Leaving the comfort zone of Singapore to get overseas work experience has paid off for bank executive Elaine Heng - and her employer Standard Chartered Bank.

Ms Heng was general manager of the bank's lending business here when she was given the opportunity to take up a position in London in 2007.

She became head of the group's chief executive office, working with CEO Peter Sands and the management committee.

"The role in London broadened my horizons and challenged me to think broader on a strategic level, honing my skill sets to be both 'on the balcony and on the dance floor'," she said.

"I always knew that such an experience and exposure was meant to be about 18 months for me, so even though I had the opportunity to extend it for a few more years, after I had my first child, I wanted to come back," said the 38-year-old.

"I did not want to leave my children with people who were not family, but the stronger reason for coming back was that two-thirds of StanChart's business is actually from Asia, so there is great opportunity."

Ms Heng is now StanChart's regional head for integrated distribution - which includes distribution channels such as branches, and online and mobile banking - for Singapore and South- east Asia. The bank's global consumer and banking businesses are based in Singapore, including its private bank, as well as its management centre for technology and operations.

Ms Heng said the experience she gained in Britain was invaluable. "My exposure to different business areas as well as international work experience has helped me tremendously coming back to Singapore," she added.

"What I have learnt is put to good use in my current role, managing a large sales force. In addition to being able to be 'on the dance floor' to execute on a tactical level, I am able to be 'at the balcony' to identify priorities and strategies at a broader strategic level."

She noted that the growing business in the region is why Singapore continues to attract talent from all over the world.

"Singapore has the position of being a global financial centre and, given its attractiveness, there will be foreigners and international talent in this space," she added.