In Conversation with CQF Alumni: Cassandra Cheng

Cassandra Cheng, Head of Fixed Income, Currency, and Commodities (FICC) for Greater China, Singapore Exchange

Cassandra earned the CQF in 2022. She started her career as Vice President of FICC Derivatives Sales, before moving to her current role. We discussed the importance of reputation, integrity, and education.

Why did you decide to pursue your current career path? 

Throughout my career, different opportunities have arisen and the choices I made have defined the path I’ve been on since then. My current role, for example, didn’t exist when I was doing my previous job. It’s not that I decided to pursue exactly what I’m doing now from the very beginning of my career, but rather that this path emerged and evolved over time.

How did you get to the senior level that you are at today?

There are several principles here that helped me to reach the level I am at today and I can outline them below.

Firstly, it is important to understand oneself. To survive long term in a career, you need to understand how sustainable your work is for your life and health. What often defines someone’s performance in the long term are the hours they spend after work. For example, is your current job taking up so many hours of your life that you don’t have time to recharge yourself? Do you often feel exhausted physically and emotionally from interactions with your co-workers? More importantly, deep down, do you feel your team leaders are doing the right thing? Everyone is different and only you know the answers to these questions. There are very successful people in today’s financial markets and many paths lead to great fortune and fame. Whether you understand what it takes to reach that point and truly enjoy the journey leading to that destination, are the fundamental aspects that will define your career. The people that know the honest answers to these questions and can survive longest will usually be the ones promoted to senior positions over time. 

Secondly, make the effort to learn and understand the financial markets. Financial markets have so many segments that people who work in one sector may not understand what people in other sectors are doing. It is important to meet up with people who are handling different asset classes and at various types of financial institutions to learn the fundamentals of their work. If you are just starting out in your career and are unfamiliar with the financial markets, a management trainee program from a global investment bank would really help you begin this journey. 

Finally, reputation and Integrity matter more than short-term gains. In the long run, when an employer is considering you for a senior position, they will likely seek comments from their friends and peers who have worked with you before. The world is small. The job market has memory. Trust is something that takes a long time to develop but doesn’t take much time to destroy. The trust you build along the way will become an intangible asset on your professional balance sheet. Opportunities will show themselves when this asset grows to a certain point and people in your network are aware of it. 

What kind of work is involved in your current role?

I lead the Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) FICC China projects and spear-head key partnership development with China from the FICC product perspective.

What do you enjoy most about the role?

I enjoy the culture and strategic vision of SGX. Our CEO, Boon Chye, was previously Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets Head for Asia, and he hired me to work at Deutsche Bank as a university graduate when I started my career. At that time, he met with the summer intern class for lunch and personally interviewed every graduate he hired, which impressed me very much. I appreciate his leadership and believe SGX is the right place to for me.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in your field of work over the past few years?

Obviously, the pandemic. The travel restrictions were a significant challenge for business, and virtual conferences cannot create the same effects as face-to-face meetings. Luckily, that’s behind us. 

How has the CQF added value in your career trajectory?

The CQF helped to refresh my knowledge and sense of the current financial markets. What we learned at school decades ago would never be enough for work practice now. I also appreciate the Lifelong Learning concept and online platform of the CQF very much.

What skills will become more important in the coming years? Will any of them be different from the ones needed now? 

The most important skill, in my opinion, is to know the cycle of financial markets and predict whether one’s current career is at the stage where your sector is booming or is near the stage of bursting. For example, the Fed’s interest rate decisions may become more hawkish than current market consensus, which would cause more bubbles to burst. When the tide retreats, there is no point in swimming against it, even if one swims very well. 

What advice would you offer to someone just starting their career in the financial industry?

I would say to reflect on the principles that we discussed here and really focus on your interests, skills, and aspirations. As I said, opportunities come along in life, and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be to take advantage of them.

Find out more about the CQF program

To discover how the CQF program could help you go further in your career, download a brochure or register to join an information session.