Not many people know that GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, works like a speedy tech start-up.
“I thought we would be operating very much like a public sector organisation,” admits Marvin, its Division Head of Business Partner & Solutions and Regional Technology when he first joined more than 20 years ago.
That misconception was quickly cleared up after he saw just how dynamic the team was. “We are not as large as banks, but much nimbler. While we have legacy systems, we’ve pivoted out from many of them,” he says.
Today, Marvin’s team delivers software for in-house customers including trade execution, operations in public markets and private markets, risk, corporate services, and enterprise solutions.
He sees that the organisation's progressive approach is paying off: GIC recently became the first company in Singapore to develop its own private markets platform.
“Outside of the giant international banks, I don't think anyone has attempted to do something like that, much less accomplished it in two years,” he says.
Complex, product-led work
Despite its achievements, GIC is not content with just being faster on its feet than its peers.
It is undergoing a massive digital transformation that will see its tech team adopt a product-centric approach, like that of tech start-ups. It can do so because technology is a key priority in enabling GIC to be the leading global long-term investor it has ambitions for.
This means a new joiner can expect to work with agile product teams and roadmaps, instead of an older structure of projects and systems.
The organisation also plans to add significantly to its tech core and move its mix of engineers to more in-house projects. It is seeking talent for a wide range of skills, from complex backend engineering to user interface development and quantitative analytics.
Candidates must show passion for tech, learning agility, and hunger to explore – but they will not be left to fend for themselves, Marvin promises.
GIC is hiring more senior tech leaders to mentor junior staff and bringing in technical leaders to develop best practices and encourage adoption of more reusable components.
All this will allow staff to build more profound ability in skills, and ensure “everyone grows and develops well,” he says.
Another advantage? Tech talent will get to work on unusually complex and challenging products available nowhere else, such as modern cloud-native technologies.
“Very often, we do a market scan and realise that our problems are more complex than what's out there,” Marvin explains. “So, we end up developing our own solutions, especially as we scale our investment volumes and products globally.”
For example, senior software developer, Donna has recently helped create solutions that support the generation of more precise and prompt risk and performance data. This lets management make faster decisions amid a crisis, such as Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“Though I started off as an associate, I was presented with opportunities and responsibilities,” says Donna, a statistics degree holder and former IT consultant who joined GIC in 2019.
A culture of teamwork
So why join GIC? Donna, for one, credits the role for developing her into a more well-rounded tech professional.
“It challenged me to think critically and be adaptable, especially when it comes to unfamiliar problems,” she says. “I developed in-depth expertise, not only in technical skills but also establishing and managing stakeholder relationships.”
Her expanded skillset now allows her to develop end-to-end projects and supply holistic solutions to business users.
Another plus, she says, is GIC’s long-term investing approach, which translates to integrated capabilities and stronger coopertation between teams.
Adds Marvin: “We have a long-term orientation, which allows us to invest in technology that helps our investment groups and corporate services to operate better, faster, and smarter.”
One draw both tech professionals cited was the culture of teamwork. Donna recounts how she collaborates day-to-day with like-minded technologists, and partners business users to build tactical solutions.
There are also work groups that streamline technology and data architecture, she says – which in turn helps tech teams and business divisions understand business challenges and predict business needs.
Marvin, too, is “a huge fan of listening to the voice of the team."
“They are closest to the ground and can share insights I can learn from,” he says. “The most interesting work I have done has been around teams: refining their purpose and strategy and executing while adapting to changes.”
Donna sums up her experience as “right culture, right people, and right leadership."
“GIC takes pride in investing in its people,” she says. “Given its mandate of growing Singapore's reserves, it has been an opportunity for me to develop a purposeful career. I am excited to see this technology transformation and be part of the journey.”
Meet the GIC ATLAS project team that won Singapore Business Review’s Technology Excellence Award, to learn how we drive innovation with pragmatism. Register here.
Work at the Point of Impact. Learn more at gic.careers