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Walter Coakley
Executive director, National Banking Group, Keppel TatLee Bank Limited, Singapore.

How long have you been in your current position? Twelve months.

What does your job involve?
Executive responsibility for the retail and corporate divisions of Keppel TatLee Bank (which accounts for about two-thirds of the bank’s profits). Also responsible for developing the banks strategic positioning in Asia and introducing various initiatives in the context of the alliance between AIB and Keppel TatLee.

What was your initial reaction when you were offered this position abroad?
Not again! I had already done two overseas stints for AIB (USA:1984-1988, UK:1988-1994).

How has your position altered from that initial perception?
The challenge of the job has overtaken the initial concerns. The nature of that challenge has meant that my daily interaction is almost totally with Singaporeans (mainly Chinese) and has required a fairly rapid understanding of the local mindset.

How does your operation fit strategically within the group’s overall business?
AIB has an option to invest in Keppel TatLee (which would give it a 25 per cent stake in the bank). The exercise of this option would give AIB the potential to develop a substantial new source of earnings from the Asian marketplace. Pending such investment the bank in Singapore operates independently of AIB with an independent board and management team.

How close do you think Ireland is to the cutting edge of financial services?
Comparing Ireland with a market like Singapore is not easy since there are substantial differences in customer behaviour, particularly in the adaptation of technology. There are competitive differences in both marketplaces with Singapore banks being more dependent on lending for income purposes than their Irish counterparts.

What’s the best thing about living / working abroad?
From a work perspective the challenge of influencing change in a totally difference corporate and cultural environment is unique. Singapore is a very good base from which to explore Asia with ready access to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.

What’s the worst thing about living / working abroad?
Splitting up my family because of the ages/education needs of my children. The sheer distance from Ireland means that getting home for quick visits is not an option. Singapore has a hot and humid climate with very little variation in temperatures so I miss the Irish cold occasionally! The environment (particularly working) is very serious so Irish-style humour is fairly redundant though happily not non-existent.

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