- Sarjit Singh is recognised as a financial industry talent and outstanding community leader. He was the winner of the Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award in 2012.
- He is a recipient of the 2011 Public Service Star and the 2007 Public Service Medal conferred by the President of the Republic of Singapore.
- He has built an extensive career in assurance and advisory, including 16 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- As CFO of AIA Singapore and Aviva Asia, he was responsible for formulating and implementing the financial, investment and commercial strategies during the 2008 global financial crisis.
- Sarjit shares his secrets for success plus insights on how CAs can plan for the future.
Tell us about what you do?
I am a partner at Chartered Accounting firm Ardent Associates LLP, the winner of the ‘Best Practice Award’ at the Singapore Accountancy Awards 2016. I lead the Risk and Governance practice, and I truly enjoy my work with various financial institutions, multinationals, government statutory boards and listed companies, where my team and I provide a range of services from risk assurance to internal audit.
What does the start of a typical day look like for you?
I start each day by taking five minutes to visualise what I am grateful for – like the laughs, high fives and hugs from my wife Kiran and my 1-year old twins Ashlyn and Jaslyn. By the time I am done, I am smiling from ear to ear. Positive thoughts at the start of a day set the tone for the rest of my day.
If someone were to be you for a day, what’s the one thing they need to know?
That a smile has the power to improve the day of those around us. I have learned to go forward in life with a sparkle in my eyes and a smile on my face, but with strong purpose in my heart. Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.
What would be your top three pieces of advice on “getting the job done”?
1. Find your purpose, set your goals and strive to achieve them
Goal-setting has played a huge part in ensuring that I get things done effectively in my life. I have big-picture goals that give me a clear line of sight and keep me motivated, while everyday goals help me learn something new each day.
2. Find your passion, develop your talent and make possibilities happen
Working on our individual talents can provide far greater freedom to follow our passion than we believe. The mistake is to expect instant gratification or miscalculate the perseverance required to make big things happen. Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.
3. Share and give back
I always reflect and remind myself of the privileges that I have. The motivation in giving and contributing to the greater good has become integral to my actions, and I continuously work towards making decisions that can empower people around me.
What are the biggest challenges right now for your industry?
We are living in an age of change that is unprecedented in scale and impact – changes in how business is being done, how old models are being up-ended (think Grab, Uber, Airbnb) and how technology is going to revolutionise pretty much everything. With no crystal ball to foretell the future, we must believe that the narrative for the future is one we can determine and shape. Chartered Accountants need to develop a broad-based digital mindset and be prepared to look for opportunities that technology brings to either upskill or to leverage the efficiencies of the technology.
What is your secret for success?
Everyone defines success differently. I define success as achieving a particular goal I have set in my own mind, not what society calls a success. I have been knocked down quite a few times. After a while, it just becomes second nature to pick oneself up, dust yourself off and keep going. My past failures have taught me that I’ll eventually succeed!
If you could choose to work in any company or organisation in the world – what in this company/organisation would appeal to you, both from a career perspective as well as lifestyle?
I have had the good fortune to do different things and work with great teams of talented people throughout my career. Relationships make us what we are. So our professional values of trust, responsiveness, quality, integrity and collaboration underpin everything we do.
How does being a Chartered Accountant help you in your current role?
I was fortunate to receive an overseas graduate scholarship from PwC to complete my CA qualification in Sydney. It provided me with the knowledge, skills and values to be a highly regarded and sought-after business professional. Becoming a CA was my passport to success, and it offers those with an entrepreneurial streak the perfect foundation for starting your own business. As a CA, the world really is your oyster.
You are a member of the Singapore government appointed Legal and Accounting Services Working Group of the Committee on the Future Economy. Can you tell us more about this?
The Working Group was set up to develop strategies towards building a vibrant and competitive legal and accounting services sector that creates value and opportunities for all in Singapore.
In developing its recommendations to the Singapore government, the Working Group studied several areas including key demand drivers, potential disruptors such as technology, skillsets required, and supporting infrastructure and services. Ideas were gathered from a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
The Working Group noted that Asia’s continued growth and advancements in technology present both opportunities as well as challenges, and the long-term growth of the Legal and Accounting Services sector depends on firms’ ability to further tap into demand beyond Singapore’s shores.
In particular, professional firms will need to expand their networks to source complementary partners with skills and knowledge. Technology platforms may emerge that allow networks to develop across professional industries to enable joint ventures. However, professionals must not lose sight of the importance of truly understanding their client's business and future plans.
What do you do in your free time?
Outside professional work and family time, my spare time is fully consumed by community work. I have humble beginnings. My father passed away when I was about 10 years of age, and my family survived largely on savings. Nonetheless, my father was a role model for me, igniting my passion for community work.
Over the past 17 years, I have served as District Councillor and Chairman of the Finance Committee at Central Singapore Community Development Council. The Council works in close partnership with government and commercial agencies, and serves over one million residents by assisting the needy and connecting the community.
I also have a strong desire to give back to the education system and to the youth of our community. My wife and I recently created an endowment fund at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to inspire outstanding final year students, as we wish to leave a legacy to benefit future generations.
Finally, please complete this sentence – I am Sarjit Singh, Executive Chairman of Ardent Associates LLP, and ……..
I thank everyone who inspired me and taught me along my life journey. It’s a world of opportunities out there. If one door closes, open another or create one! Believe in your journey, your purpose and inspire others towards that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.