As vice-president of investor foreign exchange (FX) sales in Global Markets, Citibank N.A. Singapore, Mr Fonzarelli Ong is part of a team with a specific focus on institutional investors based in Asia.
His work involves understanding his clients’ FX requirements and giving them appropriate advice for their hedging and investment needs.
Dealing with institutional clients can be “especially challenging” yet “rewarding”. He explains: “Their needs are often dynamic and with the capricious nature of today’s markets, a salesperson has to be especially astute in his assessment of the environment before dispensing advice.”
Mr Ong, 30, who graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a first class honours degree in accountancy in 2005, says: “I like how the banking industry is always evolving and this gives me a sense of anticipation as I start the day.
“The volatility of the foreign exchange markets often keeps things fast and exciting.”
Mr Ong, who started his career in Citi as a management associate, recalls how during his six years of work in the bank, he has often uttered the phrase, “this is history in the making”.
“This is testament to the epic pro portions of what we are involved in,” he says.
Citi’s existing strong mentoring culture helps keep staff morale high. Seniors dedicate time to mentor the juniors and colleagues willingly share their knowledge, helping to build a developmental mindset among staff.
“This developmental mindset of the people is very empowering as you know that regardless of the challenges, the camaraderie of the team will bring everyone to the next level,” he says.
His managers often point out his strengths and developmental areas, and advise him on the possibilities within the organisation that he could pursue to leverage his better traits.
His manager has also nominated him for various development programmes which “provided opportunities that have been pivotal to his professional development”.
Mr Ong was one of 50 individuals selected globally for Citi Global Markets’ VP Development Program held in New York and London this year.
Recently, Mr Ong was one of two Singaporeans selected for Citi’s regional Fast-Track Programme which aims to develop middle-management professionals for cross-franchise senior management roles later in their careers.
“This prestigious programme gives candidates the opportunity to work in other functions within the bank at a middle-management level as well as cross border opportunities, with the aim of giving us deeper insights into the other key functions of the bank.
“For a bank like Citi, where our Corporate and Investment Bank, Private Bank and Consumer Bank are powerhouses in their own right, it is imperative that future leaders have an intimate understanding of each function to allow cross-franchise synergies to be harnessed.”
He is at the desk around 6.30am each day to catch up with overnight market developments. Mornings are a flurry as he and his colleagues discuss key market issues and plan for the trading themes in the day ahead.
The rest of the day usually involves trade executions, conceptualising trading ideas and solutions, and he is constantly communicating with clients to keep them abreast of market developments throughout the day.
Tenacity and a “never back down” attitude are essential key qualities to excel in his work, says Mr Ong. “When the business environment presents uncertainties, it is a spirit of resilience, coupled with a curiosity to seek out opportunities that brings out excellence in one’s work,” he says.
Despite having a “hazy understanding” of the banking industry initially, he has been through job rotations in corporate sales and the structuring team in global markets that “sealed his attraction to the fast-paced and dynamic banking world”.
He says: “We are presented with so many more opportunities in almost any role within the bank and face more challenges compared to yesterday. With the tremendous growth happening in the region, Asia has to be one of the best places to develop one’s career in banking.”