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A unique and diverse working experience

Ms Lee Su Fen, 36, Head of the Data Governance Office (DGO) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is playing a key role in shaping the direction of digitisation in Singapore’s financial sector.

“The use of big data and data analytics is a growing area across all industries, including the financial sector. As a financial regulator and central bank, it is important for us not only to keep abreast of such trends, but also to see how best to leverage them to do our work more effectively and efficiently,” she notes.

What the group does is in essence look into harnessing the power of data analytics — formulating data management policies, managing data quality, developing appropriate data architectures, and fostering strategic activities and capabilities to develop the data analytics ecosystem.

Broadening her mind
Ms Lee is a beneficiary of the various career development programmes at MAS, having landed an overseas scholarship with the organisation after completing her A levels in 2000.

Back then, she had already set her mind on a lifelong career in the public service which was why she only applied for government scholarships. “I always thought of making a meaningful contribution to a larger goal which was to give back to society,” she recalled.

She eventually settled on MAS which was one of the firsts to offer her an overseas scholarship. Although she had not studied economics in junior college, the finance sector had appealed to her due to its breadth and depth in scope for learning opportunities.

Ms Lee went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Electrical & Electronics Engineering at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in the United States. She also followed up with a master’s in Management Science & Engineering at Stanford.

“I viewed my electrical engineering degree as a training of the mind and a journey to hone my analytical and critical thinking skills. The scholarship did not restrict me in the choice of discipline as long as it was not in the specialised fields of medicine, dentistry or architecture.”

In between her studies from 2001 to 2005, she also did an internship at MAS as part of her scholarship requirements, in the area of corporate communications handling public queries as well as contributing to the agency’s annual report which gave her a good overview of what the MAS does, she says.

On the ascent
Upon her return to Singapore, Ms Lee was assigned a role in the banking supervision department where she conducted onsite visits to both local and foreign banks operating in Singapore, looking into their business models, operations and risk management controls.

“It was all new to me. I had to start from scratch; learning on the job from colleagues and mentors. Being thrown into the deep end compelled me to build up subject matter expertise quickly. It was a stimulating experience and gave me a good overview of MAS’ regulatory role in our financial sector,” she adds.

She went on to hone her expertise in financial risk management and macroprudential surveillance, and was allowed the opportunity to pursue a doctorate in finance at the EDHEC Business School campus in Singapore (2011-2014).

Ms Lee appreciates that MAS has been very supportive of staff learning and development. It has an academy which coordinates training efforts to strengthen leadership and professional competencies. Over the years, guidance from her supervisors and senior colleagues has also enabled her to learn on the job quickly and pick up the necessary skills to do her job well.

“Overall, it has been a rewarding and fulfilling career as the job scope is rather unique. After all, it is not often that one gets the opportunity to work for a central bank or financial regulator,” says Ms Lee.