Melvin Tay BSc, ACA, MBA, AIPAS
Tsinghua-MIT MBA Program Class of 2012
Director, Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX)
Breaking Out of the Comfort Zone
Upon graduating from University of Birmingham, Melvin Tay joined PricewaterhouseCoopers’ London Office where he provided advisory and restructuring services to large corporations in financial distress. A few demanding years later, and a little bit wiser, Melvin decided it was time to see more of this wonderful world and experience a different business environment. To facilitate the transition, Melvin realized he needed a different kind of education, one that is challenging and able to project him beyond his comfort zone. When evaluating MBA programs offered by top Business Schools in the West against Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, the decision was obvious.
“When I attended alumni sharing events organized by top tier Western Business Schools and Tsinghua, I noticed a distinct difference between the attitudes of MBA candidates.” Melvin recalled. “Even though MBA candidates in the western schools boast impressive experiences, they were generally satisfied with the status quo. Many of them were consultants or bankers who were already successful and are seeking a ‘brand name’ to add to their resume. Many of them then went back to consulting or banking again after their MBAs. In comparison, Tsinghua MBA candidates were mostly seeking a complete career change and were willing to explore different opportunities rather than staying in their comfort zone. I always believe that life is about progress and taking up challenges. Once you get to a comfortable position, you have to start thinking about the next challenge.”
Navigating Through Challenges
Even though Melvin’s command of Chinese was basic when he first moved to China, he actively attended every event organized by the school regardless of its relevance. In his defense Melvin said “It was the only way to make any sense of who’s who and what’s what!” Rising to be Vice-President of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association in the school, he was also involved with the tech and start-up industry in China, where he learnt how to incubate a business and met with the renowned industry leaders and financiers. Through the school’s MIT-Tsinghua China Lab Program, Melvin learnt about a company that had the license to trade state-owned assets in China and soon found himself working there.
“I thought it was an industry that was worth understanding and exploring because I had just come from the financial services sector in London and there wasn’t any value added to me doing the exact same thing in Beijing. That was why I decided to do something radical and joined the company on an internship program”. Within a short period of time, Melvin was promoted to the position of junior partner, and thereafter, tasked to establish a corporate finance practice that advised state-owned enterprises on strategic acquisitions overseas, after Melvin had demonstrated the ability to close deals for the company on his own.
Relishing Risks and Changes
A year ago, Melvin returned to Singapore to be reunited with his beloved. He broke fresh ground by pursuing a career in a field new to him: the capital markets. As Director of Listings at the Singapore (Stock) Exchange, he continues to work with central and provincial government officials and companies from China, in which he advises them on their IPO and capital raising considerations.
In November last year, he was also part of the team that championed the signing of an arrangement between Singapore Exchange and the Chinese Securities Regulator which allows Chinese companies to list directly in Singapore, instead of using an offshore entity to effect this. Singapore is the first and only country to date with such an agreement with the CSRC.
Even after his return to Singapore, Melvin had been receiving job offers from reputable companies around the world, to which he credits Tsinghua for. “Tsinghua changed my life. It was one of the most exciting and challenging periods. Students around me had influenced me a lot, particularly in the way I think. Interactions with members of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management’s Advisory Board had also left deep impressions on me,” he recalls. “Any foreign student who comes to Tsinghua should try and learn from the Chinese in terms of pro-activeness and their drive to succeed. Many of my Chinese classmates have no reservations about getting in front of people and start talking to them, and in the process, find out if there are any business opportunities. Even if it means getting a lot of rejections, you have to do it because nothing will be served to you on a silver platter”.