What a summer – thank you Singapore!

The humidity and heat shocked me when I stepped out of the airplane, and began my adventure as intern at Nordea Markets' branch in Singapore ...

By Sonja Karsten

Even though I was prepared, still, the humidity and heat shocked me when I stepped out of the airplane at Changi Airport in Singapore in the middle of June. This was the start of something new and thrilling, and I was of course very excited about the upcoming six weeks of working with brilliant people in the vibrant Singapore City – Asia’s most important financial hub. Now, six weeks later, it surely has been nothing less than thrilling and exciting – just brilliant in all aspects.

First, let’s go back to the very beginning of my Singapore adventure, which starts in the autumn 2016 in Helsinki with the job ad. When I saw the open position in Singapore for the summer 2017, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. This seemed to be the perfect next step in challenging myself work wise and to broaden my experience within the organization – and personally too. I really wanted to learn more about the international units and how that business differs from what we do locally in Scandinavia. So when I got the news that I got the job, it was a good time to celebrate!

In the front row

Whilst sitting in Helsinki, I didn’t really know what was waiting for me out in Singapore. Obviously, (since I hold a position in the Finnish FX team) the Markets area and especially FX was very familiar to me. But at the same time, I was also aware that I knew little about what the rest of the Singapore branch was doing. When I arrived I soon found out that it’s like a mini version of the bank; you can find almost ‘everything’ and everyone you need, in order to serve our customers fully from Asia. I could feel that the potential for growth here is big.

As an international bank, we provide services for our customers 24/5 – so the mornings in Singapore are very early. The early hours were never a problem for me though; not even at 3 A.M. on Monday morning – perhaps I was still in the honeymoon phase with the whole city where I found everything exciting. As odd as it may sound, there is actually some action during those early hours as well so it is very fascinating to be sitting in the front row when the financial markets open.

Being out here in Singapore has been very exciting and highly educational – and has helped me see things from a more holistic perspective.

And this summer, we had some great moves at the financial markets as well; the EUR strengthened to over two-year highs, the SEK got a kick when the inflation numbers surprised, and the GBP has been volatile following the Brexit negotiations.

Wonderful, open and inviting

I really enjoyed my stay at our Singapore branch both professionally and socially. Singapore is full of activities, including restaurants, rooftop bars, hawker centers, shopping malls, clubs, yoga studios, beach clubs at Sentosa, brunches, parks with nice walking routes; you name it. Everything you wish to do can be done here – only your imagination sets the limit. As you can guess, it was not hard to find entertainment for the spare time in the city, and the people I have met were wonderful, open and inviting.

A lot is centered around the food, and I don’t think I have eaten one bad dinner here even once. I have of course tried the local specialties as well, such as chili crab and chicken rice – both delicious, by the way. The hawker culture is very special here; it’s like huge food courts and it really doesn’t matter what you pick as everything is delicious, authentic and served with a very good price compared to the prices you find in the supermarkets. I also had the possibility to travel to Indonesia during my stay, and try a little bit of wake boarding with a group of new friends. There are also various possibilities for weekend trips from Singapore with only a few hours to places like Bangkok or Bali.

Mixed feelings

When I had to say goodbye to Singapore in August, it was with very mixed feelings. I felt very sad to leave the energetic city – but of course happy to meet friends and family back home in Finland. Maybe I even get a few days of the Finnish summer as well before the autumn comes.

I can’t thank my colleagues in Singapore enough for the experience. I will take everything with me back home, right from the beginning; starting with the warm welcome on day one when I arrived at the office a bit jet lagged but excited, to the farewell dinner on the last evening of my stay. During my short stay I have met so many wonderful people and made new friends that I am going to miss. Thank you! Until next time, Singapore 😉

/ Sonja

Click here to visit Sonja’s LinkedIn profile.

Read the blog post from the previous summer interns in Singapore from 2016 and 2015:

2016: “Graveyard shifts and Brexit kicks in Singapore

2015: “Farewell Singapore – let’s keep in touch!

Background info about the author – in Sonja’s own words: “I started working at Nordea as a summer intern back in 2014 in Finland. Since then, I’ve been working at Nordea Markets’ Helsinki office covering corporate FX clients, which means helping them hedging solutions and executing trades. I’ve also been involved in the Liquidity Management for the same customer segment. Back home – in Finland – I am currently part of the Markets FX e-Sales team and strongly involved in the different e-solutions Nordea Markets is offering as well.”