Through a comprehensive suite of saving, housing and healthcare schemes, the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB) enables Singaporeans to enjoy peace of mind in their golden years. Facilitating the secure retirement of citizens are the employees at CPFB who work tirelessly in both the frontlines and behind the scenes. We chat with Teo Zhijuan, Recovery Manager, to find out how she makes a meaningful difference to the lives of others.
Why did you choose to join the CPFB?
The CPF schemes made an indelible impact in my life. I benefitted from the CPF Education Scheme, which enabled me to fund my tertiary education using my sister’s CPF funds. Personally, I believe the CPFB plays a pivotal role in safeguarding its members’ interests in housing, healthcare and retirement. I find it meaningful to be able to dedicate my career in the service of the public.
Share more about your responsibilities at CPFB.
As manager of the enforcement unit, I lead a team of enforcement officers to ensure timely and accurate recovery of CPF contributions from defaulting employers. I also handle complex enquiries from employers and employees which are escalated by my officers. In the course of investigation, we conduct field visits at the work premises of the employers who fail to respond to us. We also interview employees and employers to ascertain CPF liabilities, as well as taking enforcement action to recover CPF funds from employers who default on the mandatory contributions.
What are some of the challenges you face at work and how do you overcome them?
It is definitely a challenge to manage the expectations of both the employers and employees in the course of mediating disputes. We have to rely on our expertise and impartiality to deliver a solution that is perceived to be fair and just by both parties. This requires a strong understanding of the CPF Act and good negotiation skills. It is not easy to find a balance as we encounter many different scenarios and have to consider a myriad of factors to arrive at a viable solution. In addition, we have to be extra tactful when dealing with both parties so that their concerns can be settled amicably.
Share with us about one memorable episode you have had during your career.
I once dealt with a rather emotional employer who was facing financial difficulties in her business, and was unable to meet the CPF obligations of her employees on time. Consequently, a composition amount was imposed on her company. While she was trying to explain her circumstances to me, tears streamed from her eyes. I decided to put up an appeal to the management for her. However, I was unsure if the appeal would succeed. To my delight, the appeal was successful. She was very grateful for my assistance and even came down to the Board to thank me personally. I felt a sense of satisfaction as my effort has made an impact on the lives of others.
What do you find most rewarding or fulfilling about your role?
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that the work we do has significant impact on Singaporeans at various life stages. We help employees to recover their rightful CPF contributions, which is very important to most people as they rely on their CPF funds to meet their housing, healthcare and retirement needs. It is also especially encouraging when we receive positive feedback from employees who have benefited from our efforts.
What skills and qualities does one need to have in order to succeed as a recovery manager at the CPFB?
It is essential for a Recovery Manager to have strong interpersonal skills as we are required to mediate between parties. We also need to be able to empathise with others and be able to see things from their perspectives. That being said, it is also of paramount importance for us to remain firm with requests that are inappropriate. A balance of these qualities is essential in this field of work.
What are some of the opportunities that the CPFB has provided to bolster your personal and professional development?
The CPFB offers a variety of internal and external training courses. New officers will be equipped with fundamental enforcement-related knowledge and skills by our in-house trainers from the School of Enforcement. We are also encouraged to take up courses to upgrade our skills. Through the array of development opportunities offered at the CPFB, I have gained new insights into the field of data analytics through a course on Tableu software. I also managed to redesign several work processes to enhance efficiency and productivity.
What advice do you have for university graduates who wish to join CPFB?
I would advise potential applicants to keep an open mind and not to feel constrained by your field of study. It is more important to pursue your passion and build on your personal strength, as these will sustain your career and individual development. If a meaningful career where you get to enjoy meeting people from all walks of life is what you are looking for, the CPFB would be an ideal choice. The organisation provides diverse opportunities for staff to take on different roles with supportive managers to offer guidance, and a positive working environment.