Above All Else, Be Tenacious
The only constant in the world of business is change. TIP alumnus Peng Chun Hsien has seen many waves of change throughout his career – first at a start-up and then at MNCs like Creative Technologies and Citi. At MSc TIP, he met many like-minded tenacious peers and together, they learnt the technologies and tools to stay steadfast through the future.
How does innovation contribute to a large multinational corporation like Citi?
CH: In my role as the Head of Merchant Acquiring and Emerging Payments, I encountered many new cutting edge technologies that bring about shifts in the industry.
The rise of contactless payments, cryptocurrency, bitcoin – are some of the largest shifts we’ve seen in the industry in the past couple of years. With this shift in spectrum and a fundamental understanding of our industry, we have to continuously innovate to keep up with these changes.
What do you think is the most important aspect of an enterprising mindset?
CH: Having tenacity. Being enterprising and to continuously innovate is a long and tough journey – the world keeps changing, and regardless of the task or challenge, you need tenacity, to try different ways over and over again powering through the tough and dark moments to see what works.
There is never a singular solution to problems, and the tenacity to power through these challenges is something that is absolutely necessary.
The awareness that the journey is tough, but sticking through it regardless, to become the best at what you are – that takes tenacity. Across industries, and even in the corporate world as a large multinational, you’d never have enough resources at your disposal. You’re always up against the bigger boys and larger challenges, and it comes down to being tenacious enough to weather it all and attain your end goal.
What are some examples of how you’ve shown tenacity at work?
CH: There are many, but one example I can think of which happened recently was between the period of 2010 to 2015, when I was managing the mortgage portfolio for Citi. It was a really exciting time as we witnessed almost a full economic cycle – the property market grew, peaked, and saw cooling measures as it slowly eased.
It was also during this time that we had to continuously adapt our products and services to match the market’s needs and sentiments. Each time you think you’d achieved something, the market shifts again. To have the willingness to embrace those changes, requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
How we are able to create new products for new moments, to deliver the products that people really want – that took a lot of tenacity amidst the changes.
What then made you want to further your education in technopreneurship and innovation?
CH: I made the decision to enrol in the MSc TIP course because I wanted to meet more like-minded people who operated within the same wavelength. Such a course would naturally attract other people who are at the forefront of technology, and that was something I was really looking forward to. I always believe that knowledge is power, knowledge is always useful, and knowledge builds upon knowledge.
Furthering education, as cliché as it may sound, is something I believe everyone should be given the opportunity to. In a formalised way, an education in technopreneurship creates structure and provides with a concentrated essence of knowledge, delivered through classes, modules and discussion sessions.
Many people I know debated if entrepreneurship can be taught, and while I agree that learning things by doing and experiencing have their own special place, a formalised education has its merits too.
Learning from professionals and industry experts give you the chance to learn from other’s mistakes, and to ride on the shoulders of giants.
Was there a particular moment in your life that led to your interest in entrepreneurship and innovation?
CH: This started many years ago around the turn of the millennium during the dotcom boom. I was working at Creative Technologies, one of the most outstanding and forward-thinking Singaporean tech companies at that time. During that same period, I was also involved with my own online company. Both my corporate and entrepreneurship experience, piqued my curiosity in many things.
What are some lessons from the course that you’ve carried and practiced till this day, not just in an entrepreneurial setting bust also in a large multinational corporation like Citi?
CH: The tenets of what I’ve learned have been useful not just throughout my past decade in Citi, but also throughout my life. One lesson is that you don’t always have to be the one experimenting, learning and establishing things from scratch. There are many forms of literature and research groundwork laid by many people in their fields, we just have to know when and who to turn to and learn from them.
Another key takeaway is that we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to people outside of our fields – this helps us stay current in other areas, such as marketing, business and finance, and allows us to better understand how they all come together.
You have the work experience across startups, SMEs and MNCs – what are some of the mots important lessons you’ve learnt?
CH: One quote I’ve always believed in is, ‘If you want to go quickly, then do it alone. If you want to go far, then you have to do it together’. This sums up my lessons across these different experiences – different companies possess different levels of structure and flexibility, and this is balanced by the individual company’s strategy.
As individuals, we all have our own opinions formed as a result of our history, education and background. It is important that we compromise and align ourselves with the company’s strategy. In a large corporation like Citi, with over 230,000 employees, we’d have to adapt our views and expertise in order to be aligned with the company’s overall strategy and sets of rules.
Even as an entrepreneur, the important thing is to strike a balance between going fast and going far – who’s to say a startup would not be a global conglomerate one day?
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provide consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services and wealth management.