People

Her toughest challenge: Giving up CFO dream

Ms Ooi Huey Tyng joined Visa in 2012, when its contactless payment system PayWave had a 2 per cent share of Visa face-to-face transactions. That has since soared to almost 30 per cent.
Ms Ooi Huey Tyng joined Visa in 2012, when its contactless payment system PayWave had a 2 per cent share of Visa face-to-face transactions. That has since soared to almost 30 per cent.PHOTO: BT FILE

When she was a rookie in finance, senior executive Ooi Huey Tyng dreamt of climbing the corporate ladder and making it to the top as chief financial officer (CFO).

She had started her career with Proctor and Gamble as a financial analyst and stayed in finance for eight years before taking the leap to something new.

"It wasn't an easy decision because, when I was younger, I studied finance. It was a lot of commitment and investment in a career and, all along, I thought that was a path I was pursuing.

"There was a certain point when, even though I liked numbers and analysing them, I started to reflect on what excited me more... it's about moving out of the comfort zone."

She yearned to work in a people-centric role, instead of financial reporting, "to make things happen, negotiate or deal with the front line".

CHANGING DIRECTION

You can imagine, from 18, I already had my mind set on finance. Suddenly, after so many years of studying and all the investments, I had to move away, in a direction where I didn't know where it would lead me to.

MS OOI HUEY TYNG, Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei

Ms Ooi found a fit in a variety of roles, including enterprises director at e-commerce software start-up Commerce Exchange, before she took up roles in banks such as Citi in 2002, and later DBS Bank, where she was the head for cards and unsecured loans.

She joined payments technology company Visa in 2012, where she is now country manager for Singapore and Brunei.

She said it had never crossed her mind to move into banking and its related industries but serendipity brought her to someone who invited her to join Citi back then, in a role that involved credit cards.

Years later, she asked him why he saw her as a good candidate and was told that her "tenacity and perseverance, and finance and business acumen" were the factors.

Ms Ooi has seen how the credit cards and payments space has changed over the years, and how Singapore is moving towards being a cashless society.

Visa will launch Visa Checkout - a new payment service to cater to online shoppers - later this year.

The firm found that when Singapore consumers shop online, one in three transactions is abandoned.

Visa Checkout, launched in the United States last year, stores a cardholder's details so consumers no longer need to re-enter payment, shipping or billing details when making future online purchases wherever the service, which can be used across multiple platforms and devices, is accepted.

Joining Visa has been one of the major highlights of her career, said Ms Ooi. "We're in such exciting times for us to understand what's happening in the payments and innovations space. As Visa is a global firm, you have access to what's happening around the world."

She has a part to play in growing the business since joining Visa. For instance, the contactless payment system Visa PayWave increased its penetration of 2 per cent in 2012 to almost 30 per cent today - for Visa face-to-face transactions.

"Our pursuit of a cashless society has definitely been very successful with Visa PayWave," said Ms Ooi, who added that Visa has been steadily gaining market share for the past 21/2 years.

MasterCard is its well-known rival, but some would argue that cash is the true competitor.

Ms Ooi said Visa is actually growing the fastest in the area that caters to high-net-worth individuals, with its Visa Infinite scheme.

"In the past 12 months, all the high-end products are launched on the Visa Infinite platform, and Singapore was the first market where Visa Infinite was launched (globally)," she added.

This is considered a coup as the number of credit cards on the platform continues to grow.

Looking back on her career, the mother of two said leaving her CFO dream behind has been, without a doubt, her toughest challenge.

"You can imagine, from 18, I already had my mind set on finance. Suddenly, after so many years of studying and all the investments, I had to move away, in a direction where I didn't know where it would lead me to," she said.

But it has been rewarding, as she got to work in three major organisations with huge businesses in the cards and payments space.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Her toughest challenge: Giving up CFO dream'. Print Edition | Subscribe