Susan Cheong, Graduate at DBS Bank

Susan Cheong

Managing Director, Head of POSB & Distribution
Susan graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Honours) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Getting started

I studied Banking & Finance in University which led me to exploring a career in banking.

While I was looking for a job in my final semester in NTU, I attended a number of career fairs. I chanced upon the DBS booth at a one of the fairs and as it is a renowned bank, my schoolmates and I decided to apply for jobs together at DBS. I was called up for an interview and was offered a job even before I graduated. As this was a great opportunity, I accepted the offer.

I started working at a DBS branch near my home. As I had done customer-facing jobs during my school vacation, I knew how to interact well with customers. This helped me on the job at DBS.

Challenges I faced

I do not consider myself a natural born sales person, so when I started out, my sales performance was average and I was not a top relationship manager or sales person as compared to some of my peers. But my then manager recognised the quality of clients I brought in, that I provided high quality customer service and was diligent in following up. I realised that these were important attributes for sales people too. 
Being in sales has been challenging. Over time, it has enabled me to learn and grow in my career. It taught me tenacity and how to better manage relationships with people, both customers and colleagues. Furthermore, I believe it is important to have sales experience if you want to become a good leader, especially in banking as it provides a good understanding of the business.

The turning point

I was very fortunate that I had a branch manager who was very supportive in my development. When there was an opportunity for a Branch Manager role in another branch, she recommended me for the job. That was my first breakthrough into a management role.

It was heartening that I also had the support and guidance from my new manager who often shared business strategies with me.

I learnt a lot during those few years and that allowed me to progress to bigger management roles in subsequent years where I led different aspects of the business.

My biggest achievement

During the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, we set up a taskforce to review our business and to work with customers who may have fallen into financial difficulties. I led the taskforce which comprised people of different teams in the bank, many of whom I had not worked with before. We started working together in the same office for a few months. On some days, the team would stay past midnight to resolve difficult cases. It was hard work as we had to start new work processes from scratch but it was extremely rewarding. There was great teamwork although we were such a diverse group. We successfully turned cases around and delivered right to the end.

Important skills as a leader

True leaders are able to manage through influence without relying on formal reporting lines or structure.

In my opinion, a good leader is one who is strong-minded but keeps an open mind to learn from others.

We tend to hire candidates who have similar characteristics that we see in ourselves - how we work and behave. However, that may not be the best for a team. A leader values diversity which brings a range of skills that are complementary rather than similar. That is what makes a great team.

Advice for graduates

  • Be humble and have the humility to learn. 
  • Learn to filter, to emulate the good and reject the bad. 
  • People we learn from can be our seniors, peers or colleagues who are younger or less experienced than ourselves. In fact, my two children are one of my best sources of learning
  • Be prepared to work hard. Go above and beyond your current role to learn as much as possible.
  • Be unafraid to take on jobs or tasks that others shy away from. Do it well and you will shine.