Rikki Suarez

Rikki Suarez

Assistant Manager
Rikki graduated with a Bachelor of Business (Honours) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Career Highlights

2010: Graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a Bachelor of Business (Hons)
2010: Joined NTUC Income Graduate Trainee Programme
2011: Landed in Investment Department, Alternative Investments team
2012: Promoted to Senior Executive
2014: Promoted to Assistant Manager

Since I bought my first and only investment-linked insurance policy back in my polytechnic days, I became fascinated by the underlying mechanics of investments. This prompted me to pursue a business degree, specialising in banking and finance.

While sending out numerous job applications in my final year, a friend encouraged me to apply for NTUC Income’s Graduate Trainee Programme. The organisation had not been on my radar as a potential employer, but as I researched the organisation and programme offering, it became an obvious choice. I spent my first year rotating across various departments which armed me with a macro-perspective of the organisation.

NTUC Income is a composite insurer with over S$31 billion in assets under management. My job is to ensure continued financial strength through prudent investment of policyholders’ monies. I help the organisation invest and manage a portfolio of alternative assets, with a particular focus in real estate.

Helping others shine

As part of the screening of the Graduate Trainee Programme, I underwent three assessments comprising a psychometric test, an interview and a final assessment before I got an offer.

The highlight for me was the final assessment. Placed in a group setting, I was given a business case and had to deliver a collective action plan. Most of my peers had very good ideas, and I decided to leverage on their ideas to quickly and effectively deliver a logical action plan. Perhaps what helped me stand out was my ability to integrate those ideas coherently into an action plan and ensure each individual had a chance to contribute in some way.

An alternative focus

In university, my focus was on mainstream asset classes such as equities and bonds. My knowledge of alternative asset classes – my current area of specialisation – was shallow. In order to better understand the unique characteristics of these asset classes, I made sure that I understood the basic principles of the tasks assigned to me.

Some assignments were fairly straightforward, but I took pains to research the underlying concepts and their influence on the risk-reward profile of the portfolio. I also attended conferences to hear the views and opinions of industry leaders.

Sampling new tasks

I am often given opportunities to be involved in special projects, and I get to face new challenges with every project. This keeps me engaged and gives me a reason to never be disenchanted with my work. However, there are times when the deadlines of these special projects fall within the same period as my day-to-day tasks. I have to manage my time efficiently without adversely affecting the quality of deliverables.

Because of the nature of my work, my performance is easily quantifiable. But what’s rewarding is seeing my colleagues and superiors recognise the value of my contributions. This is expressed through improvements in my remuneration and promotions. I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I receive compliments and valuable feedback from stakeholders.

Key points for my success

The structure of the Graduate Trainee Programme helped me assimilate into my current role. The most valuable support I received is the mentorship from senior management. I am privileged to be currently under the wing of a Senior Vice President. I continue to receive valuable advice from my previous mentor, who is also a Senior Vice President, even though he is no longer my official mentor.

Basic understanding of technical analysis is a must, and this should be accompanied with financial modelling skills. For alternative asset classes in particular, information asymmetry is prevalent, and professionals with superior information tend to perform better. Therefore, it is important to be connected with industry players. I do this by attending relevant conferences and building relationships with peers in the industry.

Maintaining work-life balance

Sometimes, I work beyond my official working hours, especially when there are multiple deadlines. I try to achieve better work-life balance by prioritising tasks efficiently. I do this by informing relevant stakeholders when to expect my deliverables, and then sticking to those deadlines. This allows me to control how much of my personal time is invested on certain tasks.

Be hungry to learn, and learn as though you are going to teach someone else. This will help you understand things better and retain knowledge longer. I’ve never believed in working hard – instead I aim to work smart. Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint.