A village mentality in metropolitan Singapore
Rowan Vermolen: Trainee Risk Management
Rowan Vermolen started as a Risk Management trainee on 1 October 2016. She is writing a regular blog about her experiences in the first few months of her traineeship.
At last…my international short-term assignment (STA) is underway! In fact, I’ve already been working in Singapore for a couple of weeks now. Although I’ve lived abroad several times before, this is my first time in Asia.
I’m not alone here; an IT trainee and three Wholesale Banking trainees are also doing their STAs in Singapore (such as Emma, for example). I started here a week earlier than the others, so I flew from Amsterdam to Singapore alone. I realised too late that my Saturday evening departure from Amsterdam wasn’t particularly well-planned – it meant that I didn’t arrive in the apartment complex where all the other ING employees on an STA stay until Sunday evening local time. What with my late arrival and still suffering from jet lag, it wasn’t easy to get myself up and ready for work early the next morning – but I was soon raring to go!
I catch the MRT (underground) into work every morning, so that’s also where I got my first impressions of Asian culture. It’s surprising quietly on public transport, everyone seems to be in their own ‘bubble’ and engrossed in their mobile devices. So I was a little apprehensive about how the atmosphere would be in the office, but I needn’t have worried; everyone is really friendly and helpfuI, and on my first day I received a very warm welcome from a lady from HR. After the onboarding meeting my manager, Youssef, immediately set me to work. I got off to a flying start, since my work here is pretty much a continuation of what I did in the Netherlands. ING’s Singapore branch is specialised in shipping and trade & commodity finance (TCF), and that focus is of course reflected in my department, Asia Credit Restructuring (ACR). As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, here I’ll often be working on syndicated facilities: loans that involve multiple banks. That entails a lot of contact with other banks and export credit agencies, because there always has to be a consensus about each decision. The products tend to be more complex than a loan in which we’re the only bank involved. The work is extremely interesting due to the political sensibilities that are in play. Here, I’m even more focused on the legal aspect of our work than I am in the Netherlands. I’m getting my teeth into China’s insolvency law, for example, and I’ve attended several conferences on Singapore’s recent debt restructuring reforms. There have been numerous changes in this area over recent years, and I’m tasked with writing a guide to the very latest changes in the insolvency procedures in China. When I first met Youssef while I was still in the Netherlands he assured me that my STA would come at a very exciting time, and he wasn’t wrong. Several interesting customers have recently been moved across to ACR. ACR is a one-man team, so I often go along on customer visits. To be honest, customer interaction is the aspect that gives me the most energy; the customer’s file really comes to life when you meet face to face.
By the way, one thing that amuses me is the ‘local office vibe’ here. Everyone knows everyone else, and when you’re the ‘newbie’ people are genuinely interested in who you are and what your role is. That’s a nice contrast with our cosmopolitan working environment. ING has just moved to a new, ultra-modern office building (Guoco Tower); we’re located on the 11th, 12th and 13th floors. I’ve heard that this is the tallest building in Singapore, but there’s so much construction work going on that I’m not sure how long we’ll retain that honour :-). But one thing’s for sure – the view is amazing!
I already feel completely at home in Singapore. The work’s really interesting, and I can’t complain about my weekends either. I spent my first two weekends here exploring the city and its nightlife together with some other colleagues who are here on STAs. We went to the beach, enjoyed some delicious food and visited various rooftop bars. Then last weekend I flew to Phuket with a group of trainees. The island of Phuket is Thailand’s biggest tourist resort, so it wasn’t a very cultural experience but it was a great weekend nevertheless! I love the fact that everything is so close by here; Singapore is ideally located in the heart of Asia. We took a taxi from the office at 6 o’ clock on Friday afternoon and we were enjoying Thailand’s nightlife by 10 p.m. local time. How great is that? I’ve got plenty of trips lined up for the coming weekends too: Malaysia, Thailand and maybe Vietnam.
Then, before I know it, it will be September and I’ll be heading back to the Netherlands. That’s a little sooner than planned, but it’s because I’ll be starting in my permanent role in mid-September. I’m so pleased with the position I’ve found, I’ve really hit the jackpot: I’ll be the new Business Manager for ING’s CRO in the Netherlands, Vincent Maagdenberg. He asked HR to approach me. Late one evening, just before I left for Singapore, I got a text message from HR asking if I could stop by the next morning. I thought ‘Uh-oh, what’s up?’ and was a little nervous beforehand – and then they offered me that position! And a couple of long and very pleasant conversations with Vincent later there were no doubts in my mind that it’s what I want to do!
About Rowan Vermolen
Rowan did her bachelor in English language and culture at Leiden University followed by a minor in international business and economics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She graduated cum laude with an MSc in risk analysis from the prestigious King’s College in London in September 2016. Rowan loves travelling and preferably spends her time on or under the water. She has always been an avid sailor and nowadays she goes diving every year. She likes modern art and the Tate Modern is her favourite place in London. Rowan has been living in Amsterdam since 1 November.