Lifelong learning and leaning into opportunities was key for alum, Manjit Singh’s (MAcc ’93, CPA, CFA) success
by Patty Mah
As the world slowly transitions back to in-person office environments, the newly appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Sun Life, Manjit Singh, (BA ’93, CPA, CFA), is excited to implement digital and people focused strategies to lead Sun Life beyond the global pandemic. The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) caught up with the Waterloo alum to learn more about his career and where he sees the future of the financial services industry.
Twenty-seven years in banking accumulating diverse experiences across all business and functional areas and having done so in Canada, UK, and the US, Singh is ready to take on the new challenge of leading Sun Life. Like many SAF students, Singh completed his co-op work terms with one of the Big 4 accounting firms to pursue his Chartered Professional Accountancy (CPA) designation. He attributes his move into banking and financial services to a bit of luck, being open to opportunities, taking calculated risks, and the desire to continually learn and build his knowledge and skills. The one thing that he hadn’t anticipated as a student was how his career would lead to attaining such a role with an internationally recognized and respected company.
I’m excited to be a part of the Sun Life team. It’s a great company with a very special culture. All the experiences I’ve gained through the various roles that I have had will be invaluable as I take this next step in my career. I feel very comfortable with change and to take on new challenges.
THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL AND PEOPLE FOCUSED
In early July, Sun Life was the first Canadian insurance, wealth and health company to share its post-pandemic future of work vision. Sun Life’s return-to-office plan is grounded in flexibility and empowerment, allowing employees to choose how and where they wish to work – whether that be home or office – based on business and client needs. The roll-out of the vision comes with training and support as managers and leaders work with their teams to instill a collaborative, equitable and inclusive culture in an environment where not everyone is physically together.
While the report focuses on Sun Life employees as one of their strategies to maintain, develop, and attract talent, Singh acknowledges that broader business change is happening at a faster pace and the need for flexible and digital solutions will be inevitable. The pandemic shifted the way customers transact with Sun Life from in-person to digital and Sun Life has continued to add more digital capabilities during the pandemic. Financial services industries are also seeing increasing competition from both traditional and non-traditional competitors. Singh sees these shifts as the new norm and feels that the competitive landscape will continue to evolve at an accelerated pace.
When you think about disruption, who knows what the next 5, 10, or 15 years is going to bring, but we know it will bring something we don’t have today.
THE ROI OF DIVERSE EXPERIENCES
Singh’s diverse experiences, gained by working across different business areas and functional units within the banking industry, has built the breadth of skills and knowledge he’s needed to be successful in each stage of his career. He also attributes the work he’s done in different countries to the appreciation he has for the different perspectives that people bring to an organization.
When I was CFO for Europe and Asia [for TD Bank], I had people all across the Asian market work with me and there were very different cultures in terms of how they approached work and how they needed to be coached. I learned a lot from that experience.
Looking back and reflecting on his 30-year career and what has helped get him to the C-Suite corner office, he offers four key pieces of advice to aspiring professionals:
- Focus on doing your current job well. “Sometimes we become so eager to move to the next job that we can lose focus on the job that we are doing. It is important to do your current job to the best of your abilities.”
- Lean into opportunities, even if it is not an upward trajectory. “I’ve made moves to different countries and they came at times that were not necessarily convenient for me, but I leaned into them and that really helped to propel my career.”
- Take some risks in your career. “If you take some risks, something good may happen or something bad may happen. But if you take no risks, nothing will happen. My move from TD Bank to Sun Life is another example of taking some risk, but it’s something I leaned into, and we’ll see how it turns out. So far it’s working out very well.”
- Diversify your experiences to build your leadership, communication, and strategic skills. “As you enter C-suite type positions, you require different skills. You need to attract, develop and retain the very best talent and create an environment where the team can perform at its best. le. You need to be a good communicator because a lot of your job is about communicating to a diverse set of stakeholders. And you need to be strategic and think ahead; what do you need to do from a business strategy point to react to key trends one year out, three years out, and ten years out.”
Think of your career as a lattice, not a ladder. So, branch out. Your career grows across and up versus just straight up.