LAURENCE LIEN (MBA 2000)
Laurence Lien used to have a high-flying job in Singapore’s Administrative Service. At a relatively young age, he was given tremendous responsibility. For example, when he was at the Ministry of Finance, he was given the job of working out the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices for sovereign wealth funds.
However, he put that all aside in 2008 to become the Chief Executive of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, which was set up to promote volunteerism and philanthropy in Singapore.
For him though, the change was not a drastic one, but almost a logical one given his background and interests.
“Having gone through different postings in government, I’d seen different aspects of Singapore whether it’s more economic ones, at the Ministry of Finance or educational ones at the Ministry of Education,” said Laurence. “The posting I enjoyed the most was MCYS or the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. I was exposed to the sector quite a lot.”
At the time, he was also brought in to lead the Lien Foundation, his family foundation, which also gave him exposure to the social work sector.
That interest began when he was very young, thanks to his religious upbringing.“I was part of a church. I was a cradle Catholic and I have been going to church since I was born. Being Catholic, the sense of social mission was there.”
In that sense, that makes him the perfect person to lead NVPC. Currently, the organization is aimed at trying to turn Singapore into a giving nation, where giving is a way of life. According to Laurence, there is still some way to go. “I think for many Singaporeans, giving is still incidental, something you do with your spare change or spare time. It’s not an integral part of a person.”
The sector is short of talented people so the NVPC is focused on building capacity for non-profit organizations. It also wants people to consider jobs in non-profits as a career. Said Laurence: “The non-profit world is challenging. You are dealing with complex issues and complex problems. Solutions are not so straightforward as there are multiple stakeholders.
“With the challenge there is a greater sense of purpose, fulfillment and enjoyment.”
Running the NVPC, an organization with considerably fewer resources than the Administrative Service, has numerous challenges, but Laurence is unfazed. Apart from his 14 years in Government, he also had the benefit of a Master in Public Policy as well as his Master in Business Administration from the NUS Business School.
Laurence benefitted considerably from his MBA, which he did part-time when he was still in the Administrative Service. “A lot of the learning is directly relevant to running an organization, whether it is human resource management, accounting or corporate strategy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the public or non-profit sector, you need good managerial skills. You need tool kits to help you get the best out of your people, to make sure you’re adopting the right strategies, that you are getting feedback that you’re on the right track and doing the right things. And all that training was extremely valuable.”
Eminent Business Young Alumni Award Winners
Huynh Quang Hai (centre left) and Laurence Lien (centre right) with GOH S. Dhanabalan, Chairman of Temasek Holdings & NUS Business School Management Advisory Board (left) and Dean Prof Bernard Yeung (right), at the award ceremony dinner on 12 November 2010