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Investing in her future

DECIDING on a scholarship that shapes one’s future career is by no means an easy task for an impressionable 18-year-old. But after weighing her interests and career opportunities, Ms Tay Yan Ling chose the GIC Scholarship Programme, which comes with a five-year bond. Upon nomination by her junior college, the then Hwa Chong Institution student applied for the scholarship offered by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund in 2007 before her A levels. She chose GIC as she felt that the dynamic field would allow her to explore her interests. Says Ms Tay: “I thrive in an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment. GIC struck me as an organisation where I could interact with the top minds and enjoy autonomy in decision-making.” The rigorous selection process included three rounds of interviews with human resource representatives, investment professionals from different departments and a managing director from GIC. Ms Tay felt her last interview with the managing director did not go well as she was asked to go back when she was better prepared. But looking back, the 29-yearold believes that it was actually a test of her emotional resilience and how well she could function under pressure. She had her doubts if she could be a good investor but she spoke with several older scholars who helped her better understand the scholarship and company.

Out of her comfort zone

In 2008, Ms Tay chose to study economics at Waseda University, a top private research university in Tokyo, Japan, as she felt that it would give her a firm foundation on how global markets and societies work. She says: “Japan was an interesting place to study economics as it was the only developed market that had been in a deflationary trap for many years. “I felt it would be exciting to learn the drivers behind that and the solutions to tackle the problem first-hand.” The scholar recalls having to step out of her comfort zone and be more mature and independent as she had to adjust to a different language and culture. A highlight of her undergraduate studies was a one-year exchange programme to Columbia University in the United States from 2011 to 2012, which was covered by the scholarship. Ms Tay appreciates how her education in Japan and the US enabled her to experience the best of the east and west.

Accumulating experience

She also feels that the training and development opportunities she enjoyed during her studies were the most useful components of the scholarship. A GIC employee was appointed to be her mentor and helped arrange visits to the Tokyo GIC office, besides linking her up with other Japanese and Singaporean scholars to get to know each other. She also did internships during her summer holidays that saw her working at both the Singapore and Tokyo offices in her second and third year of university respectively. After graduating in 2013, Ms Tay joined GIC under the GIC Professionals Programme, a foundation programme open to fresh graduates, including scholars and non-scholars. She believes that the scholarship helped to take her to where is she now in her career. Currently a portfolio manager and assistant vice-president in the Public Equities department, Ms Tay manages a team portfolio with eight colleagues. She oversees the industrials sector, where she looks for new investment ideas, analyses the companies under her and makes investment recommendations.

Keeping her emotions in check

While her university education provided her with the academic skills needed to analyse investments, Ms Tay found she had to develop emotional skills when making investment decisions. “It can be difficult to maintain one’s conviction to buy into a stock when it sells off, and at the same time be disciplined to sell when it is going up,” she explains. Even now, she feels that she has to better manage her emotions while investing. She finds it more challenging to sell stocks than to buy them. Fortunately, her senior colleagues have helped her improve on that front by advising her to think probabilistically, and consider risks and rewards before deciding. To those interested in a career in investing, Ms Tay advises speaking to industry professionals to better understand the job requirements in the industry and giving them careful consideration before taking up the GIC scholarship.