Moving out of banking mid-career in Singapore is nothing new – plenty of 20 and 30-somethings shift into buy-side or fintech roles every year. It’s less common to ditch the iron rice bowl of finance altogether and take a shot at something entirely different.
But dramatic moves away from banking do still happen in the Republic – and we’ve noticed that some of these have a distinctly culinary theme. Here are nine former Singapore finance professionals now running their own food and drink companies.
1. Sharon Tay: gourmet gelato
Tay had a six-year career in debt capital markets origination, starting out as an analyst at Citi in Hong Kong and ending up as a VP at ING in Singapore, according to her online public profile. But since 2014 she’s been running Momolato, which makes “artisanal gelato and popsicles” in accordance with “classical Italian methodologies”. Alongside her MSc in Mathematical Trading and Finance from London’s Cass Business School, Tay has a certificate from the Gelato University of Carpigiani.
2. Colin Tay: craft beer
Tay had a diverse banking career. He worked in private banking at OCBC until 2004, when he managed to move into investment banking at Goldman Sachs. His final job in finance was at Deutsche Bank as head of client services in Singapore. Now Tay is a self-proclaimed “beeristrocrat”. He’s at the helm of swanky drinks importer Tsa Wines, bringing delights such as Evil Twin, a hipster beer from Brooklyn, to Singapore’s shores.
3. Petrina Loh: chef
Loh spent eight years in wealth management, holding relationship manager roles at DBS, Commerzbank and EFG, according to her public profile. In 2011 she left banking to enrol in Le Cordon Bleu’s culinary programme in San Francisco and worked in kitchens while she studied. The change paid off. Loh is now chef/owner at Morsels in Little India, which serves “wildly creative small plates of ingredient-driven and artisanal fine eclectic cuisine”.
4. Kelvin Ngian: coconuts
Ngian describes himself online as a “purveyor of big juicy nuts”. Translation: he’s a manufacturer and distributor of pre-cut fresh coconuts, which he brings down to Singapore from Thailand. He also owns Singapore’s first home-grown brand of packaged coconut water. Ngian started his company in 2012 after four years helping other small/medium-sized businesses as a corporate banker, first at UOB and then at Standard Chartered.
5. Nicholas Haas: cocktails
Hass graduated from Bennington College in Vermont in 2010 and moved to Singapore soon after to take an analyst job at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, specialising in portfolio control analysis and trade management. He didn’t stay in finance for long – in 2013 he quit to become…head bartender at the Cufflink Club on Jiak Chuan Road. Earlier this year, with his bar training under his belt, Hass opened his own cocktail joint, Skinny’s Lounge on Boat Quay.
6. Eileen Leo: Kiwi cuisine
Leo worked for HSBC in Singapore between 2008 and 2011 before taking a job at insurer Asteron Life in Wellington, New Zealand. It was there she became “inspired by the natural produce of New Zealand and the passion of its people for their food culture”. Now back in Singapore, Leo runs Cold Front Co, a firm which imports boutique Kiwi beverages such as Karma Cola, Six Barrel Soda Hibiscus, and Quina Fina Bitter Lemon.
7. Abbie Tok: artisan coffee
Another former HSBC employee, Tok spent three years working in a sales role at the British bank. She’s now putting her sales skills to use within Singapore’s booming gourmet coffee scene via her company Slayer Coffee. But Tok hasn’t opened a trendy café in Duxton – she and her partner run a mobile coffee cart serving weddings and corporate events. She also does barista courses and “coffee appreciation workshops”.
8. Laetitia Millet: online organics
Engineering graduate Millet spent about two years in the technology team at BNP Paris in France. She then joined fintech consultancy Cap Fi Technology before moving to Singapore in 2012. Millet has now left banking IT behind her and is the founder and co-owner of Organic Frog, a website selling organic and gluten-free food, including….millet.
9. Vlad Petru Floroiu: Romanian fusion
Proof that Singapore’s food scene is nothing if not diverse. Floroiu is a Singapore-based Romanian married to an Indonesian and his company, RO Dishes, produces spicy sauces and spreads which fuse the flavours of both countries. Between 2003 and 2015, however, Floroiu was ensconced in the finance sector. He worked for MasterCard and Citi in the US and Canada. Visa poached him in 2014 and relocated him to Singapore, but last year he started running his food business – and another one importing cleaning products – full-time.
Image credit: ackmalipan, Getty