Left: Mak Wai Chong performs portfolio and benchmark analysis as a Portfolio Engineer in Public Equities, and he is part of the Global Emerging Markets team. He is a GIC scholar and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Management from University of Oxford and a Master of Science in Financial Engineering from Columbia University.
Right: Alyssa Ling Wei Yan looks into strategic development and integration of GIC's investment and organisational strategies as an Analyst in Enterprise Strategy. She is a GIC scholar, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master in Financial Economics from University of Oxford.
The GIC hardly needs much introduction these days. The sovereign wealth fund is is long-term investor and one of its main purposes is to manage Singapore’s reserves. As a financial hub, investments is undoubtedly one of the pillars of our wealth building efforts. GIC is unsurprisingly an appealing port of call for students with big aspirations in the field of finance, as it offers far more than what regular investment institutions can.
Alyssa Ling Wei Yan, an Analyst from GIC’s Enterprise Strategy Department and Mak Wai Chong, a Portfolio Engineer from GIC’s Public Equities Department, are convinced of this. As recipients of the highly coveted GIC scholarship, they have decided GIC is where their futures lie.
An Intellectual Pursuit
Both Alyssa and Wai Chong were drawn to finance through various influences in their childhood. Alyssa’s father is passionate about finance and investing, which made for plenty of dinner conversations. Furthermore, Alyssa studied economics and geography in junior college and joined a value investing-focused intercollegiate student investment fund at university.
Likewise, Wai Chong’s intellectual passion for economics and mathematics led him to finance, which to him was “arguably the largest and most prominent” of the fields that lie in the intersection of these interests. “To be afforded the luxury to advance my knowledge in these two fields and apply these ideas to investments makes this field incredibly exciting and invigorating,” he added.
Both Alyssa and Wai Chong saw that the GIC scholarship offered more than mere academic opportunities. For Wai Chong, it was a way to “pursue and advance his academic interests” for a greater purpose, while Alyssa was convinced that it offered her a conducive environment to develop her capabilities at an organisation of considerable global repute–one that gave them space to grow.
“I was also pleasantly surprised by how throughout the selection process, GIC had taken a keen interest to get to know who I am as an individual, such as my personal interests, values and goals outside of work,” she recalled. In different ways, both Alyssa and Wai Chong acknowledged that they had a lot to learn about themselves, and they were given every opportunity to do so. “I believe it is important to take the time to explore a wide variety of interests including gaining first-hand experience in these roles. This can help one to understand where one’s personal interests and strengths lie, beyond personal preconceptions and external influences,” she elaborated.
They also credited the Human Resource team for helping them in their journey of self-discovery at every opportunity. Alyssa recalls that they proactively gave her career advice as she explored her interests, while Wai Chong was struck by how supportive they were when he developed an interest in psychology and philosophy and approved his application to University of California, Berkeley for a brief summer school stint.
He adds that GIC invests across sectors and geographies, and is positioned across a wide range of asset classes and active strategies globally, which is especially handy since often one is not sure of what to specialise in at the start of your career.
“When I first signed the contract with GIC, I knew that I wanted to enter the investment field, but that is an extremely broad field. I wasn’t certain that I was ready to specialise in any specific area, a decision I would have to make if I were to choose other organisations. It was the latitude of career options that were available in GIC – a freedom that other organisations might not be as well-equipped to offer,” he explained.
Securing Singapore’s Financial Future
It is where they both find themselves in right now. Alyssa has just started producing research insights on the institutional investor landscape for Enterprise Strategy team, along with special projects including the redevelopment of an in-house technology platform and supporting a GIC 2035 strategy study. The Enterprise Strategy department focuses on strategic planning and coordination of investment and organisational strategies. Her team works with top management to develop and implement the blueprints with both short-term and long-term goals in mind. These includes sustainable investing, which covers Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors across investment and corporate processes.
Meanwhile, Wai Chong is a portfolio engineer for the Global Emerging Markets team, working closely with portfolio managers and analysts to detect latent relationships between securities within the portfolios. He then identifies the factors that drive returns and develops visualisations for said issues. “The primary role of a portfolio engineer is to identify what others might not see,” he explains. “By providing an alternative view of a portfolio, it not only allows portfolio managers to hedge the downside, but it also helps them capitalise on certain themes by making specific adjustments in the portfolio.”
It might sound like a lot for someone fresh out of school but GIC has also provided an ideal environment for the pair to kickstart their journey. Alyssa describes Enterprise Strategy as “highly dynamic, collaborative and nurturing”, while Wai Chong is struck by how “incredibly welcoming and open” the organisation is.
“Everyone is encouraged to speak up and to offer their views. Additionally, the team is exceedingly patient with newcomers and invests considerable resources in their development. These are important traits of an employer, as it gives newcomers the confidence to grow and eventually develop into a meaningful part of the organisation,” he adds. Furthermore, they are both proud that their work is underpinned by their contribution to Singapore’s financial security, giving their efforts a sense of meaning.
On a personal level, there are, of course, other benefits that come from joining a financial institution with the scope of GIC. “You will have exposure to almost all areas of the vastly complicated world of finance,” said Wai Chong. He points out that the diversity of fields at GIC means that one will have opportunities to work with countless talented individuals who are incredibly proficient in their chosen fields, as well as external parties and management-level executives.
If that sounds intimidating, you need not be worried. Alyssa points out that fresh graduates will be introduced to the organisation through the GIC Professionals Programme with a five-week technical skills boot camp followed by three rotations over eight months to familiarise themselves with the organisation.
“If you have an interest in a career in finance, GIC is a great organisation to start with. You will be given significant autonomy in your work, exposure to an array of learning resources and opportunities for growth as a fresh graduate,” she assured.