Consulting in Singapore & South East Asia

Speaker:

ARUN AGGARWAL
BCG – 5yrs → Based in Singapore
Serving Industrial units and private equity

Agenda:

  1. Singapore and South East Asia (SEA) Job market
  2. Strategy consulting/career in Singapore
  3. General Career Success Tips

1. JOB MARKET IN SINGAPORE/ SEA

The Singapore market is currently witnessing extensive growth in certain sectors:

a. Key growth sectors in Singapore at the moment

  • Industrial sectors: Financial Services, Digital banking, EPG, PIPE
  • Functional topics: In the consulting setup, digital transformation is taking place. There is an increase in turnaround activity due to COVID. Companies across industries are also focusing on pricing actions.

b. Locations

The SEA job market works as a system. The culture varies across different countries, like Singapore has high HSI, per capita income, more defined economic laws, etc. compared to the Philippines and Vietnam, which are developing economies. Thailand and Malaysia are more in the middle in terms of their job market outlook. In Indonesia, the economic trend is positive.

The nature of the business, which includes the maturity of clients and businesses served across these countries varies. For example, Singapore is more open and inviting towards people than the other countries in SEA, thus it can be a little difficult to kickstart your career there. Vietnam has a growing market, therefore a lot of people like to take up consulting jobs there.

Working in South East Asian countries may pose language barriers. Local Teams might not be comfortable with English especially in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The higher management may speak English but a great reliance on language translators.

c. Career success tips for these regions

Currently, it is going to be a bit harder to enter Singapore and Thailand due to the COVID situation. Don’t focus on specific countries in terms of strategy consulting. There is an option of fluidity in terms of transfers among various offices, although you may have to go through a 12-month window period to be eligible for transfers (especially at BCG).

Commit to a single location while applying for a job and don’t try to game the firms. You can show commitment to a location by Learning the language, Doing internships, etc.

d. Jobs in SEA outside consulting

Three sectors where jobs are increasing in southeast Asian countries: E-commerce, AI/Blockchain startups, and Agritech – this is especially growing at a tremendous rate in Singapore

2. STRATEGY CONSULTING CAREERS (SINGAPORE / SEA)

a. Strategy Consulting – office culture/nature of work

In terms of work-life balance, overall sustainability is better than India/Japan but worse than Australia/US/Europe, with a little more hectic hours. Analyzing firm and office culture, BCG values openness, but it is more specific to the location of the offices. For example, in Singapore, most people are ex-patriots, while Indonesian offices have a younger crowd.

Case team culture sees a mix of Managing Director Partner, client, case team. In a broader sense, clients have different preference values, and one type of case teams cannot be suitable for all clients.

Transparency is high at BCG Singapore. Feedback review is regular and there are opportunities to improve. But one should focus on adaptability as it is much required in Strategy Consulting.

b. Nature of work

Pure strategy work is now more entry to larger work. You are expected to do more of implementation work.
Due to diversity across industries and countries which go through different economic cycles, the nature of work changes quite constantly – no precise estimates can be calculated

c. Visa issues

There were already significant issues regarding visas because of highly unpredictable regulations drawn up by the government – These are more likely to be highlighted due to Covid.

You would need to prove yourself more as a potential candidate, as the bar set will be higher. As long as the company likes your profile, you have a good chance of getting hired in the SEA region (if not Singapore). But, don’t apply directly to Singapore office from other countries. You need to show commitment to the office before applying to that office before. By doing internships, learning the language, studying in the region, etc.

Always have a plan B which can act as a backup in case things don’t work out. An in 2020, have a Plan C as well.

SCHOOLS FOR MBB’s in SINGAPORE / SEA

INSEAD, NUS, NTU, etc are the top schools but a degree/college is not sufficient to differentiate yourself for employment purposes. Interviewers take a more individualistic approach towards the candidates.

Direct job application to the SEA market is possible but make sure to expose yourself to the market before. This can be done via internships, learning a language, etc. which shows your dedication towards getting the job.

“Brands” are definitely given value, especially if the school is not as renowned.

Tips for candidates who are not getting internships in 2020

Approach firms and request for work experience even if unpaid;
Focus on building skills related to consulting
Remember to keep a sane head

The kind of People hired at BCG are
Smart but humble: Interviewers usually hire a candidate by imagining him/her in a team, thus taking in account factors other than industrial skills
No one likes Bull Shitting: Someone who is trying to overstate their accomplishments, game the interviewers will definitely not land up a job at the firm

Some common mistakes made

Reading newspapers and going through B-school cases is much more necessary and critical.

Focus on having a better understanding of the industry. Frameworks are important but not sufficient. You must build a wider knowledge base and getting a broader perspective of the industries

3. General Career Success Tips

Ask yourself some questions (Get answers to these questions). Could be very helpful!!

i. Do you understand the 5 big drivers of the main industries?
ii. Are you parroting what a majority of the people are saying?
Remember to differentiate yourself from the rest by having a specific point of view.
iii. Do you have a balance between competing thoughts in your head?
Have a perspective, but be willing to change as new data becomes available/
iv. Do you differentiate between brainstorming and argument?

Consulting is an imprecise business. Working in a team requires more brainstorming ideas than getting into arguments.

Tips for working professionals

Be firm about getting into the consulting industry. It can be difficult for some people to adjust who are used to a certain environment, so be definitely sure about entering into the industry

Also, rethink what you bring to the table. This means keeping in mind to have a USP to yourself.

Leave a Comment