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Becoming a leader through experience

Becoming a leader through experience

  • 23 November 2019
  • By Leonard Tok
  • 7 mins read

Leonard Tok started his career with the Bank in Consumer Marketing in 2011 and was subsequently accepted into the OCBC Post Graduate Management Associate programme in 2014. Now he heads up the affluent and travel cards portfolio in Consumer Banking. Hear what Leonard has to say about his eight years with the Bank.

"I joined OCBC Bank eight years ago when the banking landscape was quite different from today. The Bank aspired to be a leading player by being single-mindedly customer focused while remaining uncompromising in preserving its integrity and being completely transparent in all its operations.

"Over the years, the Bank ran a number of marketing campaigns but two really stood out in my mind - "Stay True" and "Simply Spot On". Both are very focused on being true to themselves as a Bank and being true to the customer. It is about doing the best for the consumer while building the Bank's reputation by being thoroughly professional, hard-working, transparent and honest. It wasn't about making money at any cost. These values have definitely influenced my journey with the Bank.

Growth and opportunities

The bank believes in grooming its employees, and this is something I can attest to. Without any prior experience in the cards business, I was entrusted with developing a new product, and what more one for the affluent segment, which is a critical area for the bank. The management entrusted me with this key project and allowed me to grow into the role freely and at my own pace.

More recently, I was assigned the regional cards business. This new opportunity gave me greater insights into the unsecured business beyond a product management role. There is always something new to learn, and I will always be grateful of the guidance, trust and opportunities given to me by my seniors.

Learning from mentors

"As a young man, I was hungry to learn and eager to show my worth! Looking back, I was fortunate to have a good mentor who saw this as my strength rather than weakness, and took me under her wing and guided me through my first couple of years with the bank. She taught me to appreciate the importance of communicating openly and effectively. She would always say "even if you are hardworking, if people did not know what you are thinking, effective teamwork would be impossible to attain. Honest communication is key."

"Another manager, whom I describe as a visionary, taught me the importance of being meticulous in my job, and at the same time, to always look ahead. The banking sector is dynamic. Nothing stands still. I learned to be diligent and always, always, be willing to learn. No matter how experienced you are, always be hungry to learn.

"Now that I am leading a team, I aspire to be alike my mentors. I aim to be fair, open and most importantly, to treat each of my team members as individuals. It is hard to put all of them into one "pot" as each of them are unique, with different levels of experience both in life and at work. I believe that it is important to guide and nurture them differently—but for a common purpose—and always fairly.

Affluent Cards team at an event at Waku Ghin, 2018

Creating a thriving team culture

"Being open, setting clear guidelines and measurable goals are ways I try to build a great environment for the team to do well. I stress the need to be on top of things. We actively share learnings and articles relevant to our team, competitors' movements and product launches, with each other. Giving each other encouragement is key to keeping up the team morale.

"I've led the team for close to three years now. It was a new team and I'm very proud of our achievements. We've reached new highs on all levels, having exceeded our targets. This is the result of strong teamwork. We focused on each other's core strengths to drive the business forward.

"Outside of work, we also bond informally. Once a quarter, the team will explore a new restaurant or a new cuisine, we see this as a good opportunity to relax and celebrate our successes. Sometimes, we also catch up after work and hang out for drinks. The setting is informal, and it's a great opportunity for us to learn more about each other.

Learning, unlearning and relearning

"The willingness to learn is one of the most important characteristics I look to inculcate within my team. If we are set in our ways, we'll remain stuck where we are. We'll end up being obsolete. As important as learning are unlearning and relearning. We just don't learn and do things better. We must learn to unlearn old, outdated habits and learn new ones.

"The Bank is excellent in this aspect, creating an environment where I can learn, unlearn, relearn to grow and in turn, teach and grow others."