The author was seconded to AMRO from China’s Ministry of Finance

Zhenyu Yuan Quote

I joined AMRO’s Technical Assistance (TA) team in November 2019 on a two-year secondment, but my first involvement with the organization was in 2015, when — as part of my role with China’s Ministry of Finance — I helped support the transformation of AMRO into an international organization, and attended the ceremony on February 9, 2016 in Singapore to mark AMRO’s change in status.

So when I heard in 2018 about the opening for the AMRO TA Assistant role, I did not hesitate to apply for the position. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to further my understanding of financial cooperation in the ASEAN+3 region. And, since I was already working in the field of global financial cooperation in the Chinese ministry, I believed the role in an international organization would further enhance my knowledge.

When I stepped into the AMRO office on my first day at work, I was not sure what was expected of me as a member of the TA team. I was excited and eager to learn, but also anxious about how it would all turn out. I quickly realized the harsh reality of not having much time to worry because there were only two of us in the team, and the workload was heavy. I was immediately tasked with several assignments, such as attending ASEAN+3 Task Force meetings, drafting meeting memos, liaising with trust fund contributors, and supporting research collaborations and consultancy programs. The first few weeks were intense and tiring, but the experience pushed me to adapt quickly to the work environment and learn fast through on-the-job training.

If you were to ask me now what the TA team does, I would say that we cater to the needs of member authorities by planning and delivering various TA programs including secondments, training sessions and seminars. We also manage the TA trust funds, which are used to run these activities. Our ultimate aim is to strengthen macroeconomic surveillance capabilities in the ASEAN+3 region.

As a secondee and TA assistant in AMRO, I do not just provide support to the team. I am also often encouraged to contribute ideas and suggestions. For example, after I was familiar with the daily administrative tasks, I was asked to think of ways to improve overall TA management.

AMRO’s TA operations are in their infancy, having only started in 2016. So as a secondee, there were opportunities for me to study the related policies and guidelines of other international organizations like the Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund. I proposed to formulate an annual work schedule for the TA team. An important component of this schedule is the institutionalization of the TA needs assessment by developing a TA application form, and establishing a clear timeline to survey and collect TA requirements from member authorities. Our team has followed this work schedule since 2020, and the TA needs survey has become an important channel in finding out what members require of AMRO’s technical assistance.

During my two years at AMRO, I benefitted greatly from the diverse expertise of colleagues in different teams. Because TA programs are often deeply integrated with the organization’s other functions, I have had the chance to work closely with other teams, including Surveillance, Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (or CMIM), Strategy and Coordination, as well as Administration and HR. And, because many AMRO staff have worked for our member authorities, I have gained a deeper understanding of the ASEAN+3 member economies as well as regional financial cooperation.

While my time at AMRO has given me the chance to grow professionally, I have also built personal connections with colleagues from different countries and cultural backgrounds. When I moved to Singapore on my own, I did not know anyone in the country. I was warmly welcomed by staff and other secondees at AMRO, with regular invitations to join hiking and other activities on weekends; easing the stress of relocation. I soon became the local guide and event organizer for other (even newer) secondees. These relationships have proven long-lasting, even after the secondees returned to their home countries.

I will remember this phase of my life even more clearly because of the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. The world discovered COVID-19 just two months after I arrived in Singapore. The resulting work from home arrangement has limited my interaction with colleagues, and travel restrictions have prohibited me from achieving my goal of visiting all 10 ASEAN countries. While life is gradually getting back to some semblance of normality, my stint in Singapore has turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined and expected of work and play.

Nevertheless, these past two years with AMRO have been meaningful and rewarding. I have developed additional competencies, broadened my career horizon, and established networks in this region as I continue down the path of international financial cooperation. I also feel extremely honored to have contributed to AMRO’s TA capabilities at its initial development stage. With the solid foundations laid, AMRO’s TA team will in future play an even more significant role in safeguarding the macroeconomic and financial stability of the ASEAN+3 region.