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Helping People Start Anew


LIKE many of her accountancy classmates from Nanyang Technological University, Ms Amanda Tan’s first job was as an auditor.


After two-and-a-half years dealing with corporate dollars and cents, she made a switch to the public sector, joining the Ministry of Law in February 2013.


She says she changed paths as she wanted to help people and also be in a more people centric job so that she could make a positive impact on society.


She initially worked as an officer helping people on the brink of bankruptcy. Today, she is an Assistant Director of Case Administration and works as an Individual Insolvency Officer, helping people who were made bankrupts.

She says: “I work in the Government’s Bankruptcy Office. Contrary to what most people think, we do not make individuals bankrupt — the High Court decides that.


“Instead, we try to get the bankrupts out of bankruptcy after they fulfil the requirements of the administration.” Operationally, this entails realising the assets of the bankrupts, finalising their liabilities, and discharging them from bankruptcy.


Around 1,500 to 2,000 people fall into bankruptcy a year. Bankrupts may take a few years to be discharged. Those discharged effectively get a clean slate to restart life. Says Ms Tan: “It is a fast-paced working environment and we deal with a high volume of enquiries and correspondences, which we have to respond to within a prescribed timeframe.


“We treasure good teamwork and efficiency in our organisation.” To promote enterprise and entrepreneurship, Singapore’s debt recovery system strikes a balance between meeting the interests of creditors and providing fresh starts for debtors.


A job requiring EQ and IQ


There are also alternative schemes for financially distressed individuals to repay their debts to creditors, and to avoid the social stigma attached to bankruptcy. Ms Tan’s challenges on the job include following up with stakeholders on the cases, who may not respond in time and thus affect work progress. Ad-hoc issues may also mean adjusting deadlines.


Additionally, bankrupts themselves can become emotional during interactions, being in their distressed financial states. Ms Tan’s advice is to maintain composure and not to take the emotions personally.


“I like it that I am challenged to improve on my work management skills and my people management skills amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday work,” says Ms Tan. “I feel satisfaction in working on different projects and learning other aspects of work.”


She lists perseverance,willingness to learn,and a sense of humour as some key qualities necessary to excel in her job. Having strong administration skills and logical thought processes are essential.


Currently, officers in the Individual Insolvency division work in teams consisting of up to five members. Besides working on bankruptcy cases, work also involves responding to public correspondences.


A learning journey


Functions such as asset realisation, which is currently handled outside of these teams, will be streamlined into the teams as part of the division’s ongoing efforts to enhance operational efficiency.


The division is currently expanding and looking for candidates with relevant background in accounting, business and law.


Selected candidates will have a half-day job shadowing session prior to being made a job offer. Besides experience gained working on cases, Ms Tan says she has been privileged to be able to sit in meetings with senior staff including organisational heads. Working on various projects has also provided valuable exposure.


Structured development opportunities have been beneficial as well. For example, Ms Tan has taken up courses ranging from writing to leadership. She says: “All of us here are also given the opportunity and autonomy in attending meaningful courses during the year.


“The exposure is important in our learning as it is a means to obtain new insights and perspectives for our career growth and development.” She says: “Seeing the effort put into the work we do translate into results, which can come in the number of discharges from bankruptcy or words of appreciation from our colleagues and even from the public, gives me job satisfaction.”


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.


Last updated on 23 Feb 2016