By the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
As a Year Four Social Science and Business Management student, Lai Siew Ping has been taught the need to embrace the inevitable digitalisation of work processes, and the importance of Singapore maintaining its good relations with its ASEAN neighbours. Eager to experience working with people from other parts of the region, the Global Impact scholar decided to embark on an Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) in ASEAN.
In particular, Siew Ping was interested in the Philippines, which Singapore has very close ties to. She applied for the Digital Transformation Strategy Intern position at Filinvest Development Corporation (FDC), a conglomerate based in Manila, Philippines that deals with industries of various natures, and operates one of the country’s largest banks, EastWest Bank.
Having successfully landed the virtual internship position, Siew Ping joined FDC’s banking and financial services sector, where she was tasked with planning the roadmap to roll out FDC’s first fully digital bank, Komo.
“The internship opportunity was in digital transformation, an area I was extremely interested in. I believe the future of the economy holds tremendous opportunities for digitalisation, and I wanted to witness first-hand how a company was tackling this trend,” says Siew Ping.
Marrying two areas of study to perform better
Siew Ping was tasked to plan the roll-out of FDC’s first fully digital bank, Komo
Studying both Political Science and Business Management had equipped Siew Ping to be proficient in her role, where she was required to analyse situations from both the economic and social perspectives.
To create an effective roadmap for Komo’s launch, Siew Ping looked up how other digital banks attracted customers to their platforms, as well as conducted a survey to understand qualities banking customers in the Philippines desired in a digital bank. This allowed Siew Ping to exercise the research skills taught in school, before she critically analysed each feature’s cost, benefit and implementation time before drafting her roadmap.
Learning about Philippines politics and culture in SMU’s Politics of Southeast Asia module gave Siew Ping a headstart in understanding the needs and behaviours of her Philippines audience. Her Strategic Management major also prepared her to respond to digital challenges with strategic and innovative solutions that were profitable yet feasible. The presentation and negotiation training received in SMU enabled Siew Ping to confidently present her findings and recommendations to Komo’s board of directors.
Working on Komo and other side projects involving digitalisation had shown Siew Ping how digital transformation was shaking up the financial industry for the better. Where she once saw physical bank branches as a necessity for banks to operate, she came to realise how digital banks are becoming the norm across the world, saving time and money for both customers and banks as banking services are made available remotely.
A warm workplace culture
Siew Ping (centre, bottom row) and her team at a weekly catch-up
Throughout her remote internship, Siew Ping was guided by mentors who held weekly check-ins with her to ensure that she was managing well, which she greatly appreciated.
The Philippines’ friendly and hospitable work culture took Siew Ping some time to get used to. In the Philippines, special effort would be made to organise activities such as meals outside of work hours or game nights to strengthen relationships within the team.
As a non-drinker, Siew Ping initially felt awkward at her team’s weekly informal “drinking” sessions, which were conducted virtually. Thankfully, her team never made her feel uncomfortable about it. Their acceptance helped Siew Ping to ease up and she eventually grew to look forward to these weekly catch-ups with her team and fellow interns.
One of Siew Ping’s best memories from her internship was the meetup she organised for the FDC interns, where they played the game Psych. Everyone had such an enjoyable time during the session that they did not realise that time had passed so quickly.
“What surprised me was the ability to accomplish projects even though physical meetings were literally impossible. Morale within the team was also kept high even though all the interns had never met face to face throughout the course of our internship,” says Siew Ping.
Future-proofing her career by keeping up with digitalisation
The biggest career edge that interning at FDC had given to Siew Ping was the experience of working on digital projects, as more companies are looking to digitise their services and processes. The role also exposed Siew Ping to the financial industry, from which she gained valuable experience. Immersing in these two areas have widened the scope of jobs Siew Ping can take on in future, opening even more career possibilities.
Working remotely has trained Siew Ping to manage a work-life balance at home, in preparation for hybrid workspaces, which she feels will remain the norm post-pandemic. Being on a team with individuals of different cultures and personalities has also trained her to become a more flexible team player, who can adapt more easily to new environments.
Siew Ping encourages other SMU students to make the most of the current travel restrictions by going on an OVIP themselves, especially through openings in ASEAN to learn more about our regional neighbours.
“I’m grateful to SMU for providing us with the opportunity to work for overseas companies despite our present situation. You’ll still get to work with people of different working styles and experience the diversity of opinions in a team. One day, you might even get to visit your internship company in person. I’m waiting to visit Filinvest in Manila once travel opens up,” says Siew Ping.
The ASEAN Internship Programme (AIP) and Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) are part of the offerings provided by Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) to encourage students to build up an international network and be Global Citizens.
Apply for a Winter and/or Summer OVIP in an ASEAN country via OnTraC now.