Andrel Kwek, Graduate at DBS Bank

Andrel Kwek

Analyst, Management Associate Programme
Andrel graduated with First Class Honours in Chemical Engineering from NUS. She also completed the University Scholars Programme (USP).

I studied chemical engineering but was drawn to a career in banking due to its dynamism and diversity. Banking has such a wide range of roles and I felt that it could always provide me with new experiences and challenges. The opportunity to constantly learn, challenge myself and sharpen different skills is what I am looking for in a career and why I believe it will be rewarding.

While I was interning at DBS, I liked the work culture as it is very supportive, welcoming and one that values teamwork. I met a good manager who was nurturing and cared about my development. Besides that, DBS offers the Management Associate (MA) Programme which was a great opportunity to gain a broad exposure of various functions and perspectives across the bank.

Gaining exposure

As part of the MA Programme, I have rotated across four departments – risk management, strategic cost management, institutional banking, and compliance. My job scope varies widely and I have been involved in a variety of projects and business-as-usual (BAU) tasks.

I had the opportunity to be exposed to and do something new whenever I move to different teams. However, this is also challenging as I have to pick things up fast and deliver within a short period of time.

Overcoming uncertainty

A major challenge is dealing with uncertainties and how to make choices amidst such uncertainties. Transitioning from engineering to banking was a leap into the unknown for me. I was concerned about my lack of knowledge and ability to deliver in comparison to my peers.

Also, as an MA, one of the challenges is being pushed into new environments every five to six months and having to learn the basics from scratch each time. Fortunately, there are always people in the team that are very willing to guide me. It’s important to be inquisitive, and to not be afraid to say “I don’t know”.

I experienced a lot of anxiety, especially with regards to my career path – which roles to go for, whether they aligned with my interests, whether I’ll be able to perform well. However, the fact is that I know I can never be able to control or predict the future, and I can never be 100% prepared.

What I learnt to do is to focus on what I can control, tell myself to stay optimistic, and believe that things will eventually work out. I have more confidence to say this now because often when I look back, certain situations turned out unexpectedly well. Hence I learnt to be positive and to always seek to make the most out of everything. It is also helpful to speak with people to get different perspectives and advice.

Journey of self-discovery

Having been through four rotations, I have completed a variety of tasks and contributed to solving different issues. However, if you ask me what my greatest takeaway is, it would be how much I discovered about myself, more importantly, discovering my purpose, passion and aspirations.

I came into the bank feeling unsure about which area to pursue and I was open to many things. My time in the programme was a journey of self-discovery – my strengths, weaknesses, interests, and what drives me. I now have a much clearer idea of what I want to do for my career, plans and goals.

I found a place for myself, somewhere I can contribute my strengths and provides me with vast opportunities to grow and challenge myself constantly.

Essential skills

Coming from an engineering background, I did not possess strong financial skills and concepts at the beginning. However, this was not a stumbling block. Under the MA Programme, there were training sessions that imparted sufficient knowledge of the business and foundational skills prior to rotations. Also, fortunately for many roles, you will learn on the job. What is more important is the willingness to learn and ability to adapt fast.

Also, many emphasise the importance of communications skills, but I would like to highlight that written communication is equally crucial. The ability to be succinct and effectively capture the crux of the matter is important in my work as a junior. 

Advice for graduates

Have a positive working attitude and be willing to take on whatever that comes, even if it appears to be smaller tasks.

Additionally, be proactive, curious and eager to learn. Seek new experiences to understand more about yourself and gain different perspectives. Don’t be intimidated by the unfamiliar and unexpected – look forward, and stay optimistic!