It was during the Christmas holidays of 2015 that I received the exciting email from Magnus Karlsson, Head of Nordea Markets Sales in Singapore. The message headline read “Summer Internship”.
I was enjoying a family Christmas lunch when the message popped in with the merry announcement that the Singapore office would like to welcome me for a 6 week internship during the coming summer. I was quick to reply and accept this delightful offer. It was like a perfect Christmas present, and I celebrated the great news with a few of our local (Jutlandic) “cocktails” called kaffepunch!
I applied for the internship to challenge myself, to get a better understanding of operations in Asia and to meet new people in a different cultural environment. I was also seeking an answer to the question whether I more actively should plan for a position abroad sometime in the future. There was no doubt that I was looking forward to the summer with immense excitement.
100 multiple choice questions
Long before leaving for Singapore, an intense approval and pre-screening process began with HR, the immigration office of Singapore and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). A thorough background check was performed and a lot of paperwork was filled in and signed before I received my final approval. Big thanks to Ashlie from HR in Singapore for her patience and helpful guidance.
Finally, June came and I left for Singapore with butterflies in my stomach. I arrived on a Saturday morning and quickly settled in at Orchard Parksuites close to the famous Orchard Road and all its shopping malls. With Singapore’s close proximity to Equator you naturally face a different climate, a moist, humid and heavy air that demands several weeks of acclimatization. In sharp contrast every building in Singapore is heavily air-conditioned with dry, cold air challenging your immune system to cope with this temperature rollercoaster. Welcome to Singapore.
The first week at the office was a busy one as I had to pass an exam to get the certification that would grant me my final approval from MAS to interact with clients in Singapore. The certification was an exam of 100 multiple choice questions on primarily legal aspects of dealing with OTC foreign exchange, money market instruments and derivative products in Singapore. The fact that I needed to pass the test to be operative and useful at the office, many hours was spent studying for the exam. Luckily I passed the exam on my first attempt the day prior to the British EU referendum – and what an experience that was. Sitting on the front row, watching the markets react to the results as they ticked in during the early hours in Singapore. Obviously the British decision to leave the EU surprised the markets, which kept trading busy all day trying to handle one of the most volatile days in FX ever. Certainly that was an exciting and memorable end to my first week at the Singapore office.
Graveyard shifts and expert cases in a cultural melting pot
Daily procedures and early morning shifts is part of the routine at the Singapore office. Twice I had the graveyard shift which means being at the office at 3 AM Monday morning covering the first hours of the new week. The early hours are rarely very busy but an important aspect of the service we offer our global customers. The daily procedures in Singapore Sales are among other things posting morning comments and relevant news and information to customers during the day, quoting deposit rates and FX to customers who call in or over a Bloomberg or Reuters chat. There is also some manual hedging of payments from netbank with respect to certain emerging markets currencies that e-markets do not quote. Unfortunately we did not have much derivative action during the 6 weeks I was in Singapore. As my main focus at the office in Aarhus for years has been derivatives I did hope for a deeper insight into the derivative business in Singapore and did expect cases, meetings and customer contact with a derivative focus. However, as the markets are these years the derivative business is very limited at the Singapore branch – but that might change!
I quickly fell in love with the city and especially the cultural diversity amazed me. People of so many different cultures with very diverse backgrounds and histories form a cultural melting pot and a very special atmosphere where it seems like no one is a minority. This cultural mecca gives you access to genuine and delicious cuisine from all parts of the world. Being a bit of a food fanatic I spent much time chasing local foods whether that being at food markets in China Town, tiny restaurants in Little India or sipping champagne at the famous Singapore Sunday Brunch. Singapore is an amazing city – I can’t recommend strongly enough to make a few days stopover in this vibrant city whenever you travel to Southeast Asia or on your way to Australia or New Zealand.
It was as if time went by faster in Singapore. Before I knew it I was planning my departure and saying goodbye around the office. My next stop was the popular holiday spot Bali where I had time to lean back, relax and reflect on my learnings and experiences from the 6 weeks in Singapore. While enjoying the view of the Uluwatu waves from my sunbed with a Bintang in my hand I concluded that my time in Singapore would not be my last time working abroad. Singapore is an absolutely amazing spot with so much to offer – I would not hesitate to return at any time.
I want to thank every single one at the Singapore office for welcoming me and showing me a good time – they are all part of my memorable experience. However, I want to send a special appreciation to the guys and wonderful ladies in the “fish tank”. I left Singapore with great memories and experiences, professionally and personally. I also took with me a new and very valuable network but most importantly, I made new friends.
Thank you Singapore.
Click to read about Leena’s internship in Singapore in 2015.