Leading and navigating a transformational business
A year on since Dennis Hong, Managing Director, OCBC Securities was appointed to head the multi-product business spanning equities, futures and leveraged foreign exchange trading, we sat with him to discuss his strategic vision for OCBC Securities, his career journey, and take a look at what has made him the leader he is today.
From an early point in his career, Dennis has never been one who shies away from challenges. In fact, he thrived on them. Having first served in the civil service with the police force, Dennis developed a strong hands-on attitude towards his work, with a keen interest in fully understanding how each element interact and function together. This is evident in Dennis's current leadership approach as he crafts his vision for OCBC Securities.
Transforming the securities business
Having joined the Bank in 2010 via the Postgraduate Management Associate programme, with a Master's in Applied Finance from Singapore Management University, Dennis's career with OCBC has never been one straight path. "I remember starting out in the aviation financing team within Corporate Banking as an Assistant Relationship Manager, after short rotational stints in other functions like credit administration in Operations & Technology and mezzanine financing in Investment Banking. This was followed by an overseas posting to OCBC Bangkok Branch to head the relationship management team, serving our Group's network of corporate clients, and then a close to four years' stint in the CEO's Office," Dennis recounted.
The broad-based exposure equipped Dennis with the skillsets to step up in 2018 and lead OCBC Securities with a firm hand. "We were and still are at a time of change. Securities broking is a disrupted market, and there is the need to urgently embrace new revenue models to navigate the "race to zero" commission climate while remaining in sync with customers' expectations. Transformation needs to happen quickly, and the past year has proven successful for the business, with revenue from valued-added services (e.g. share margin financing) up by 15% year-on-year (YoY), accompanied by a 45% YoY increase in foreign market traded value in 2018. This has fuelled confidence in the next step of our transition, as we look to evolve our operating model, revamp system architecture, and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to provide incremental customer value," said Dennis.
Innovation is a key component in Dennis's vision. "There are no sacred cows, and there is usually a more effective way of getting things done in an ethical, progressive way. We are currently partnering the Bank's AI Lab to develop an equities advisory algorithm to supplement our sales force in proactive engagement of our extensive customer base. Drive within the OCBC Securities family is strong, with projects ranging from the delivery of a new equities trading platform, launch of digital token capabilities, to the streamlining of the customer onboarding journey. It's an exciting time for us."
Evolving as a leader
Dennis recounts his first job with much clarity, "I was studying while working as a banquet server at a hotel, and a lasting memory I have is of the Head Chef, who was always strict with his kitchen staff, but kind to us servers. It was this high expectation of his team, and respect for his stakeholders, which stayed with me till this day. Thankfully, my management team is very understanding of my ‘tough love' for them, and they've stayed the course with me," Dennis laughed.
But not everything is "tough" at OCBC Securities. Dennis strongly advocates his team putting family first, and that the organisation will in turn take care of the employee. He also encourages new members of his team to take the time to learn OCBC's unique way of doing things, yet to never be constrained nor conform to it.
"Take OCBC Rebels, for example, who are a leading group of change champions within the Bank with the latitude to experiment and find new ways to do things. Anyone who is adaptable and receptive can be a Rebel, and this open mindset is never more invaluable. I encourage my team to be one," Dennis explained. It is this blend of steering leadership and open culture that has accelerated positive change within OCBC Securities, and one which Dennis continues to advocate.
Besides heading the securities business in Singapore, Dennis is also currently the President Commissioner of Indonesian securities brokerage and investment banking subsidiary P.T. OCBC Sekuritas, and incumbent Chairman of the Securities Association of Singapore.