Banking & Finance
Life in the Fast Lane
by Sam Yip
Sun Tzu once said, “The contour of the land is an aid to an army; sizing up opponents to determine victory, assessing dangers and distances, is the proper course of action for military leaders. Those who do battle knowing these will win, while those who do battle without knowing these will lose.”
Risk Management is like a battlefield described by Sun Tzu in The Art of War. This saying is more than apt of Business Risk Specialist Ja-Mein Lim’s banking career. As a Business Risk Specialist for an internationally renowned private bank, Ja-Mein Lim assists his clients to weigh the pros and cons of their business and recommends limits to monitor and regulate control. A complex field of work, Risk Management requires experience and insights, and more often than not, the fortitude to succeed
Mr. Ja-Mein Lim
How did you get started on a career in Risk Management?
Ja-Mein Lim: Since graduating in 2005, I have been in risk management. My foray into this area was a fortuitous one. I certainly did not make a conscientious choice to seek a risk management career in banking. However, my first job as an analyst with a global consulting firm was to implement a credit risk framework for a bank and that was how it all started. I am currently a Business Risk Specialist, prior to that I was a Credit Risk Reporting Manager with another financial giant.
Let’s talk about your current bank job. What does it entail?
Ja-Mein Lim: Broadly speaking, my job as a business risk specialist is to deliver client-centric risk management solutions and processes for front office that are efficient. This entails designing and implementing front-to-back controls that address different risk elements in different areas of the business.
Being a Risk Specialist is a challenging vocation. What inspired you to be a Risk Specialist and how did you get to where you are now?
Ja-Mein Lim: I don't recall being inspired to be in risk management. My opportunity with the subject is a lucky one when I got my first finance job. I have continued to work in this line because the subject has many disciplines that impact different areas of a business. This creates a dynamic learning environment. It also helps that the general risk awareness level in the environment has increased over time. Now businesses are just as focused on risk management as they are on revenue generation. I recall many years ago a friend telling me the function of risk is to act as a business deterrent. The mood has certainly changed over last few years. I believe perseverance and an unwavering desire to learn have kept me relevant in my line of work.
I also believe that this is true across any line of work.
As a Risk Specialist, what are the challenges you face in your line of work and how do you overcome them?
Ja-Mein Lim: Some of the biggest challenges I face at work is trying to keep up with constant changes in the regulatory landscape and increasing turbulent business environment ever since the Financial Crisis. I recall a period of time during the Financial Crisis where the industry was just suddenly inundated with many unexpected risk related control requirements and measures that had to be integrated into the business. Certainly external (regulatory) and internal pressures were felt on both ends. How did I overcome them? I think the best advice I ever received was ‘to continue breathing and always stay positive’.
A piece of career advice: treat every situation, good or bad, as an opportunity to learn and grow. They will indirectly contribute to your future successes.
Which aspect of your job do you enjoy the most and why?
Ja-Mein Lim: The aspect I enjoy the most about my job as a Business Risk Specialist is that it allows me the opportunity to interact with people of all stripes. Most of the knowledge I have attained and lessons earned are through the people I work and interact with. Some of them are senior executives who have a wealth of experience. Their feedback is truly insightful and will help carry me through my career. I keep an open mind and listen as much as I can.
What does the phrase work life balance reminds you of?
Ja-Mein Lim: The phrase reminds me of working on New Year resolutions. You know, it is something you need to do, but keep putting it off over and over again. I recall forfeiting many off days during the early years of my career which I have begun to realise was a disservice to both me and the organisation I work for. A productive worker is one who not only does good work but also knows when to take a well-deserved break. In my opinion, it is also a display of good prioritising skills.
Ja-Mein Lim: I enjoy working out at the fitness centre. I usually get on a bike or lift weights as part of my fitness regimen. I make it a point to slip in a workout session in the middle of a work day (usually lunch time) at least three times a week. Personally, I find that it helps to break the day up nicely and provide a window to recharge mentally (after a huge intake of oxygen). I feel reenergised after a workout compared to a meal. A heavy lunch usually sends me into slumber, but that is just me.
During the weekends, I catch up with friends over meals and drinks. I also make it a point to go on holiday.
Ja-Mein Lim: Risk management is a business with many disciplines that affect different aspects of a business. Job prospects, in my opinion, are stable if not good as risk is an inherent part of any business. It also helps that there is a heightened awareness of risk these days. My personal advice is to understand which discipline interests you the most and to start doing research on it as soon as you can.
For experienced jobseekers, try stepping out of your comfort zone and branch into a new discipline to round out your career in Risk Management. This will increase your exposure and employability, and in most cases, will bring you monetary rewards.