Kevin Ngo, Junior Expansions Lead for SEA and Pacific
Banking and ExpansionSingapore
Before Wise, I only knew of very hierarchical companies, but here everyone’s welcoming and trusting — I love working within autonomous teams, where you have so much ownership. There’s no one here just showing off. Everyone really works towards Wise’s mission every day.
What first attracted you to Wise?
I actually used Wise’s product when I was studying abroad in the UK, looking for a cheaper way to receive money from home. Or well, I actually first started using Monzo, but luckily Wise came with it. After a few months I just gave up on traditional banks, and moved fully to Wise. When I moved to Singapore, I started looking for a job, and when a friend suggested an opening at Wise, it seemed like the perfect coincidence. I actually joined Wise as a Payments Operations Specialist, and then moved to the Banking and Expansions team.
What did your work in the Operations look like?
In Operations, I looked after the Southeast Asian market, so countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines. My team made sure that all payments to or from these countries were going through smoothly. I didn’t really know anything about banking or finance when I joined Wise, so right off the bat, I organised as many side by sides with different people and teams as I could. A side by side is basically like a short job shadowing slot, where you see what people in other teams work on. And at Wise, anyone from any team can set these up for themselves — it’s really cool!
How did you move from the Operations team to Banking and Expansions?
One of my side by sides was with the Banking and Expansions team, and it seemed like such an interesting area to me. I quickly started helping the team out with smaller projects — mainly helping the banking team gather information our partners needed from Wise, like doing bank KYC, due diligence, and so on. Those smaller projects eventually evolved into bigger ones. One of the first bigger projects I worked on was getting our IDR instant payments partner on board. For some time my role was sort of like a banking-operations hybrid, until the Banking and Expansions team needed some more help in Asian markets, and asked if I’d like to join them full time.
So, in a nutshell, what does your everyday work look like now?
In the Banking and Expansions team, we look after our relationships with our partners — these can be local regulators or different payment service providers. Another main aspect of our job is working on expanding to new markets and building new partnerships. For example, right now I’m mostly working on finalising a license in a new market that should hopefully be launched really-really soon!
What are the biggest challenges in your everyday work?
Southeast Asia is a very diverse and hyper-local region and this applies to local regulations and frameworks as well. So each time we want to enable a new service or new market, it means we need to build from scratch. To do so, we really need to understand each regulator’s and market’s concerns, specific sensitivities and address them consistently. These processes can take some time — sometimes years.
Signing partner documents was also quite challenging when lockdowns first hit. Banking papers often need to be signed by hand by multiple people, whenever they are in the world. Usually we had most of these people in our Singapore office so the process was really straightforward, but covid obviously spread the team apart. Nonetheless, we are very determined to comply with the regulators and ensure that things get done to expand our reach.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at Wise and what did you do to fix it?
During my probation, I missed one of the deadlines to make sure a currency account is funded from our side, and as a result not all customer payments could go through instantly . This was really tough, as I was so new. The situation taught me a hard lesson though, and I never made the same mistake again!
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt during your journey at Wise?
I feel like one the best assets Wise has are its people and way of working. Before Wise, I only knew of very hierarchical companies, but here everyone’s super welcoming and trusting — I love working within autonomous teams, where you have so much ownership. There’s no fake people here, just showing off. Everyone really works towards Wise’s mission of money without borders every day.
And you can really shape your career and develop here if you’re proactive and always looking for new opportunities. My job in Banking and Expansions only came about because within a month of joining, I was doing all I could to learn as much as possible about the finance industry, and meet as many new people as I could.