Esther Sprague – What it’s like to work in digital bank Mox

Making the leap from a traditional bank to a purely digital one can come with its challenges, but Esther believes that the pay-offs are worth it


There’s a huge sense of pride in working in a digital bank like Mox, as we are a small team building something from the ground-up and making a real impact.

Coming from someone who used to work in a traditional bank, the experience is worlds apart. Since we are less crippled by legacy tech and processes in Mox, the start-up environment allows us to have a clean slate where we can roll out new tools more efficiently. And since we are a lean set-up, we get more exposure as we have to roll up our sleeves and take on many roles compared with big banks where there are specialised teams.

I joined Hong Kong’s Mox in early 2019 where I work in Cyber Security Enablement, managing the design and implementation of new security controls. Now, I lead the defence team to keep the bank secure. I was previously working in an Australian bank where I was in the tech risk team before I made the switch to cyber security. I later transferred to the Hong Kong office before the opportunity to join Mox came along.

While I may be in the tech industry now, I actually studied economics and commercial law back in university. However, I was so deeply interested in the tech space that I requested to make an internal move and even organised my own training sessions. Having very supportive managers also helped although I had to take things into my own hands to push for the change. If you want to move to tech, you have to persevere and chase after it. The demand is there, so if you want to learn, there’s always a way.

I would be avoiding the elephant in the room if I didn’t talk about the challenges of being in a male-dominated field, both in tech and in cyber security. What I’ve realised is that sometimes, you may need to push to get a seat at the table if you don’t fit the typical mould. If you’re not given a seat, bring one yourself.

I’ve learnt to overcome self-doubt by forming positive, supportive and respectful relationships at work, focusing on common goals and acknowledging that people are different. Working with “techies” can be intimidating, but I now recognise that everyone is a subject matter expert in their own areas. It’s actually one of the best things about working in Mox as I get to meet smart, ambitious peers who I can learn from.

Looking ahead, I aim to enhance my leadership skills as I am still in the early days of building a relatively new team. I would also like to continue to be more hands-on at work too, which means sharpening my skills with further technical security exams on cyber forensics and incident response.

Having been in Hong Kong the past few years, I think I’ve only started to scratch the surface as there’s so much to do. The situation here in the past few years hasn’t been easy due to pandemic restrictions and many expats leaving the city. But I’ve learnt to make the most out of my time here, such as hiking and exploring trails on the mountain bike. While travel is still difficult at the moment, it’s given me more time to learn new things – in the past year, I learned to sail as well as to deejay. It’s truly a wonderful place to live and I feel like I’m only getting started.

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