By Eric Chin | 15 Oct 2021
Although I’ve only lived in London for the past five years – completing my Master’s in data science and starting a career in the finance industry – I have, in fact, been moving about England for most of my life.
My parents moved to the UK for work and raised me in Rochford, a tiny town on the eastern outskirts of London. Many years later, I would spend my teenage years in Southend-on-Sea and do my undergraduate studies (in Mathematics, Accounting & Finance) at Loughborough University in the Midlands.
It was only during my primary school years – between the ages of 6 and 12 – that I lived in Southeast Asia, shuttling between Singapore and Malaysia. Here I picked up Chinese and experienced Singaporean culture, including the pressure of having to juggle my studies, after-school tuition, and enrichment classes in abacus, sports, etc.
So, where do I consider home, you may ask? That’s a very good question, one that’s not easy to answer. London and Singapore both feel very homey to me, and I know my way around both cities very well. You could say they’re both home to me. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve always lived the existence of a free bird – independent, untethered, constantly on the move.
How I Ended Up in Fintech
The start of my working life followed a fairly standard route. After graduation, I pursued a bank career with Lloyds for two years, first in a sales and trading role then switching over to data science.
Things took an unexpected turn when Revolut reached out to me and made an offer, which I accepted. Several months after joining their P&L Optimization team, my current boss Don Hoang (who previously led mergers and partnerships at Uber) invited me to join his Global Business team, which I now lead as Head of Strategy and Operations.
Revolut’s Rapid Rise
Revolut is a fintech company that seeks to revolutionise the traditional banking world. We consistently innovate a lot of new products and are essentially creating a superapp to dominate every consumer vertical out there: from simple money transfers to crypto trading, retail products to hotel booking.
Joining Revolut was a huge decision for me, even if it seems like an obvious choice right now. Back then, it was a comparatively small company, with only around 500 employees.
During my interviews, I was given a heads-up on the company’s future growth, but I never expected everything to happen this quickly. We’ve grown to 15 million users in 35 countries and, just within the past year, funding has skyrocketed from US$5.5 billion to US$33 billion – that’s a 6x increase in terms of valuation. We are now the second-largest private company in the EU (behind Klarna, the Swedish buy-now-pay-later giant) and the most valuable tech startup in the UK.
Fast Times, Fast Results
At Revolut, things move quickly. Our KPIs are assessed on a quarterly basis, and even though we have thousands of employees, we still function like a start-up, with a very flat hierarchy. Ideas are implemented quickly, and I can feel the impact we make on the world. It’s very satisfying to create products that your friends are using, and receive their immediate feedback, which helps us make the products even better.
My rise within the company has been equally unexpected, especially imagining my career trajectory had I stayed at a bank. What I’ve learned at Revolut is that there’s no correlation between skills and age. I truly believe in the company’s principle of ‘Never Settling’, always pushing for excellence. If you have the right skills, the right drive and the right attitude, then you are right for the role.
For me, that role entails ensuring that our business models are generating good ROI, and that we have efficient processes and the right talent in place. On a day-to-day basis, our work is pretty much project-driven. We create business cases backed by data, package them and push them to market. Our commercial experts then use these to drive projects such as our partnership with Vodafone Romania or the card launch campaign featuring two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.
Advice to Aspirants
Fintech is definitely a hot space right now and everybody wants to be in it. We’re hiring more people than I could have ever imagined. Our department in London started off with three to four people, now we have about 50, and we’re looking to scale up the workforce even further.
Should you jump on board? If you’re looking for a 9-to-5, think twice. You’re here to create change and make an impact around the world. If you do decide to join the industry, make sure you’re fully equipped. It’s not a place where you learn from scratch, but one where you apply what you know. At a fintech, don’t expect someone to hold your hand or teach you everything. My advice is always not to step directly into fintech but to go to a big company first, where you will receive more structured training and guidance.
The fintech environment can be high-pressure and lead to burnout. It’s important to recall why you signed up for this and what your core motivation is in order to keep yourself going. For myself, I want to create something of my own in the future, and I know Revolut is an ideal place for me to learn and equip myself.
My Life in London
London is an extremely diverse place, where people and ethnicities from all around the world are connected in one central hub. That’s the beauty of the city, really. I also love that it has a great sense of creativity and flexibility, and that ideas flow easily here.
I live in a very central and chill neighbourhood near the Olympic Park, 10 minutes from the office. There’s a huge shopping complex right next to me, which I like. (I’m still Asian, after all.) On weekends, I keep active: usually badminton and hiking, but sometimes I go running as well. Weekends are also a time for hanging out with friends, over dim sum, perhaps, or karaoke.
To keep my entrepreneur mindset going, I make sure to carve out time to brainstorm with a few friends. It can get tiring, but it’s a discipline that I am passionately committed to.
Keeping connected to Singapore is easy since I stay in touch with family and have a group of Singaporean friends in London. I watch CNA all the time, when I’m cooking or studying, to keep up with what’s happening in Singapore, as well as Singaporean YouTube shows like Food King. Whenever I learn of a good restaurant, I jot it down, so I know exactly where I’ll be heading when I’m back.
How I long for some good food back in Singapore, right now! I especially love the late-night jaunts to the hawker centre. There’s always something open in Singapore, whereas in London, everything shuts by 8pm at the latest.
Will I Return to Singapore?
I haven’t been home in two years since the pandemic. And as my parents get older, I do feel the desire to spend more time with family. That’s why I can’t wait to come to Singapore soon.
Over the past year, I’ve had countless Singaporean friends leave London because they were transferred back to Singapore. This has definitely stirred thoughts in me about whether I should consider moving back as well, sooner or later.
I’ve never worked in Singapore, and would love to do so at some point, perhaps creating an app or business in Singapore that will disrupt the regional market in some way. Southeast Asia’s innovation scene is certainly on the rise. Venture capital funding has more than doubled since 2015, startups are a lot less congested than in the West, and the tech infrastructure still has great potential for development. I believe this is where the opportunities lie.
I’ve gotten very used to the life of a free bird, living independently in the UK for the past 15 years. But who knows? As I stay open to opportunities, perhaps the day will come when I head back to Singapore for good.
Join us and meet others like Eric.
At the age of 27, Eric rose to Head of Strategy & Operations at Revolut, the second-most valuable fintech company in the EU. With roots in Singapore, Eric has lived in the UK for the past 15 years, and hopes to one day create a startup of his own back in Southeast Asia.
Connect with him here.