It's not uncommon to hear someone call me a tech geek.
After all, I have a deep love for digital devices, the latest tech gadgets and coolest apps.
And I have spent more than half my life in various technology-related roles in consultancy firms and banks, including Bank of Singapore, where I now oversee areas such as technology risk, information and cybersecurity, and data protection.
While the "tech geek" label applies, there is another name you can call me - The Relentless Learner.
I am a strong believer that learning should never stop as we advance in our careers.
Even in my 40s, I constantly look to upskill myself so that I can bring greater value to my role and the organisation.
I’ve attained several professional certifications over the years in areas such as information security and information systems audit and regularly attend conferences to stay up-to-date as an IT security professional.
In the five years I've been with the bank, I've found comfort in how the bank is aligned with my beliefs in learning.
Staff are always encouraged to explore new learning opportunities, even those outside their regular scope of work. They are also able to take up cross-functional roles through secondments or internal job postings.
One example of this is how the bank offers a myriad of courses for interested staff to sign up for, including an Advanced Certificate in Private Banking.
While it is a foundation course in private banking, it is accredited by the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore (IBF) and was launched in 2017 through a collaboration between Bank of Singapore, the Wealth Management Institute and the Nanyang Technological University. The course is also an IBF Level 1 programme which covers a broad range of topics such as derivative and equity investments, portfolio management and wealth planning.
It certainly piqued my interest as I have always wanted to understand what the Front Office does in greater detail so that I can do my job better.
An e-mail from Human Resources (HR) changed everything.
It called for applications for the course and I picked up the phone to have a chat with an HR colleague of mine to find out more.
Some months passed before the same HR colleague rang me, this time, prodding me to submit my application as the deadline neared and to just give it a shot.
I was surprised that she thought I stood a chance of qualifying for the course but she assured me that the particular course did not require any previous banking credentials and was open to anyone in the bank.
I did not keep my expectations up but I took my chances anyway.
For starters, I lacked the course pre-requisite of the Client Advisory and Competency Standards (CACS) certification from IBF, which is required by all client-facing private banking professionals who provide financial advisory services to high-net-worth clients.
I figured that colleagues who already had the CACS certification would stand a higher chance of being selected for the course.
Worst still, I had little knowledge of banking altogether.
Days later, I learned that that my application had been successful.
I was over the moon.
Over the next six months, my fellow course mates and I had to complete eight classroom-based modules covering topics such as investment products and international wealth planning with examinations to pass at the end of each one.
From the get-go, I knew that my course mates had an edge over me as most of them came from business-related roles such as finance or risk.
Moreover, the majority comprised Marketing Associates, who not only had youth on their side being younger than me, they were already equipped with the basics of private banking.
I needed to clear the added hurdle of attaining my CACS certification, which I did through self-study after office-hours and on the weekends before sitting for two written examinations. It was probably more time-consuming for me as I had little prior knowledge of topics like products and legislations and had to learn it from scratch.
In the end, it all paid off.
At the graduation ceremony held in February this year, I proudly walked up on stage to receive my private banking certificate when my name was called.
It was also only then that most of my course mates realised that I was not only much older than them, I came from a completely different world to theirs.
I will not claim to be an expert in private banking but I now understand how financial products are created, how they are sold to clients, and how banks make money from these products.
The knowledge is even more pertinent to me as we have entered an era where employees in roles like mine are starting to see the lines between technology and business converge.
I am now able to talk the talk of my business colleagues and better understand their needs when we develop new digital solutions. It is also easier for me to explain technology concepts to them using terms or examples which they are more familiar with.
Career-wise, I continue to seek out new opportunities to better myself.
I encourage everyone in my shoes to do the same because the banking industry is constantly evolving and there is no telling where the learning journey will take us.Disclaimer applicable to recommendation
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