Conversations with Jenny Cheah

By Au Yi Qi

Jenny Cheah is the Regulatory Oversight Lead at Wise. In this article, she shares about the work she does, her career journey, and her tips for youths aspiring to join the FinTech industry.

My role is to champion compliance through reviews with the aim of ensuring that our products and services are compliant, and that our customers are protected.

To translate that, my typical workday would consist of:

  • a cup of coffee,
  • having discussions with other teams to understand their processes and controls,
  • identifying compliance areas that can be enhanced,
  • figuring out practical fixes on any compliance issues,
  • comparing notes with other compliance folks across our regional offices,
  • creating nice reporting slides; and
  • crossing off my lengthy to-do lists.

Like many other finance professionals, I graduated with an accountancy qualification from ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and joined one of the Big 4 firms, PwC, under their Audit and Assurance arm.

I spent some good 6 plus years in PwC, where I got to try out many different types of projects across different industries. My most memorable experience would be doing a two-day stock count of screws!

Despite the variety, I have found myself being most interested in Financial Services as they are very relatable to our daily lives. While I started out doing projects across banks, I eventually found myself once again gravitating to Payments in the FinTech industry. The reason this time was similar but more fascinating – the ability to help make everyday spending and payments simpler, faster, and more convenient.

Being a Compliance professional was just purely going along with the flow. There had been many compliance and FinTech related projects during my time in PwC and it led to many further opportunities down the road – one of it leading to Wise and my current role.

Personally, I gain job satisfaction less out of the work scope but more of the environment where everyone strives to work together to solve the problem at hand. This means that I enjoy the portion of my work where:

  • I get to work with many different teams with people from different backgrounds (both culturally and with a variety of experiences) as it offers different perspectives in solving the same problem
  • I get to really dig deep into the issues, understand the pain points and be able to offer my help to other teams

It also helps that at the end of the day, I get to learn how to see from various aspects and improve my problem-solving ability.

I personally did not experience any major shocks in terms of expectations vs reality when I joined FinTech. I am happy to say that most of the expectations I had of joining a FinTech was met in terms of growth opportunities, flexible working arrangements, leaner structure, and communication lines as well as better employee benefits.

It really boils down to what extent your expectations are and to be clear on that, I would suggest that anyone looking to join the industry ask about those in the interviews or any other forums so that you will not be disappointed with where you are heading to.

Personally, the few aspects that I really like in Wise would be:

  • Transparency within the organisation – teams across Wise are very willing to share what they are up to, and it means that getting access to information can be very quick
  • Autonomous team structure means that every individual is empowered to actively contribute to the projects that they are on or even those that they are not on

This is possible because everyone on board the rocket that is Wise, truly believes in the mission that we have. “Money without borders – instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free”.

Ironically, it is probably those that are also giving me job satisfaction at the same time. It is always a challenge for me to bring everyone together on the same page to clearly articulate what are the issues at hand, why we need these gone, and how are we going to go about it.

Another challenge is that the role requires much attention to detail – literally every word matters and with multiple perspectives, it is quite difficult to decide on the right course of action to take. This is multiplied by the need for quick turnarounds by teams.

This is probably still a work in progress, but I think I am getting there! Two things that I always keep in mind:

  • Always set boundaries when you would not worry about that unfinished work. I have come to accept that work can never be truly finished because if it does, it means that I will be out of a job already. For me, the boundaries are the weekends, where it is meant to be me time or family time.
  • Try to fully disconnect whenever you have set the boundaries. If not, the most you can do is read the emails, jot down important action points, and only come back to it during work hours. All work is important but so is your health and family.

For hard skills, it would be the understanding of the laws and regulations as well as critical thinking on how they can be practically implemented so that it aligns with the business needs. Another one would be knowing how to determine whether what has been or is being put in place for us to be compliant is working as it is intended to.

All soft skills are important because the role requires loads of interaction with other teams within Wise. Often, it is to discuss issues that have come up and how to get it fixed as soon as possible. There will be many difficult conversations where the following traits are key – being solution-driven, being able to actively listen to others, being open to feedback and genuinely wanting to help.

This would link up with the previous question on work-life balance. I wished that I was able to learn that sooner. I started work at 21 and back then, I did not realise that I have a big portion of my life where I would be able to spend my time on work, but there is only one time where I am 25, 30 or any other age.  

On work, I wish to have been able to cut down more on the ego bit. Asking for help during work does not mean I am incompetent; it just means that I value others’ inputs – more brains on it means we get through it faster and better.  Fearing to ask questions because my questions may be stupid? That just means I am missing out on important information and most of the time I would eventually have to ask it anyway much later at critical timings.

There are many types of FinTech companies – Payments, Lending, Robo Advisors, Insurance, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. All these can be branched into more specific offering types like digital wallets, payment gateways, merchant acquisition in Payments, P2P lending, digital banks, SME business loans in lending.

What this means is that there are plenty of choices and knowing which interests you matters. Take time to learn about the missions, business models, longer term strategies and the culture. Once you have done all the research, it will help you to know which FinTech industry and company you want to be at, and the plus point is also that it will equip you with the knowledge to ace that interview. Win-win.

I think this is quite similar to what I have shared above: take some time to research what piques your interest; it will at least be the starting step or will help narrow down the choices that you have – think of it like answering a multi-choice question. If you know the answer immediately, go for it, if not, narrow it down.

Also, once you have chosen something, be positive about it and compare less to others. There is always something to learn from all experiences, be it hard or soft skills. Take all you can and take it step by step, re-evaluate your choices from time to time and decide again if it is for you. If it helps, know that I am also, still, unsure of what and where I will be in the coming years.