A Heart for Service


Building on the legacy of founder and renowned philanthropist Lee Kong Chian, OCBC Bank has been actively giving back to the community and fulfilling the aspirations of students through the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship.

By Winifred Tan

According to Albert Einstein, “the value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving”. The 1921 Nobel Prize laureate, humble despite his contributions to theoretical physics, saw it as his moral duty to develop scientific knowledge in order for the community to “achieve its richest flowering”.

Fast forward one century and Einstein’s spirit of giving still lives on in OCBC Bank, Singapore’s longest-established bank with a strong commitment towards giving back to the community.

Helping bright, talented individuals grow and develop to their full potential is a tenet that OCBC Bank believes in. To this end, the bank has been actively channelling resources into philanthropic initiatives and providing financial assistance for civic-minded students to further their education.

We speak to two first-year undergraduates, Serene New and Stanley Tan, about the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship they have been awarded and how it has helped them pursue their dreams.

Congratulations on becoming an OCBC scholar.
Serene: Thank you. I found out about the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship when I was researching on scholarships online, and it appealed to me because many of OCBC Bank’s beliefs, especially giving back to society, are strongly aligned with mine. I saw it as a privilege to be part of OCBC Bank and lend my effort to contributing to the community in the future.

Stanley: My story’s different – I found out about the scholarship when I was working as a contract staff with OCBC Bank, in credit risk management, after completing my National Service. I had received an email informing staff about the Local Undergraduate Scholarship. Since I was intending to return to university to pursue my studies, I decided to give it a shot and applied.

What does the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship entail?
Stanley: The scholarship is valued at $9,000 per annum and tenable for your entire duration of study, subject to outstanding academic performance. I think it’s an excellent scholarship to take up because of the prestige and support you receive as an OCBC scholar and the number of internship opportunities available with the OCBC Group.

Serene: Also, the scholarship is bond-free, making it a good option for students who have yet to settle on a future career path. For those keen on joining the banking and finance sector, the scholarship is doubly attractive because OCBC Bank is a highly established player in the local industry.

So what have you done with the scholarship?
Stanley: I’m currently a first-year undergraduate reading law at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Although I was from the science stream in JC, I thought it would be interesting to study something more open-ended and thought-provocative.

Has it lived up to your expectations?
Stanley: Well, I knew reading law was going to be tough, but I didn’t realise it was going to be this tough. Thankfully it’s been manageable so far! Many people have this impression that the curriculum for Law is heavier than other faculties. I’m in no position to speak for them, but the truth is, when you’re studying law, there are countless readings to do every day and you have to be prepared to work hard. It’s all about learning how to manage your time well and having the discipline to complete your work before pursuing other activities.

What about you, Serene?
Serene: Like Stanley, I’m studying at NUS, but I’m pursuing a double degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) and Economics. Why ISE, you may ask? As I explained to the OCBC scholarship panel, the reason why I chose this less popular branch of engineering is because of the synergies between ISE and Economics. While ISE is about optimising systems, Economics is similarly about putting a limited amount of resources to maximum utility.

Isn’t it stressful juggling two different courses at the same time?
Serene: Not really. People tend to think a double degree translates to a heavier workload, but I feel that that’s a misconception. All I have to do is take an extra module or two every semester. Many of my peers are in fact embracing heavier workloads; for instance, even when they pursue a single degree they either opt for an accelerated track or take up minor subjects or second majors.

Apart from academia, do you have time for extra-curricular activities?
Serene: I volunteer on a regular basis in my free time. My passion for community service was cemented after I joined the Interact Club in JC. One of my most memorable projects was participating in a 30-hour famine camp, organised by World Vision, to show solidarity for the poor starving children in developing countries. Now that I’m in university, I’m serving in the ISE Student Faculty Club and in the midst of applying as a long-term volunteer for World Vision.

Stanley: Frankly I don’t have much leisure time outside school, but I do play soccer for the NUS Law faculty. In terms of community service, the biggest project I was involved in was back in JC, when I spearheaded a golf charity tournament to raise funds for the Singapore Disability Sports Council.

What are your future plans?
Stanley: OCBC Bank offers internships for scholars during the summer vacation, which I’m keen on taking up in the next few years. After I graduate, I might consider pursuing a Master of Business Administration and go into investment banking.

Serene: Since the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship is bond-free, scholars do not necessarily have to pursue a banking career after graduation, but I’m sure it would be a privilege for me to join OCBC then. I may try my hand at risk management, which is most relevant to ISE.

Any words of advice for future OCBC scholars?
Stanley: Know where you’re headed in life and be confident in showing the scholarship panel what you want to do and how you’re going to get there. The OCBC scholarship speaks for itself, and you will definitely benefit by joining the extensive network of past and current OCBC scholars.

Serene: Another important thing is to demonstrate a spirit of social responsibility. You need to have a clear understanding of your role in society and be motivated to give back to the community after benefitting from the OCBC scholarship.

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