Why should we need to take an extra mile? We had a chat with Pony Lau, from Institutional Banking Group (IBG) – SME Banking, to know more about his “front-middle-back” journey in DBS and how he grows continuously with the bank and make his dream come true.
“I have a dream - let me talk about it first. I have a passion in myself – I want to contribute and make a difference to the world within my reach. It is difficult, but all it takes is put one foot in front of the other. We can start from own self,” said Pony. “I studied Global Business in the university . After graduation, I had different career streams to choose from, like investment bank, commercial bank and fund house. I chose to pursue my career in commercial banking field, which I believe is impactful to many. I joined DBS as a Management Associate. During this 2-year programme, one of the key takeaways was getting to know how such a huge bank works. I kept asking colleagues in different business and supporting units, junior and senior, to learn more about their duty, core value, mindset and concerns. Rapport built with colleagues across the bank also helped a lot in my future roles. This programme is a luxury that I have made the most out of it to build a solid foundation for my career.”
He shared, “I started working as a Relationship Manager to serve SME clients. Though I was a fresh graduate at that time, I had chances to meet many successful business people. As I just newly joined the banking industry, it’s not easy to get the trust from clients comparing with experienced relationship managers from other banks. I have to put in extra effort to know my customers’ business model, needs and concerns. I am glad that my customer-oriented mindset and sense of ownership won trust from many clients as well as businesses. Credit sense is also huge takeaway – SME’s credit worthiness can’t be solely understood on paper but you need to also assess the management commitment and style. This 3-years’ exposure in the front-line has definitely geared up my relationship building and credit skills.”
Pony did not stop himself for continuous improvement. “After this, I was honoured to have a chance to work in SME Credit of Risk Management Group (RMG) for 6 months. I moved from front-line (relationship manager) as a striker originating business to RMG as a midfielder (credit risk manager) to manage credit risks. Reviewing credit applications solidified my risk & control mindset, learning from senior and junior colleagues about their mindset and area of concerns. I also led an SME credit assessment digitalisation project, aimed to standardise credit assessment for smaller SME credit. Data is key – we can’t solely rely on our experience to make judgement. ”I reviewed over 200 credit queries from live cases, as well as how they were answered to satisfaction. I realised not only there were key additional credit queries RM needs to address for each case, but also there was a communication gap that sometimes RM could not answer in form of how CRM wanted. We have added key additional questions into the credit underwriting tool, and also have provided list of standardised answers for RM to choose as appropriate, with blanks to fill in key figures. Ambiguity of answers is greatly reduced as there are formula at the back end to tell whether the figures input are acceptable to address CRM’s concerns,” he explained.
With the proposal ready, another challenge came up. Pony continued, “We need management buy-in before we could execute. I pitched senior management of RMG and Business unit – it was well received given our thorough understanding of what we believed in and what we wanted to achieve for SME business and credit. What amazed me was that even for senior management, their level of details was so extensive that we literally went through everything line by line. With their support, we went for technical execution and it was also a great learning for me. I worked as the bridge between Business unit and Tech team to translate business requirements and conduct UAT. To make it work, I drilled down into every details and defined clearly our requirements for Tech team’s easy understanding. I am pleased that this digitalisation project rolled out successfully which could streamline small SME credit underwriting process.”
“I led strategic planning team in IBG4 in last 4 years, where I involved in many important milestones, ups and downs and strategic initiatives. My goal is to make IBG4 a sustainable and growing franchise through various aspects, such as productivity and model optimisation, digital initiatives and ecosystem play.” Pony explained with enthusiasm, as strategic planning role is what he aimed for since the beginning of his banking career. “One of the key milestones is the SME Servicing Model Revamp. We optimised our SME branch footprint and built our flagship SME Center in Mira Place, Tsim Sha Tsui. The design and tone is a breakthrough with CRESA’s support. It is comfortable with sufficient customer meeting facilities, as well as a pleasant workplace for our colleagues. We bring in semi-open sofa set to maximise the capacity but can still give customer a sense of privacy. I am honoured to represent the Hong Kong team to share this model revamp to Piyush, GMC and other management in Regional Customer Experience Council in Singapore.”
“HK SME Digibank is also our top priority,” Pony shared. “I led HK SME Digibank Lending Stream, targeted to enhance lending customer and employee journey to make us competitive enough and become scalable in business. This is extremely complex as lending journey is very lengthy end-to-end with many stakeholders, procedures and guidelines. Not only we have developed an online channel for loan application, we also had a great success to digitalise many tedious manual processes by launching a new system called SME Financing Workflow (SFW), such as name screening, customer profile creation, legal document generation, limit setup and loan disbursement. A minimum viable product (MVP), a solid cornerstone for further enhancement, has just been rolled out for business pilot. We aim to further enhance customer and employee journey in the future product. This is really an exemplary collaboration across the many end-to-end stakeholders and regional business and tech. We work towards the same goal and we support one another by going for extra miles, especially under the difficult time of COVID-19. I am really grateful to work with so many dedicated colleagues and I have learnt a lot!”
Pony told us delightedly, “You may not know, but what I am really proud of is my team. They succeed my spirit to wear the hat of the franchise and stretch themselves to strike for the best. We always put ourselves into our counterparts’ shoes and walk extra miles to support them. I could see all the trust, creditability and reputation built not only for me but also for my team. I am really grateful to groom this team enough to succeed my burning fire to support IBG4 franchise!”
“I have to sincerely thank my respected coaches and mentors, namely Alex Cheung, Monique Lau, Lirranna Sun, Patrick Lau, Candice Ho, Boris Chan, Trevor Cheung, Winny Wong and many more. It is such a luxury that they have been very supportive and never hesitate to coach me with their extensive knowledge and experience. I am encouraged to be confident, passionate and also embrace challenges – I never forget that I want to make a difference for the world within my reach! We are all in charge of our own career. Be open-minded and be enthusiastic to grow with the bank - Stay hungry. Stay foolish all the times.”
Last but not the least, we asked Pony to share any advice to his fellow colleagues, especially the young talents. He replied, “Take the driver’s seat. If you want to make things happen, take up the ownership and responsibility. Be proactive and passionate – never afraid of taking an extra mile for the good of others. Your action can influence others to make the workplace and the world better and better!”