Life Long Learner: Madeline Ho

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It is no surprise that Ms Madeline Ho (BBA 1990) believes that people should invest in themselves and in their career. Investing is a topic close to her heart as she is the Managing Director of Singapore and South East Asia for Fidelity International, one of the biggest names in fund management.

“You need to invest in your own career,” she said. “You need to read books, talk to people and ask questions. You have to find a new task to learn everyday. You must want to know more.”

“The knowledge you acquire stays with you, not with the company. I feel that if you put in your best to learn, the rewards will come.”

This is a philosophy that she lives by as well. For much of her career, she has sought to learn new things, and that has led her to the pinnacle of her profession.

Starting out

When she first graduated from NUS with a major in marketing, she found that the job market was not kind for marketing graduates. Rather than accept a low paying marketing job, she decided that she would plunge into the world of finance instead, even though that wasn’t her strong suit. She joined a small bank – Asia Commercial Bank – that would soon become Keppel Bank, and after a year’s training, she landed a job in product development.

She got that job through taking charge of her destiny. “I had to fight for the chance to do product development. The bank was taking up advertisements looking for experienced people to do product development. I went to the Head of HR and I said “If we are your home grown trainees, and you are not giving us a chance, then who will give us a change?”

She ended up staying six years at Keppel learning the ropes in product development and later priority banking, before deciding that she needed a change. She could have moved to another bank to continue doing product development but she felt she needed to do something new. As a result, she turned away from banking and joined the fund management industry instead.

New challenges

“After six years in a local bank, I wanted to try a different culture,” she said. Franklin Templeton, the well-known fund management company, had just set up operations in Singapore and Ms Ho was among its earliest hires.

She initially joined the marketing department but quickly seized the opportunity to try her hand at other jobs, like leading the direct sales team and operations. “The lateral moves were good as it gave me a well-rounded perspective of the business. You may not always end up with what you want to do, but when opportunity comes knocking, you must take it and make the best of every opportunity.”

Because she had learned how the other parts of the business operated, she became the natural candidate to eventually run the business. By the time she left, she was the Singapore country head.

She was at Franklin Templeton for 10 years but left when the chance to run Fidelity International’s operations in Singapore came long. “The main push was a chance to start something from scratch,” she said. “Fidelity was a big name globally, but it was not very big in Singapore then. I had the opportunity to fly the Fidelity flag in Singapore and fly the Singapore flag in Fidelity.”

At the time, Fidelity had a tiny presence, selling its funds to the customers of private banks. Under Ms Ho, the company has grown to about 30 people, and has a broad base of customers, including private banks, consumer banks, independent financial advisors, distributing funds to a broad range of clientele ranging from HNW to mass market as well as institutional investors too.

Doing what she loves

Currently, she is working hard to see the company through the economic slowdown. “We need to make sure that in this crisis, we continue to give our clients, our distributors, the right information to help them navigate their investments through good and bad times.” As with many business heads, she is also looking at ensuring that expenses are kept in line with revenue to ensure the business has the ability to ride through bad times and grow in good times.

Apart from investing in her own self and in her career, the other secret of her success is doing what she loves. “You need to like what you are doing. If you like what you are doing, you will do it well.”

She finds her job meaningful. “This is an industry that is very meaningful. You are helping people to grow their wealth.”

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