s management team knows what it’s doing. I have every confidence in them to help me build my career.”
Despite her relative youth, DBS Graduate Associate Karen Woo is a trailblazer in the banking industry. As a recent addition to the bank’s Institutional Banking Group (IBG), she says the highlight of her work is the challenge of tackling new projects that keep her on her toes.
Her plate is almost always full, but Karen, 24, enjoys the thrill that comes with her work, she says. In a recent project, she worked with a team to launch BusinessCare, a new IBG call centre in China. Her role involved sharing regional expertise with the local team, and working with various groups of staff members to set up new systems. “The idea of implementing something entirely new in China gives me an adrenaline rush,” she adds.
This project was particularly rewarding for her because it involved building something from scratch. “New office space has to be created, new staff have to be recruited and trained,” she explains. Furthermore, basic hardware such as phones and systems need to be bought and installed – a process she describes as “implementation from ground zero”.
It has been a valuable learning experience for Karen, who is relatively new to her department. She adds that with limited knowledge of contact centre operations, the learning curve has been steep. “But with guidance from the senior project managers and my boss, I’m learning more about this area,” she says.
The excitement of new projects – and the opportunity to learn something different each time – is what keeps her going. And it was the promise of constant learning opportunities that attracted Karen to the bank’s Graduate Associate programme in the first place. “The programme is very structured and attractive – it not only gives me the chance to work in different departments, but is also a fast-track programme to groom me into a future leader,” she says.
She adds that it is also gratifying to be a catalyst for change. In one project she worked on, she and her team had to track and improve the bank’s IBG service offerings. “When I first started, I was met with scepticism; it was a challenge reaching a consensus among the various stakeholders,” she recalls. When she saw the project to fruition, she found herself feeling like a “proud mummy”.
These successes at work, she believes, are a result of having bosses willing to empower their teams. “With this empowerment, I grow to have stronger ownership of my projects and I take pride in ensuring they succeed,” she says.
DBS management is also “very supportive of internal mobility”, Karen notes. To groom all-rounded bankers, the bank strongly believes in exposing staff to different working environments. As a people-focused organisation, DBS also exercises flexibility in working arrangements. The bank has been accommodating towards some of Karen’s colleagues who have had to relocate overseas for various reasons, and she believes DBS strives to help its employees achieve both their career and personal goals.
The Graduate Associate programme has also been a source of friendship and camaraderie for Karen. “Being in the programme allows me to have an additional layer of support and sense of belonging,” she says. “Not only do I have my teammates and colleagues who work together with me, I also have my batch mates whom I have great fun with.”
And even though they work in different departments, Karen says her fellow Graduate Associates have been a valuable pillar of support, which makes her feel at home in the office. It helps, too, that DBS regularly organises events where staff members can let their hair down. Says Karen: “I think it’s great that while we work hard, we also play hard.”