Tracey graduated from the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) with an LLB in 1979. She was appointed Vice Chairman, Asia Pacific, Wealth Management, UBS AG in July 2016. She was until recently Vice Chairman of Citibank ASEAN Corporate and Investment Banking.
Tracey has more than 35 years of investment banking experience having worked on a whole spectrum of corporate finance transactions from equity fund raising (IPOs, equity placements and rights issues) to debt offerings to advisory work, including takeovers of public companies in Singapore and ASEAN. She is also the President of the NGO, Live to Love Singapore.
Tracey is a five-time Singapore National Squash Champion and is married with three children.
This Letter is addressed to herself one year after graduation from law school. She had assumed she would go on to become a lawyer, but quickly realised that law did not have a place in her heart like squash did.
To the Tracey of the year 1980
You were thrilled to tears to graduate albeit with a 2-2! Who wouldn’t be when they had spent the most part of their university life chasing a little black ball with a wooden racket instead of slogging in the Law library? And law wasn’t even your first choice – the wanna-be electrical engineer never stood a chance against her parent's advice of what's best for her. The good news is that you will come to realise it is not the 2-2 that will make or break you in your working and adult life.
Be fearless and never stop learning
Whilst law never drew or tempted you to stay in practice, neither would you have known that you will one day look back and marvel at your three-and-a-half-decade banking career.
That turning point in your life will come at age 26, when the remark “Don't practice law. You should go and be a banker instead” will drop on you. Despite having no financial training, you will not hesitate to return a favourable reply. Young, curious, driven to want to learn, experience and achieve more, you will not be afraid to step into the unknown. You will always have that desire to learn and improve yourself. Be mindful though for often times you strive for perfection rather than excellence!
35 years later when everyone is anticipating your retirement announcement, you will make a switch from corporate and investment banking to wealth management. What most failed to see is how the temptation to learn and do something new and different at this point in your life is so irresistible.
Love what you do and give it your all
You will come to realise that there is no shortcut to success. The formula to success is to work hard (and smart), and to be very good at what you do. You can only reap what you sow. What takes the “hard” out of “hard work” is this one thing: passion.
But then you have always known this: Remember the joy and satisfaction you derived from spending Saturday nights alone in the squash court (as opposed to partying at the disco) hitting the ball up and down the wall trying to perfect that one shot? Or the disappointment in being second in the finals which only then spurred you to train harder? Same thing!!
You will find out that you are made for investment banking because despite its ups and downs, demands on your time, and constant frustrations, you enjoy it immensely. You enjoy it because you work with people who are generally smarter than you are – so you are perpetually learning. You will discover that you are a deal junkie; you love to win deals, get deals done, and when a client pays you a compliment, it’s almost like your kids and hubby telling you that they love you.
You will come to live by 2 conscious principles – and I use the word conscious because you have always practiced it without realising it.
- Whatever you do that is within your control, give your 100 percent. In fact, the only times that failure came with frustration was when you gave it less than your absolute all.
- Whatever you can't change or whatever is not within your control, don’t let it eat you up. Don't sweat over the small stuff.
You are going to lose countless deals, make many mistakes along the way, have things not turn out the way you want; the list goes on… But you say, “C’est la vie, I gave it my best, shit happens.”
I'm glad you will make the right choice. I know in my heart that you will choose to pursue something that defines you. Doing what you enjoy is the secret to success and longevity. Banking has given you just that – to problem-solve challenges thrown at you, to display your outgoing and optimistic personality, to lead, to be single-minded and give your all in fighting for what you truly believe in.
Be your authentic self
I'm also thankful that although you devote plenty of your time and attention to your work, you will not neglect the other facets of your life. You will keep your physical health in check by keeping fit; you will spend quality time with your family and friends; you will treasure your personal time to take a breather and reflect on life. All these are so important for one's overall well-being, and I'm grateful that you have managed to do just that.
Following one's passion is the key to success. Knowing, accepting and loving oneself, warts and all, and wanting to continually be the better version of oneself is paramount. Have your own moral compass, treat others the way you would want to be treated. Life is about people. Do carry with you a heart of humility and empathy, and a pair of listening, non-judgmental ears full of patience. Appreciate what you have – be grateful, be content, be joyful. Be generous and caring – in your heart and in your actions. I love that to this day you have not lost your ability to always laugh so hard and cry often. You will learn, often the hard way, to be always thankful, to be always optimistic, and to wear always a smile on the inside – in every phase of your life. Some seasons are more bitter than others; some days are dreaded more than the other days. Your hard skills are important, but your soft skills will train you for the rest of your life.
You are going to enjoy your journey. You have much to look forward to!
PS “When you really pay attention, everything is your teacher. Mindfulness is key.”