Published on 15 Mar 2024

Helping students wade through troubled financial waters

From financial challenges in school to business success today, alumnus Steven Lim’s story is one of perseverance. Today, the NTU benefactor is committed to supporting students grappling with similar financial challenges.

By Sadia Roohi

Steven Lim RoomSteven Lim (3rd from right) with some RSTN Scholarship and Bursary beneficiaries. NTU student Paul (3rd from left) will continue to mentor his juniors after graduation.

Steven Lim’s (WKWSCI/2008) life story is marked by resilience and determination. Growing up in challenging circumstances, he faced financial difficulties as his family relied on his fisherman father. A gambling addict, his father racked up debts with illegal moneylenders who started harassing the family. He then fled to Vietnam and did not return for many years or provide any financial support. As a result, Steven had to work multiple jobs to put himself through school and university.

After graduating from university with a bachelor’s degree, Steven worked at a company for six to seven years where in 1997, he helped secure an international bid, bringing in US$80 million. Motivated by this, he started his business with three partners in 1998, despite the Asian financial crisis. 

However, 1999 was a challenging year for Steven and his partners as they worked hard to secure an important project, even dipping into their savings. Moreover, Steven’s father returned and was diagnosed with last-stage colorectal cancer. Steven’s savings were further depleted, and the team faced the possibility of dissolution if the project didn't materialise. The tides turned in December 1999 when they emerged victorious, clinching the deal and receiving a much-needed lifeline of US$10 million.

His dedication and hard work eventually led to him becoming the Group CEO and founder of RSTN Consulting, a company providing Enterprise Content Management, Business Process Management and Cyber Security solutions to countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

Steven, who completed an MSc in Knowledge Management from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) in 2008, and graduated as top student in his cohort, empathises with the struggles of needy students and is keen to help them. "My goal is to ensure that students from low-income backgrounds will not have to struggle all by themselves,” said Steven. “It stems from my own situation back then when I had no financial means to enter university and literally had to beg and borrow. I hope my gifts can improve the lives of bright minds that require a bit of help while wading through troubled waters."

He decided to give back to society after a near-death experience in 2010 when he suffered a heart attack while overseas. The life-altering event prompted him to make giving back an essential part of his mission in life and business, alongside taking better care of his health.

Steven Lim with Ms See E-jinGroup CEO and Founder of RSTN Consulting Steven Lim with NTU’s Chief Development Officer Ms See E’jin at the launch of the "林芝锋 Lin Zhi Feng Seminar Room” in NTU’s Gaia.

After establishing the RSTN Scholarship and Bursary Fund in 2021, Steven recently made another gift to NTU’s Endowment Fund. In recognition of his philanthropic gesture, a seminar room at NTU’s Gaia academic building has been named “林芝锋 Lin Zhi Feng Seminar Room”. He has also provided emergency grants to students facing extreme financial difficulties, some of whom were unable to afford proper daily meals.

A mentor figure to students

His commitment goes beyond financial contributions. He actively engages with his scholarship and bursary recipients, fostering a sense of community and encouragement. 

During the room’s unveiling ceremony in February, Steven met several student recipients from the RSTN Scholarship and Bursary Fund. He shared five keys to success: passion, belief, strategy, good health, and networking. 

Paul Solomon Low, a final-year Business and Computer Science student and the recipient of the RSTN Scholarship, will embark on a career with Citi after graduation. Steven has inspired him to give back to NTU by supporting his juniors.

“I appreciate how Mr Steven Lim encourages us to develop a heart for society and pay it forward. I have, albeit in a much smaller way, mentored my NTU juniors in the same extracurricular activities and encouraged them to do the same for others,” he said.

Another student, Ivan Tan, a final-year Biological Sciences and Psychology undergraduate and an RSTN Bursary recipient, also appreciates his interactions with Steven. 

"Receiving the bursary has helped me overcome financial constraints and opened doors to new opportunities. I am thankful for the financial support, which allows me to pursue my interests in research and boating,” said Ivan.

Ivan TanFinal year Biological Sciences and Psychology undergraduate Ivan Tan, a recipient of the RSTN Bursary, could pursue opportunities without worrying too much about his financial situation.

Inspired by Steven’s generosity, Ivan aims to pay it forward. He said, “The person I am today is the result of many individuals who willingly contributed time and resources into nurturing me. There will come a day when a wide-eyed student comes to me for guidance, and I will use my capacity to give back and help others grow as well.” 

As an NTU alumnus, Steven felt a strong connection to the university and a sense of duty to give back. He said, "I hope that the students pay it forward in the future when they are working and are able to become donors so that more needy students can benefit. Being generous is always so rewarding and fulfilling.” 

Emphasising the importance of collective efforts, Steven said, “Alumni who are in a comfortable financial situation should step forward and do their small part in giving back to NTU. They may also donate to my current scholarship or bursary fund to support more students. Their contributions, no matter the amount, will help NTU and its students in a significant way."