In 2009 senior economist Annette Beacher moved with her husband and two young children from Sydney to Singapore. Having lived in Australia all her life, she expected to return home within a couple of years.
But Beacher’s expected short stint as an expat has in fact lasted a lot longer, and eight years later she is still in Singapore and she and her family are still enjoying life there.
It’s not only the food, cultural diversity and travel opportunities that have made Beacher want to stay in the city state – her employer for all this time, TD Securities, has created the right type of working environment for her to thrive in.
Beacher is head of Asia Pacific research at TD Securities, the wholesale division of Toronto-Dominion Bank. She built the firm’s Singapore-based research team from scratch, following an 18-year career as an economist.
“I came here with a handful of other people who were relocating from the Sydney office,” she says. “Our colleagues already working in Singapore bent over backwards to help when we arrived. It was a very welcoming transition and it set the scene for what was to follow in my career.”
Since these early days at TD, Beacher says she’s always been impressed by the Canadian bank’s “approachable culture”. “Anyone, junior or senior, can ask anyone else for advice. It’s an open-door policy in the Singapore office and people are naturally supportive. It’s not always like that in larger organisations. That helps us all be more productive in our jobs as we get quick answers to our questions.”
She also describes TD Securities in Singapore as “non-hierarchical”. “If the Chair is in town, for example, you can just walk up and have a chat. We have global executives regularly visiting Singapore, so we’re not regarded as an outpost.”
This inclusive approach to management is embedded throughout the business. “When I travel to our offices in Toronto, London or New York I always find that the culture is consistent,” says Beacher. “That’s partly because we encourage mobility – we cover different asset classes and we have offices in several cities, so you don’t need to get siloed in your career here.”
TD in Singapore has been in growth mode recently. As other banks in the Republic have cut jobs or frozen hiring, TD added 100 new people in 2016 – both permanent staff and contractors – across its back, middle and front offices. And it is continuing to hire this year, mainly in technology.
“We’ve roughly quadrupled our headcount in Singapore since I moved,” says Beacher. “Growing at a time when many of our competitors in Asia are doing the opposite has helped us attract talent from leading global banks. I’ve personally liked working at a place where new people are constantly coming on board and bringing new ideas with them.”
“TD Securities has changed a lot since I joined in 2009 – it has become more global and more multi-cultural,” adds Beacher. “But although we’re expanding, we’re not doing so too aggressively. We got through the financial crisis successfully and we now have a reputation for providing a stable platform for people to build their careers.”
Beacher also says she doesn’t feel just like a “just another cog in the wheel” at TD Securities, even as the bank adds new headcount. “This is partly because everyone interacts and cooperates with each other so well. If there’s a problem to solve or a new project to work on, we pull together. New joiners, especially those from larger banks, are often surprised by this.”
“We actually enjoy each other’s company here at TD in Singapore. There aren’t any big egos, which creates a collegial atmosphere,” adds Beacher. “Often the whole dealing room will have a laugh together.”
Staff also socialise together outside of work. “We often have impromptu drinks on Friday evenings. And there are organised company outings too – from family picnics to volunteering.”
TD employees in Singapore have taken part in several fundraising events for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, for example. Last year the firm partnered with the charity Caring for Cambodia and sent 38 volunteers to help improve facilities at a school in the Siem Reap area. “Jay Jobanputra, our Asia Pacific head, has always made sure we’ve had opportunities to give back to the community,” says Beacher.
When Beacher first arrived in Singapore she was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to balance her work and family commitments in the same way as she did in Australia. “I needn’t have worried. As a working mother, TD has always helped to make it possible to live a comfortable family life here,” she says. “I also think that’s one of the reasons why the expats in our office have blended in well with the local culture. We’ve been able to embrace the experience of living in Asia.”
TD also works with an employee assistance company to run wellness programs – including work-life balance, effective communication and mindfulness – that help improve the health and productivity of its workforce and give its employees the chance to get to know each other even better.
Several of the people who moved from Sydney to Singapore at around the same time as Beacher are still with the company, she says. “And when I travel to our other offices, I regularly meet people who’ve been with TD for 15 years or more. I think our open and transparent culture encourages this kind of long-term loyalty.”