Challenging New Frontiers with CPF

For job seekers who are searching for a career filled with invigorating challenges, CPF is where a myriad of opportunities await.

By Becky Lo

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) started out as a simple retirement savings plan when it was first launched in 1955, but has since evolved into a comprehensive social security system that plays a key role in Singaporeans’ lives.

Its meaningful role strikes a chord in Seah Kwee Lim and explains why the CPF Board scholarship became his primary choice.

“I’ve never once regretted my choice,” says Kwee Lim. “In CPF, we are there to help our members from birth all the way to their later days. This ability to make a difference to people’s lives is what I personally find very meaningful.”

CPF LIFE

Kwee Lim joined CPF in 2007 and was roped into something which went on to make a difference to the lives of many – the CPF Lifelong Income Scheme For The Elderly (CPF LIFE). This is an annuity scheme that promises members a monthly payout after their retirement and he was involved in the design of this scheme. Today, CPF LIFE is one of the key retirement schemes for CPF members.

But it was not an easy journey towards fruition of this scheme. “It was very tough – we spent long hours in office and hardly saw the daylight,” Kwee Lim muses. “But this is a very memorable experience for all the officers involved, not only because the tasks were daunting but more importantly it is something new, impactful and meaningful.”

He adds, “The impact and meaning are what resonate with a lot of us, and these are what we will remember it for.”

Swift progress

Kwee Lim is set to make more impact in his latest job position as Senior Manager of the CPF education loan section, overseeing the general running of the CPF Education scheme. As part of the Investment Schemes Department, the section assists members to use their CPF savings for their family members’ or their own full-time tertiary education in Singapore.

He is currently leading a 16-man team in administering the entire education loan process. This ranges from back office roles of settling applications and transactions to front office roles of communicating with the education institutions and the individual applicants.

“There is a lot of public interaction involved though we are still considered more of a back office section. There are few face-to-face interactions but we do correspond with the public frequently via letters, phone calls and emails,” explains Kwee Lim.
Inter-agency exposure

A paragon of calm and good humour, 28-year-old Kwee Lim’s confidence comes from three and a half years of exposure to diverse aspects and roles in the Board. This includes the one and a half years he spent at the Ministry of Finance (MOF), where he was seconded to in early 2009.

As the key officer on CPF issues in the Social Strategy unit at MOF, Kwee Lim looked at various CPF policies and policies relating to one’s financial security. Equipped with relevant knowledge on the CPF system and good links within the Board, Kwee Lim had proven himself to be an invaluable asset to MOF.

“As in many working relationships between different agencies, information flow and understanding of each other’s positions are very important. Knowing the CPF officers, both professionally and personally, definitely helped to facilitate this process.”

Meanwhile, Kwee Lim’s technical skills and adaptability were put to a test as he grappled with new rules and challenges in a distinctively different working environment.

He elaborates, “At MOF, I worked on the conceptualisation part in the policy-making process where I was better placed to understand the various considerations and trade-offs involved. Now as an implementer at CPF Board, I have to know how the procedures work on the ground and to explain the ground and implementation considerations to the officers who are doing the conceptualisation.”

“When both the micro- and macro-level can communicate well,” Kwee Lim adds, “it makes the various stages in the policy-making process more connected and flow better.”

Communication is highly valued in CPF. Besides contributing to the organisation’s effectiveness, it instills a sense of community among the staff. Employees communicate with each other through the CPF intranet as well as an online forum where they can talk about anything under the sun.

The Board also organises a myriad of activities and events to promote a healthy lifestyle among the staff. Kwee Lim welcomes this events as it enables him the opportunity to adopt an active way of life.

Expansion and exposure

Despite his swift rise within CPF Board, Kwee Lim is not one to rest on his laurels. He aims to expand his work scope and maximise his experience at the Board in the next few years. For job seekers, he shares the following nuggets of advice.

“Have an open mind. Be exposed to new ideas and different roles at work,” he says. “Try out different things, especially in the first few formative years which will shape your views and skills quite significantly. This foundation will certainly impact your career.”


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