It has come the time for me to say goodbye to Singapore – at least for now. It’s my last week here, and all I can say is that the time has flown really fast and this has been an amazing and educational experience. Now, after getting to see how both our New York and Singapore offices operate, I have a better understanding what our International Units are doing and how they are enhancing our business also in the Nordics. Especially, during this somewhat crazy summer (the Grexit threat, turbulence in China, equity crash..etc), it has been eye-opening to see how valuable the International Units are, serving the customers, when Europe is fast asleep. So, I’ll leave back home with a bag full of insights, which will hopefully lead to even tighter collaboration between the Nordics and the International Units.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Nordea Singapore is a growing and constantly developing branch. This year for example, our Markets team has grown with one Sales Manager and one Analyst (which quickly lead to more visibility with Amy Zhuang giving interviews to the local Media). And for the growing organization, we also have a new General Manager this year: Corrado Forcellati. He is the one behind developing our business in Shanghai and I dare to say, he’s the best to comment the future for Nordea Singapore. So for my final post I’ll leave the word for him:
Corrado, tell us you story! What is your background and when did you join Nordea? What have you done here?
I am a Master of Science in Finance and Accounting from Copenhagen business school and an Executive MBA from a joint Germany/US program.
I first entered Nordea in 1997 (Unibank then) as a Risk Officer in Copenhagen. Then I transferred to Nordea Frankfurt in 1997 and spend there the next 8 years as a Risk Controller and Relationship Manager. There I was responsible for developing the energy sector within Nordea and was the main contact for all trading and clearing activities toward European energy exchanges.
In 2007 I was sent to Shanghai to set up our corporate and institutional banking operations in China. It was a Greenfield operation then and we started only from a piece of paper. And now, after 8 years, the branch has grown to include 30 people and we have a solid knowledge of the local regulations and good relationship with Chinese authorities and local banks.
And this year I started as a General Manager of Nordea Bank Singapore.
So you have now a quite long experience in the Asian markets. What have been biggest challenges?
In China the biggest challenge was ambiguity. Coming from Europe, you really have to take time to understand the many layers of culture and the local business. So don’t take anything for granted and try to push your view too strongly. Instead: listen, absorb and learn. And don’t be surprised if you do not get things done as fast as you are used to. However, the patience pays off, and you can get the end result you were aiming for.
The other thing, of course, is the never ending regulations. As building up the Shanghai branch from scratch we have spent our fair share in the regulatory jungle. But as a result, we have now the expertise also to offer to our clients.
What about the biggest gains?
Well, of course, as explained earlier, now we have a good understanding of the local regulations and good relationship with local authorities. So, we know how to sail in the Asian markets.
It’s also been essential to be present here, as the Asian market has kept on growing and is becoming more and more significant in the global market. So, we have been successfully building Nordea’s footprint here and I see us being a competence counter for the whole branch. The aim has been to be close to our customers, which means joining them overseas too. And this is what we have been able to do.
How is the cooperation with the Nordic branches?
Of course there are challenges when you are on the other side of the world in a different time zone. But the collaboration pays off. Sharing insights and brainstorming together leads to more satisfied customers. After all, we are here for them 24/7, and it’s essential that the customers can trust that we know their needs in every time zone.
What about the employees in Asia, what kind of people are you looking for?
People who are not afraid of asking questions. I mean, everyone can follow instruction and learn how to crunch numbers. But, we need people who are not afraid to challenge the procedures. The ones coming here need to have a forward-looking and entrepreneurial attitude. After all, we are building the branch together and we want to have an enthusiastic and committed team to bring things to the next level.
And finally, what do you see in the future for Nordea’s Asia business?
We are developing to become an international hub, a one-point entry to the many different Asian markets. In the global banking industry we can be a small player, but I believe there’s an advantage in being a boutique bank with a trustworthy reputation. We do not only know how to guide the customers with the Asian regulations but we also have a deep understanding of their business in the Nordics. So, I see Nordea as a trusted partner who can offer tailor-made advisory both locally and globally. And we here in Asia are expanding our presence together with our customers.
Thank you Corrado and thank you Singapore!