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‘I analyse issues affecting a country’

Published on Sunday, 29 Sep 2013
Lily Lo
Photo: DBS

Why did you join the DBS economic research unit? 
I wanted to be an economist since my early university days. My preference is to cover the China and Hong Kong markets, and the DBS research team in Hong Kong does just that. I’ve been with DBS for three years. I find time whizzes by when you do something you are passionate about.

How did you get started? What were the qualifications you needed?
Being an economist still seems very surreal. I consider myself very lucky because economic research does not employ a lot of people. I followed my heart and ended up with DBS.

As the saying goes, luck comes when opportunity meets preparation. Having an economics degree kick started my research career. On top of that, I have experience in investment banking and this helps too, as I am able to integrate financial perspectives into my analysis.

What do you like about your job?
I analyse issues affecting a country. Not many jobs offer that opportunity and I feel very privileged. Economic research incorporates elements of history, international relations and even psychology. I love the variety it offers because I could be looking into economic history one day and be doing quantitative analysis the next.

I also like the fact that there are opportunities to give back to the community. I am a member of the DBS Volunteer Action Team, and have partnered with social enterprises to benefit the underprivileged.

How do you see your career in the next two years? 
In the world of economists, substance is more important than the title. I still see myself working as an economist in two years’ time, but widening and deepening my insights while further consolidating my expertise for career advancement. Generally speaking, how quickly a bank economist matures depends on three things. The first is the individual’s work attitude and fundamental training. The second is support from colleagues. And the third, which is very important, is the market environment. The more complex the economy is, the quicker we economists grow. Lots of interesting things happened in the past three years due to the global financial crisis. In the next two years, China’s economic shifts will be the impetus for my personal development.

How important is training and development opportunities?
These are absolutely essential. Much of our fundamental training comes from university studies and the concepts learned there take us a long way. Our professional development comes from on-the-job training, which is often informal. My boss and colleagues are always open to discussion and it is from these discussions that I learn the most.

During the past three years, we have differentiated ourselves by refining our holistic approach to economic analysis. We realised that overly monitoring high frequency economic data can be distracting and counterproductive. A systematic approach can circumvent this distraction. For example, we correctly predicted that China will resume interest rate liberalisation and consider relaxing the one-child policy. This approach has greatly helped to establish our team’s credibility.

What’s your typical day like?
I start the day by updating myself on news. If I’m doing a research project, I would spend the rest of the day digging out data, reading background materials and drafting the research report.

I also update the economics database and brainstorm new ideas. Occasionally, I attend media interviews and press conferences, meet clients or give presentations. As our team serves the whole bank, there are many opportunities to work with the CEO’s office, finance, marketing, as well as institutional and consumer banking divisions. Overall, there is great work-life balance. I have time for family and friends even on weekdays.

Any career highlights you can share?
In January, we launched a very successful Asian Insights campaign named “China in Transition”, which embodied a collection of our research from last year and was marketed across Asia and was highly commended by clients. China Economic Publishing House liked our research and published our writings in a book.

In the same month, we launched the DBS RMB Index for VVinning Enterprises (DRIVE), which is the first index in the industry that gauges RMB usage and acceptance at company level. DRIVE has won Metro Finance’s RMB Business Outstanding Awards 2013 – Outstanding RMB Indexes – Innovative Corporate Index Award.

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