Poised to scale the peaks of corporate finance

Corporate finance is a hugely competitive field but NUS Business School final year student Clarisse Gan has shown that she has what it takes to shine at the highest levels.

The Finance major won top spot in the local edition of the “Ernst & Young (EY) Corporate Finance Woman of the Year” competition, propelling her to the international round where she competed with 21 other global finalists – who had themselves been whittled down from 289 participants.

Clarisse’s performance continued to impress, earning her second place in the international round and the chance to embark on a 12-month mentorship programme with Ernst & Young. 

The road to victory

Contestants in the prestigious competition were assessed on their critical-thinking ability and creativity in solving complex problems, through a mixture of individual and group challenges.

Clarisse certainly met the mark. The judges in the global finals noted the exceptionality of her presentation style; commenting on how she was engaging and asked good questions. They were also impressed by Clarisse’s thoughtfulness and how she showed an appreciation of the views of others while being passionate about a more equitable workplace.

In what she described as a transformative experience, Clarisse shared, “The competition has been eye-opening and enriching. It gave me an opportunity to meet and collaborate with like-minded peers who share a passion for corporate finance. Excelling in this competition has been of special significance as I aspire to make an impact in what is traditionally a male-dominated space.”

The experience, which allowed Clarisse access to the wisdom and journeys of top EY female leaders over networking and sharing sessions, was also deeply inspiring for her. Through these sessions she received practical tips on how to seize opportunities and make her opinions heard, and was encouraged to lead by example and be guided by a sense of purpose.

At the peer-to-peer level, Clarisse valued the chance to exchange leadership experiences and learnings with like-minded finalists from all around the world.

Indeed, one of Clarisse’s greatest takeaways is learning to be a better leader.

During the global finals, she was grouped with three other finalists from different countries, backgrounds, and work cultures to work on a simulation of a client case study. With such a dynamic and diverse group, they had to strike a fine balance between their different opinions and ways of working to complete the task efficiently.

She observed, “My group was very creative with a lot of ideas, and it was important for everyone to be heard.” Taking the lead, she proposed strategies to guide the team’s decision-making process while allowing the project to be completed in a structured and efficient manner – a move well-received by her group mates.

The NUS Business School edge, and finding her calling

Clarisse attributes her success in part to NUS Business School’s Finance modules which imparted critical and holistic-thinking skills. She is also glad she took a second specialisation in Management and Organisation, where she learned the importance of people management, leadership, and how it is key to achieving success.

The EY Corporate Finance Woman of the Year competition, which aims to inspire the next generation of exceptional female talent to pursue a career in strategy and transactions, has certainly achieved that for Clarisse. It has cemented her interest in corporate finance and she is resolute in pursuing a career in this field.

“This competition has helped developed my passion in the topic and crystallised a career pathway in this field. I aspire to someday establish myself as an industry leader and I hope to inspire future generations of women after me to do the same.”

Clarisse’s runner up prize is accompanied by a 12-month mentorship opportunity with a senior female partner from EY-Parthenon – one of the largest consulting organisations worldwide. She intends to learn from her mentor’s career journey, how the mentor manages her team with today’s work-from-home arrangements, and ways to achieve work-life balance – with the last being an important topic for Clarisse personally.

Although her competition journey has come to an end, a grand new adventure awaits for Clarisse.