In a way, business titan Warren Buffett steered Mr Yap Hsien Liang onto his current career trail.
Mr Yap says: “I got interested in the field of finance after reading books on investing and business during my national service. One of the business leaders I came across was Warren Buffett, who espoused the importance of understanding accounting in order to be a good investor and businessman. This played a part in influencing my decision to do a double degree in accountancy and finance.”
For his scholarship, Mr Yap had to choose between government- linked scholarships and bond-free ones at local universities. He says: “I eventually decided to pursue bond-free scholarships, as I was not sure what I was particularly interested in at the age of 18, and did not want to face the possibility of being a bondbreaker down the road.”
He eventually chose the Lee Kong Chian Scholars Programme (LKCSP) at Singapore Management University (SMU), as he had heard from seniors about the community of friends he would develop and the learning opportunities he would get. The LKCSP is offered to SMU students doing a double degree programme, one of which must be awarded by the Lee Kong Chian School of Business.
Another perk was being able to go on two overseas exchange programmes, one in the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and the other at The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania in the United States.
He says: “Through these programmes, I got a chance to compare the differences in the education system and pedagogy between Singapore and the UK and US and also meet lots of interesting people from around the world and get to learn more about their culture and the way they think.”
Benefiting from internships
During his time at SMU, he also did three internships. The first was a corporate finance advisory internship role at Deloitte & Touche. His second stint was at a small investment firm called Island Asset Management where he was an investment analyst, and his third internship was at Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research division.
Recalling his time there, he says: “Internships are a great way to find out more about different firms, different kinds of work and to see how some of the things you learnt in school are being applied in a commercial setting.”
He also participated in community service projects in Thailand and the Philippines. He says: “Community service projects are a big part of the SMU and LCKSP fabric. I felt thankful to have a chance to contribute to the Thai and Filipino community but more often than not, it’s the participants who actually learn more from these overseas community service projects.
“I realised how fortunate we are to be in Singapore and am grateful for all the opportunities I got which I had taken for granted.”
Now 25, Mr Yap is an equity research analyst at Goldman Sachs and part of a team that analyses macro and company fundamentals to discover investment opportunities for clients. He says: “I have had the opportunity to meet CEOs of large companies and interact with analysts who have covered the sector for more than 10 years. It has been a great learning experience.”
He advises aspiring scholars to attend different scholarship fairs, and to speak to seniors who are, or were, in the scholarship programme. He adds: “If what they say resonates with you, it is more likely that you will enjoy your time.”