Embrace the unknown
The first time I had heard of Temenos was from the job description I received in a university email sent by the SUTD Career Development Centre. I felt quite embarrassed for not knowing the company so I immediately went on the web and the results of my google search informed me that Temenos is a banking software company, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Similarly, Luxembourg was a country I was unfamiliar with and had no prior intention of visiting. I had to look up Luxembourg on the world map and I learnt that it was a city-state bordered by France, Belgium and Germany. Nevertheless, I sent in an application, and through the hiring process, I started to understand more about the job requirements and the unique opportunity to go to Luxembourg for the Sales Academy, which would last from Fall 2018 to Spring 2019. The prospect of living in Europe for a while, attending courses in banking and receiving training in software made me very keen about the job. In due course, I received the job offer and accepted it within a month of graduation.
Living out of my comfort zone
Less than a week after graduation, I was on a 14-hour flight to Luxembourg with two huge suitcases. Now, where would I stay for the next 6 months? The arrangement was for me to be in a house of 10 young working professionals. Most were starting out in their career or doing an internship in Luxembourg. It was nice to be able to meet people living on the other side of the planet and get to know more about their culture. However, it was something very different from an overseas vacation; it was actually living with people from a foreign land, sharing a kitchen with people who have different standards of cleanliness and wear shoes in the house. Despite having served in the army, it was definitely living out of my comfort zone.
Living alone also left me in an interesting predicament – I had to learn to cook! In Singapore, I would often eat out and there was no real need to cook because of the affordability of food and convenience of food delivery apps. However, in Luxembourg, where eating out is not so friendly on the wallet, I had to visit the supermarket and butcher often to prepare for my meals. I stuck with a few dishes that were simple and not too time consuming, cooking a few meals in one go. This really helped me to save time and money, in order to fund my travels.
Being bilingual isn’t that impressive
During the 6 months, I spent most of my time with my colleagues in the Sales Academy: 30 individuals, coming from 22 different nationalities, speaking 17 different languages. Everyone knew at least two languages, with some knowing up to 4 (for example, English, Spanish, French, Italian). I really looked up to these colleagues who were born in one country, grew up in another, studied in a university away from home and continued to work and live abroad. They were able to pick up additional languages from their experiences all over the world. Being a bilingual Singaporean Chinese does not seem that impressive after all. Their lives seem so much more colorful compared to mine – I was born, grew up, studied university and started work all in Singapore. Having said that, I believe everyone in the Sales Academy brought a different flavor to our shared experience, just like the different chemicals that make up a perfect formula.
The in-between of Banking and Software
We went through intensive sessions on the foundations of the banking industry, spanning from retail banking to risk management. Lessons given by working professionals from banks and financial institutions provided us the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers that were not only theoretically sound but also full of industry knowledge. Although lessons conducted came with a European context, what I learned regarding directives and regulations (like GDPR, PSD2, and SEPA) gave insight on the good work that the EU has done. In many ways, I can see ASEAN trying to emulate the EU. I can tell that organizations within ASEAN, despite not having the same authority as the EU over its member states, are working towards a harmonious way of transacting and banking.
Having learnt the fundamentals, we then went on to receive sessions regarding the various suites of the Temenos software offering. Sometimes, sessions could get pretty technical and I am glad that my knowledge in object-oriented programming was helpful in understanding why the software has been developed in a specific way. Not only did I learn how to use and configure the software according to the requirements of banks, but I also learnt about the value of fully integrated digital core banking systems and the nature of the software industry. To me, Temenos lies in-between banking and software. We make use of state-of-the-art software development to produce a packaged, upgradeable solution for banks.
In addition, we had inspiring dialogues with senior management. During one of the sessions with David Arnott, then-CEO of Temenos, he shared his view on how the software industry is a winner-takes-all market. He gave examples of companies like Microsoft dominating the computer software industry, Apple and Android in the mobile OS industry. His sharing and insights resounded with me. It is without a doubt that banks are risk adverse when it comes to IT infrastructure change. They tend to have a herd-like mindset, always following the leader. Many still run on legacy software built 30 years ago. This highlights the large opportunity that Temenos has to fight for and the work at hand – to enable banks all over the world, big or small, empowered by a fully integrated banking software solution. In a time like this, Temenos has to make sure it catches the wave, ride it far and not crash under it.
What a time to be alive!
I am glad the job description email, which popped up in my inbox, had caught my attention. Never would I have expected to be in a role like my current one. I always thought I would end up as a data analyst or an associate in a consultancy firm. There are so many unknowns in life; sometimes you make turns that you do not see coming.
In hindsight, as a graduate in Engineering Systems and Design, with an interest in finance and analytics, this has been the perfect job for me. Being a business solutions consultant, I need to understand the way banks operate and how our software complements their needs, in terms of technology trends and business objectives. It is truly an exciting time to be part of the major digital transformation that many banks are going through now!
If you want to embark on the 2019 Sales Academy journey, apply for one of the positions HERE.