Stephen Land: Singapore is a hub for expertise in infrastructure and renewables.

Originally from Sydney, Stephen Land, a veteran in financial services, recently took the opportunity to return to the global stage and relocated to Singapore.

Stephen’s global experience includes stints in New York and London, and he is the Director, Specialised & Acquisition Finance at National Australia Bank (NAB).

We caught up with Stephen to talk about the banking industry, innovation and his #bornglobal experience.

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.

Having worked in London and New York before relocating to Singapore, how do you feel about the transition?

I think it’s a great opportunity for me to bring together my previous experience, both to support our clients as they diversify into new markets, and to also advance my career. Asia is a very exciting market. My role here covers infrastructure, energy, commodity and leverage finance. I have sort of brought that together in one role for this exciting opportunity.

Despite the fact that I’ve worked for a lot of years, every market’s different and each has a different way of working. You need to rebuild your network. It can be very localized, and work dynamics drive each market to have a different way of operating. Banking is common across all sectors, but the way it is done and the terms it is done on vary across geographies.

In what ways is NAB uniquely positioned to connect Asian investors to relevant opportunities in Australia? Can you share a recent customer success story?

NAB is a leader in the Australian market in the segments that I cover so we have a unique insight into the market. That’s something that we can certainly bring to our clients. We can convey very quickly to our clients the changes in the market, as well what is happening more broadly, I think a good example of that is Goldwind, a Chinese based wind turbine developer, we supported their entry into the Australian market and the Stockyard Hill wind farm.

Can you explain briefly why you’ve moved to Singapore to take up this new role? What excites you about it?  Can you tell us more about what you do?

I came to Singapore essentially to be a product specialist, supporting our coverage bankers and their clients. My team is global, with members in Melbourne, Sydney, New York and London, but there was a gap in the fast-growing Asian region. It is becoming increasingly important market for Australian clients. But we also wanted to better support our Asian clients, whether that is outbound investment to Australia, or to other jurisdictions. Co-incidentally, Singapore is positioning itself as a hub of expertise in the region in sectors like infrastructure and renewables.

The Asian market is a very dynamic market. One of the things people forget is how diverse the market is. The second and third biggest economies of the world are in Asia, but it also encompasses emerging markets, like Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is rewarding to have a box seat to the development of the region.

What does your typical work day look like?

It’s a very diverse role. Each day’s quite different. Just more broadly speaking like keeping abreast of industry news each day to be up to date, up to speed on what’s happening in the market. There is a lot of regulation around my sectors, so things like changes in government policy can be very significant. I need to update my coverage colleagues so they can discuss with their clients. That then allows me to have working relationships across a broad base, to help develop transactions, and to make sure we are helping our clients achieve their goals.

What are the biggest differences between the banking industry in Singapore and Australia?

I think there’s a lot of parallels. Probably the most notable difference is the relationship aspect in Asia. It takes time to cultivate client relationships, and for them to understand us before they want to transact. I think it takes longer to develop a level of expertise across the market because it is so diverse. It’s very varied. So sometimes they want get to know what the detail is, other times it’s a much more broad-based approach. There are probably some more subtleties up here in business as well. Also, cultural difference plays a part and makes it different.

What are some innovation trends in banking industry? What can Australia learn from Singapore and vice versa?

Historically deals went to the banks. We are now seeing a lot more innovation in terms of taking that to institutional investors. We take clients to the US private placement market and other non-bank providers of capital. And I think that is probably more reflected in just the level of experience in different countries. Regulation is driving some of this, but some is just the growing pool of liquidity outside of the bank market that is looking for opportunities to be deployed.  Singapore and Australia are sophisticated banking markets, with more in common than you may expect.

How has fintech disrupted the traditional banking space?

There are a lot of exciting things happening, and a lot more efficiency and transparency. And that’s probably the greatest reason for innovation, such as the use of online data warehouses for transactions now with very little paper involved and very streamlined. Also, people are a lot more across different data sources which makes information more accessible, and means that both clients and bankers are better informed in a timely manner.

Can you name one thing you like most about Singapore, and the least?

I like the transportation most. Everything here is close by, efficient and very reasonably priced. It’s been fantastic. The think I like the least is the queuing, as you’ll have to queue for so many things, particularly popular food stalls.

What’s your advice to help other Aussies have a quick adjustment when living and working abroad for the first time?

Jump in to your new home and don’t compare it to your old one. Things will be different but that is not a bad thing. Open yourself up to the new experience and try to settle in. And Google’s your friend. You can find pretty much anything online or with the help of colleagues in the office.

What do you miss most about Australia?

Like most everyone I miss family and friends, although with technology these days you can stay a lot more connected.  I do miss a beer on the Manly ferry on a Friday afternoon as a great way to finish my week though!