ProspectsASEAN talked to Andrew Foo, who shared with us his exciting career and entrepreneurial journey spanning across the UK and Southeast Asia. Passionate in finance and the FinTech industry, and developing the Malaysian youth landscape, Andrew aims to provide you with a holistic view of the different perspectives of the working life in Western Europe vs ASEAN and explains why he decided to return to Malaysia, despite being on a good career trajectory in the world’s largest global financial hub – London.
He believes that now is the time for aspiring entrepreneurs and young ASEAN professionals to return to their home countries to capitalise on the growth potential of Southeast Asia, an emerging market that is poised to offer many lucrative career opportunities and “Blue Ocean” markets.
Introduction to Andrew’s Life in the UK
Born and raised in Malaysia, Andrew graduated from Imperial College Business School with a Master’s Degree in Management Science. Shortly after graduating from Imperial, he secured a job with J.P. Morgan London. He started out in Investment Banking and subsequently moved on to the Asset Management business after 2 years, as he wanted the exposure within the 2 major lines of businesses in J.P. Morgan.
The learning curve was incredibly steep for Andrew. Six months into his role, he was assigned a major project with a scope to manage a global team across Asia Pacific, Central Europe, and North America. Despite the huge challenge and responsibility that comes with the project, he gladly accepted the assignment and took the bull by the horns. The opportunity enabled him to not only build his confidence and product knowledge, but also allowed him to work with the best talent within the firm across different cultures around the globe.
Contemplating His Return to Malaysia – Hitting a Career Crossroad
Three years into working in the UK with a relatively high-paying job, Andrew hit a crossroad in his career and had thoughts of returning to his home country – Malaysia. Before making the final verdict, he decided to objectively examine the career opportunities in the UK (and Europe) vs Malaysia (and ASEAN):
He first considered the advantages of working in the UK, which can be summarised to 2 main points:
- International Exposure – Being the world’s financial centre, a career in London and J.P. Morgan enable him to work with some of the best talents in the financial services industry.
- Developed Market & Cultural Heritage – England is surrounded by culture and history. The J.P. Morgan office is strategically located between the Bank of England (one of the oldest central banks in the world) and Lloyds Bank (first insurance firm in the world).
However, he then considered that there are also many opportunities in the emerging region of Southeast Asia and discovered 3 career advantages of returning to his home country:
- Geographical Advantage – ASEAN is the fastest growing region in the world and relative young population.
- Underserved Market: Out of the 600 million people living in Asean, only 30% have bank accounts, which indicate massive opportunities for these unbanked population, especially in FinTech, an industry that Andrew is passionate in.
- Low Competition – Malaysia is a relatively “Blue Ocean” for startups and plenty of uncharted territories. Malaysia is also ripe for the adoption of Industry 4.0 and there are many gaps to be filled.
Taking the Leap of Faith and Venturing into Serial Entrepreneurship
Upon much contemplation, he finally decided to not only return to Malaysia but also leave the corporate world to explore the world of entrepreneurship. It was a good thing that during his time in the UK, he constantly kept in touch with his friends and family back in Malaysia. Hence, settling down to life back in Malaysia wasn’t a major issue for him, despite being abroad for more than half a decade.
During the first few months back home, he spent most of his time attending networking events and speaking to Founders & C-suite executives to understand the current opportunities and challenges in the regional and local markets. This was where he took the opportunity to gradually rebuild and expand his network after 7 years abroad.
Today, Andrew is involved in building a new startup within the technology space – MallDash. MallDash is a new mobile application, powered by Artificial Intelligence and Big Data aimed to redefine the shopping mall experience in Malaysia. MallDash is essentially the new “Google” and “Waze” for shopping malls. They help shoppers like you and I to find whatever you need in a mall. This could be your favourite dish, promotions or events within the mall. They are already covering the top 40+ malls nationwide and are available to download on the App Store and Google Play Store.
Having been passionate in FinTech since day one at J.P. Morgan, he was approached by one of the leading robo-advisory firm in Southeast Asia to establish the business in Malaysia. He has been actively liaising with local regulators and investors to spearhead the incorporation of Malaysia’s first digital investment platform. Once launched, this robo-advisory firm will offer Malaysians the opportunity to invest in a globally diversified portfolio at a relatively low cost compared to traditional investment fund managers, educating and democratizing the investment scene in Malaysia.
Words of Wisdom from Andrew for young ASEAN talents
Andrew also shared 3 highly effective tips for young talents who are contemplating between working in abroad vs back home to carefully consider:
1. Do Proper Research & Career Planning: Decide on what motivates you – Is it money, experience or exposure? If money is your main motivator of working abroad, you have to factor in the higher taxation especially countries in the West where the net income tax could total up to 50-60%. At the end of the day, you might be better off working in Malaysia.
2. Look for Mentors: At least 2, one within your line of business (LOB), the other outside of your LOB. My 2 mentors at JPM have helped me to be where I am today. They have assisted me by opening doors of opportunity, connect me with the right person, offer valuable guidance and advice.
3. Final Advice: There will always be pros and cons of working abroad vs back home. There is never a right answer. It all depends on your current situation and how much of the pros outweigh the cons.