Alvin Lum works towards developing Singapore as a leading global trading hub in his role as Development Partner in the Trade (Energy & Chemicals) division. He is an Enterprise Singapore Executive Global Scholar and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Cambridge and a Master of Science in Business Analytics from Imperial College London.
As the Chinese saying goes: while it is difficult to start a business, it is even more challenging to run one that is successful. Grit, shrewd acumen and some element of luck are needed in order to keep an enterprise thriving. A bit of government support can also go a very long way.
For that, there is Enterprise Singapore (ESG).
ESG is the government agency that champions enterprise development. They work with Singapore companies to build capabilities, innovate and internationalise. ESG also supports the growth of Singapore as a hub for global trading and startups.
Showing local enterprises and startups the way forward are ESG officers like Alvin Lum, who currently works as a Development Partner in the Trade (Energy & Chemicals) division. The Enterprise Singapore Global Executive Scholar gave us an exclusive insight into his pivotal role in shaping Singapore’s economic future and shared with us his motivations at work.
The work that you do contributes to Singapore’s economic success, and it’s certainly not easy. How did you get interested in pursuing a career in public service?
Growing up in Singapore, I saw how good policymaking and a highly competent public service have benefitted our nation greatly. This contributed to my interest in the public service, and I was keen to pursue a career that was intellectually interesting and enabled me to make an impact at the same time.
You could have opted for other agencies. So, why did you choose to join ESG?
The role at ESG seemed to be a vibrant and dynamic one, where even as a junior officer, one would receive ample opportunities to interact with different stakeholders of varying seniority across both private and public sectors. Moreover, I was highly attracted to the international exposure a career there offered, as well as the opportunity to work overseas. More importantly, ESG’s mandate of growing local enterprises and supporting them in going global resonated with me – for a government agency, it’s a mission that I find highly meaningful and impactful.
You took up the Enterprise Singapore Global Executive Scholarship. What opportunities did the scholarship provide you?
I interned at ESG’s New Delhi Overseas Centre during my university summer holidays, which exposed me to the work undertaken by our ESG Global Markets colleagues. I was working on a project to help Singapore companies find opportunities in the renewable energy space in India. This involved doing extensive research on the regulatory landscape and potential government support in India, and speaking to companies in-market to assess their potential as partners for Singapore companies. This experience gave me a better appreciation of how different parts of the organisation work together to achieve the common objective of growing local enterprises.
Tell us more about your current role and responsibilities at ESG.
The Trade Division at ESG works towards developing Singapore as a leading global trading hub. I work with both local and foreign energy and chemicals trading companies – for the latter, we work closely with our colleagues from the Global Markets team to engage these companies to establish their regional trading headquarters in Singapore and to grow their business from Singapore. Our team also works on industry development initiatives that benefit the trading sector, in areas such as human capital development and promoting the use of digital tools among companies.
What is your most significant career achievement, or most memorable work experience, to date?
It would be my first work trip as an ESG officer to Japan in 2019. The objectives of the trip were to engage trading companies based in Japan to encourage them to establish a business presence in Singapore, and to foster closer collaboration between Japanese and Singapore companies.
It was an eye-opening experience which allowed me to see first-hand how such trips were key to building mindshare among foreign companies about Singapore’s strengths as a business and trading hub and in marketing to them the capabilities of our local SMEs. Such strategic engagement is often the first step towards facilitating deeper win-win partnerships between Singapore and foreign companies.
All fresh graduates, as well as scholars, are inducted into the ESG Management Associate Programme (MAP) when they enter the organisation. What did you appreciate about the MAP, and how did it help you in your personal and professional development?
The MAP allows one to develop a comprehensive overview of ESG’s different core business functions through multiple rotations. I’m grateful for the network of peers that I’ve formed and to have gained a better understanding of how other teams operate, given the collaborative nature of our roles which requires us to work with colleagues across different divisions.
What career opportunities are there for people working at your organisation?
ESG offers opportunities for internal rotations, given the extensive mandates that the organisation has. If you enjoy working with enterprises, you have the possibility of working with companies across diverse industries and markets and those in different growth stages, from start-ups to micro-enterprises, to more mature SMEs.
What advice would you give to aspiring scholars looking to join your organisation?
I would advise students to make sure they get a good understanding of what the public service and ESG’s work entail. This can be done by reaching out to their schools’ career offices or speaking to seniors who are currently working in the public service.
Some key traits I believe ESG might look out for among scholarship applicants would be business acumen, communication skills and a genuine interest to work with companies to drive Singapore’s economic development.