Two Singaporeans have taken up senior posts in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and a third is set to join soon, all attracted by the appeal of shaping the China-led multilateral financial institution in its early stages.
They are Mr Tony Wan, 73, senior adviser on human resources (HR) to AIIB president Jin Liqun, and Mr Pang Yee Ean, 47, the director-general of investment operations.
Civil servant Thia Jang Ping, 41, the director of the security and resilience programmes directorate at the Ministry of Finance and former director of the economics division at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will start work next month and help set up AIIB's economics unit.
Mr Wan said he was keen to build up AIIB's talent pool by tapping his previous experience as HR director at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank as director of administration.
"The infrastructure development demand in Asia is huge. If I can ensure that AIIB recruits the right people with the necessary motivation and skill sets, it could help meet the demand and impact the region, especially the Third World countries," he told The Straits Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed setting up AIIB in 2013, and it began operations in January this year with 57 founding member-countries, including Singapore. It has US$100 billion (S$134 billion) in committed capital to fund projects across Asia.
TOP TALENT A PRIORITY
Our aim is to keep it lean to lower costs and increase efficiency. We also want to ensure a good mix of nationalities, so that we have a balanced international profile, though our top priority is to hire top-notch talent.
MR TONY WAN, senior adviser to AIIB president Jin Liqun on human resource matters.
The bank, which aims to invest US$1.2 billion this year, has approved its first four deals worth US$509 million in June, with three of them co-financed with the World Bank, ADB, Britain's Department for International Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Dr Thia, who received his PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics and is also director at the Institute of Governance and Policy in Singapore's Civil Service College, said he was taking time out from the civil service to get exposure at AIIB.
He said: "It's an exciting opportunity to work in an international organisation, being the first one to be set up by China with a good objective of developing infrastructure in Asia."
Mr Pang, former chief executive at building consultancy firm Surbana International Consultants, said he felt honoured to have the chance to boost Asia's infrastructure development when Singapore's Finance Ministry approached him last year to consider taking up the AIIB post.
"It's my dream job to be able to create economic value through better infrastructure," he said.
Despite perceptions that AIIB is a China-dominated outfit that may not follow international practices, Mr Wan and Mr Pang both said what they have seen, so far, suggests that this is not the case.
Mr Wan said AIIB has about 70 employees from some 20 nationalities and the total staff strength will likely hit 300 in the next three years, depending on the number of new members joining and the number of projects it undertakes.
"Our aim is to keep it lean to lower costs and increase efficiency. We also want to ensure a good mix of nationalities, so that we have a balanced international profile, though our top priority is to hire top-notch talent," added Mr Wan, who joined AIIB in April last year, initially as a consultant.
Mr Pang, who joined at the start of last month, said the diversity of the talent pool in AIIB - with nationalities like Americans and Venezuelans from non-member states - shows its commitment to operating as an international organisation.
Mr Pang started his career in JTC Corporation and held senior posts in the Ascendas Group. He said despite AIIB's status as a "nation-blind" outfit, staff know that their work somehow reflects on the countries they come from.
"So, it's important to fly the flag for Singapore, which is known for pragmatism, efficiency and honesty," added Mr Pang.