“Difficult work situations have shaped me”: Veteran banker Timothy Wong
by Rachel Phua // July 21, 2018, 12:56 am
Timothy Wong (far left) is the managing director and head of DBS Group Research. Photo courtesy of Timothy Wong.
Growing up as the son of visionary church leader Canon Dr James Wong and brother to an Anglican pastor, Timothy Wong was frequently asked when he would follow in his father’s footsteps.
But it turned out God had a different path planned for him.
At 48, Wong heads the DBS Group Research as Managing Director, having risen up the ranks from junior financial analyst.
On the sidelines, he helps to manage an Alpha course at The Book Cafe, sits on the management committee of Prison Fellowship Singapore’s 70×7 arm, and runs a new mission-focused prayer and support network called Antioch For Asia.
But for this 25-year banking veteran, there is no dichotomy between work and ministry – his work is his ministry and his ministry, his work. Salt&Light spoke to Wong to find out why and, perhaps more importantly, how he manages this.
As a pastor’s son, have you ever considered the pastoral track?
I have always been open to going into full-time ministry. Given that the rest of my family are in ministry, many people have asked: “When is your turn?”
I had to learn how to “slay the lions and the bears, before meeting my Goliath”.
In June 2008, I sensed the Lord challenging me to devote the rest of my life to serve His purposes in Southeast Asia. I took this to mean a call into full-time ministry, but none of the doors to go down this route seemed to open.
I prayed that God would show me what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life. If He wanted me to serve him full-time, why wasn’t that door opening?
At this point, I sensed the Father telling me that, though He had heard me say “yes” to serving him full-time, He wanted me to stay at my current position. In due time, He will lead me to my next destination.
I also heard God say that I had to learn how to slay the “lions and the bears, before meeting my Goliath” (1 Samuel 17).
I came to a point of complete surrender and this brought a great sense of peace and a renewed purpose for why I was in the marketplace.
How do you regard your job in light of your faith?
The work God has set out for His people in the banking industry is to establish a platform of righteousness and justice.
By God’s grace, I have come to see work and ministry as the same thing, as long as our workplace is where God has called us to.
I believe the work God has set out for His people in the finance industry, where there may be temptations to be greedy, is to establish a platform of righteousness and justice.
Our work in research means creating content that establishes the truth about economies, industries and companies, and encourages policy makers and investors to pursue sustainable goals for Asia. This allows capital to be channelled to the right markets, projects and companies.
How is your workplace a ministry platform?
Our primary goal as believers in the marketplace is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength. The second is to love our co-workers as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
We should not hesitate to proclaim the Good News to everyone we meet, empowered by the Holy Spirit. I think this should be part of our lifestyle.
I am a big believer in the power of prayer. I think it’s really good for colleagues to pray together for the welfare of their company, for wisdom and blessings for their bosses, the challenges they face at work, and for their co-workers to encounter the love and power of God (Ephesians 6:18).
It is amazing how we can tap on the Creator of the universe for divine wisdom and providence.
I don’t think we should seek to “Christianise” our workplaces. It becomes very polarising when we try to impose our religious ideals and morals on the rest of society. Jesus didn’t come to establish a new religion. He came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. That’s bringing hope and healing to all of mankind.
It’s good for colleagues to pray together for the welfare of their company, their bosses and work challenges.
What kind of culture do you try to create at your workplace?
Like any company, our bank has a set of core values – being purpose driven, relationship led, innovative, decisive and excited about work. These values are aligned with Kingdom principles.
As a leader, the onus is on me to live out these values to my very best, and to encourage my department to do the same. It’s an ongoing journey that’s still very much in progress.
I’ve also come to realise my own shortcomings. Thankfully, God brought me great teammates who are trustworthy. Our success lies in being able to work together as a team.
How do you handle difficult situations, such as retrenchment?
Having difficult conversations is not easy. I’ve tried to create transparent performance measures so that under-performing staff can see where they fall short and hopefully self-correct.
Retrenchments are the most difficult situations to be in. Unfortunately, I had to handle three cases in my career. It’s never easy. I actually offered to be retrenched along with my staff in past exercises, but it wasn’t accepted.
I continue to learn from difficult work situations. That’s when I just have to allow the Lord to use them to mould and shape me.
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