My SMU MWM gave me the technical knowledge I needed to boost my career
Chuck Ng, Head of Distribution and Partnership at Manulife Asset Management, became interested in finance when he was an undergraduate at university.
Singapore-based Ng’s first degree was in chemical engineering, but he knew he wanted a career in finance before he had even graduated. “I’d already developed an interest in financial markets, and I’d often take the campus shuttle bus from the engineering faculty to the business faculty to read the Wall Street Journal, Euromoney and Institutional Investor. It was 20 years ago so you couldn’t get these things on an app,” he says.
When Ng heard that Citibank was visiting the campus on a recruitment drive, he jumped at the chance to apply and secured a place on its management associate programme. Citi’s programme gave him a strong grounding in banking. He worked across the marketing department, front office and back office, and ran projects for the quality management team. “I had a very good time experiencing the broad swathe of what banking has to offer,” says Ng.
Despite his work experience with Citi, Ng was still keen to obtain an academic grounding in finance. “When I joined the industry, I had no academic background in banking or finance, so I was looking at an academically-rigorous programme that would equip me with the requisite knowledge ,” he explains.
Ng also wanted to enrol in a specialised programme that focused on wealth management, and Singapore Management University (SMU) was a pioneer in this area. “I was by then a CFA charterholder, but I wasn’t accredited from a school in the traditional sense. The Master of Science in Wealth Management (MWM) offered by SMU met all my needs and enabled me to further develop my passion,” he says.
It’s now 12 years since Ng graduated from the MWM programme but much of what he learned in the programme still stand out in his mind. “The courses that had the most engagement were the ones with the market practitioners. That’s not surprising because what matters at the end of the day is practical knowledge,” he says.
One of the great things about SMU’s MWM is that the programme is not static but develops as the industry changes, he adds. “I’ve looked at the curriculum for the next cohort and there are fintech and blockchain elements included, all of which didn’t exist in my time but are very relevant today,” says Ng. “This reflects the DNA of SMU. It’s always at the forefront of what the business world is facing and where the challenges are in the financial industry.”
The SMU MWM is ranked third in the world by the Financial Times in its Global Masters in Finance Post-experience Ranking 2018.
Ng also found the international element of the programme very helpful, and enjoyed spending time at one of SMU’s partner institutions in Switzerland. The diversity of the students taking the MWM was another factor that enhanced his learning experience. There were many students from across the world and across Asia – including from China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan – enabling him to be part of an alumni network that was connected regionally and globally.
“It’s very important to have global representation,” says Ng. “It’s increasingly critical in our ever-more connected world to understand how people elsewhere operate and what their worldview is.”
Ng still keeps in touch with many of his classmates. “. Many have become friends and some have helped me in various capacities while others moved on to different careers.”
Ng spent 17 years in banking – in roles including running the EAM (multi-family office platform services) business for Credit Suisse that spanned Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland – before moving into asset management four years ago.
“That move has been great for reinvigorating my sense of adventure, especially at the start when I was setting up the Singapore branch of an asset management company, building a team and fundraising,” he says. “It was a very challenging time and I was learning new things really fast. Most of the important milestones in my life have been times when I was in a state of change.”
For potential students who have spent time working in another industry, Ng thinks SMU’s MWM is a fast way to gain the knowledge they need to get up to speed. “It’s almost like a shorter route that prepares you in a way that few other programmes can,” he says.
He also advises people to take the time to get to know their fellow students while they are in the programme. “A very important aspect is the bonding and the network formed as a result of the growth you experience. Those will be priceless years down the road.”