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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Career U-turn sees former legal eagle soaring up the bank ranks

Career U-turn sees former legal eagle soaring up the bank ranks

The search for fresh challenges has put Rath Sophoan on a completely new job pathway.

Photo by:
Nguon Sovan

Rath Sophoan, ANZ Royal Bank's regional manager of retail distribution, started his career as a lawyer. 

Rath Sophoan

  • Age 36
  • Education Rath Sophoan graduated from the Joint Law Program run by the National Institute of Management and the University of San Francisco in 2001. After graduating, he did a masters degree in law at the National University of Singapore under the Asean Graduate Scholarship Scheme. He specialised in international and comparative law.
  •  Career After graduating, Rath Sophoan spent four years with USAID where he oversaw democracy and governance projects in Cambodia. He has worked at ANZ Royal Bank since mid-2006. He started as a management trainee and was quickly promoted to branch manager when he completed training. He was promoted again to regional manager of retail distribution in December after returning from a year of training in Melbourne.

Rath Sophoan is the regional manager of retail distribution at ANZ Royal Bank. He graduated from the Joint Law Program run by the National Institute of Management and the University of San Francisco. He went on to pursue a masters degree in law in 2001 at the National University of Singapore, specialising in international and comparative law though the Asean Graduate Scholarship Scheme. After several years in development he changed track and took up a career in banking. Education & Careers caught up with him shortly after he returned from a year of training in Melbourne.

You studied law but you now work in banking. When you were studying, did your program cover banking and finance?

Banking and finance only formed a small part of my degree. It's natural that you do some business, international trade and banking subjects when you are majoring in commercial law field. Reflecting back on my university days, I thought and still think the most difficult subject was international banking law.  

How did you end up working in banking?

I didn't plan to land in a bank. Indeed, banking is my first private sector job. I was a development professional before that, spending almost four years with USAID-Cambodia overseeing a democracy and governance project.

How did you get your position with the ANZ?

Two of my colleagues had left USAID to join ANZ Royal Bank and, guess what, they talked highly about their new employer and the bank's expansion plans. After doing my homework on the profile of ANZ, its plan in Cambodia and employment trends in Cambodia - development field versus the private sector - I turned in my CV after coming to the conclusion that it's about time to try something different. That was a combination of my personal ambition to get out of my comfort zone and the fact that the private sector was emerging as far as opportunities are concerned. Frankly speaking, I didn't have much to sell other than convincing the hiring managers that I am a trainable guy with a strong potential to grow if and when given the opportunity and appropriate training. I had a few face-to-face interviews and a written aptitude test before being offered a management trainee job.

Do the theories you learned at school and the practical realities match?

I think practical work often validates the theories or points you come across at school. Having said that, being successful at school does not mean one will succeed in the real world. There are other factors, but the point I want to stress is that people need to have goals, believe in themselves and have passion to go for it. Earl Nightingale once said, "People with goals succeed because they know where they are going."

What are your career goals, and how do you plan to get there?

As I mentioned earlier, I started off as a management trainee in mid-2006 and was promoted to be a branch manager in December. As with our parent company, ANZ Royal Bank has been making a heavy investment in training and developing local capacity so that its Cambodian staff could step up to take on more senior roles over time. As a result, there are now more Cambodians who directly report to the CEO.

Besides on-the-job training, the bank has also been sending a number of local staff for training in Australia and in countries where ANZ is present to help staff to be what they can be. Several key local managers have been seconded to ANZ in Australia and New Zealand for between 12 and 18 months. Indeed, I just returned from Melbourne two weeks ago after completing a 12-month secondment with ANZ Melbourne. I am now a regional manager. As far as my career goalx or aspirations are concerned, this is not something I would call my dream job. My philosophy is simple - aim high while doing well what you have now. How you do now will largely determine if you are on track to reach what you have aimed for.

Interview by Nguon Sovan



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