From jewellery retailing, to pawnbroking, to risk and compliance

JENNIFER Tan, 60, would never have considered working in traditional pawnshops, with their "jail-like" bars and intimidating feel.

"If you ask me to join them, obviously I wouldn't join them."

Yet when she had to move from a long career in jewellery retailing to working in MoneyMax, she found the transition almost seamless.

"The concept is totally different (from traditional pawnshops)," she says.

When Ms Tan joined Soo Kee Group as a retail manager in 2003, she already had more than a decade of experience in jewellery retailing.

She rose to the position of area manager, overseeing several stores.

Then in 2010, she became a senior area manager for MoneyMax instead.

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Though pawnbroking might sound like a vastly different industry, it did not feel like a huge change in practice, she says.

After all, each MoneyMax branch is fronted by a retail area, with display cases full of sparkling jewellery.

The clientele is not that different either. Her many years in retail prepared her for the change, she says: "On the floor for so long, I came across a lot of different customers.

"In MoneyMax, the customers we encounter are quite similar. You don't feel like you're in a different sector."

Perhaps the biggest difference was having to verify the credibility of MoneyMax customers - a delicate task, she says. "You have to be very sensitive when you talk."

There were also technical skills she could apply from her retail days.

She had to learn how to authenticate and value watches and luxury goods such as handbags.

She was no stranger to the other assets that MoneyMax handles, however: "Valuing gold and diamonds is not an issue for me."[LAWS?]

When MoneyMax expanded to Malaysia in 2014, she was in charge of overseeing the move.

It helped that reliable business processes had already been developed in Singapore, she says: "You bring over the same format."

She did have to deal with a different client profile and a new team of local staff, and learn basic Malay to better communicate.

But the cheerful Ms Tan took it in her stride: "It's a matter of how you adapt to the environment."

The adaptation has not stopped. Last August, she returned to Singapore to become MoneyMax's deputy head of risk and compliance.

She has to stay up to speed on the many rules and regulations surrounding pawnbroking.

"There are many preventive (regulations) against money laundering, terrorism. We have to look into all these gaps."

As before, she is tackling the new challenge by building upon what she already knows: "With the experience I have, I come to know the loopholes (that must be addressed) pretty fast."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council