Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Lily Xiong, BlackRock

Published: Jul 2021

Lily Xiong, Head of BlackRock’s Corporate Solutions, APAC, counsels women on the importance of being bold and ambitious in their careers. By embracing the prospect of failure and stepping out of their comfort zones women get to reach higher, she says.

Lily Xiong, Head of Corporate Solutions, APAC, BlackRock

Lily Xiong

Head of Corporate Solutions, APAC

BlackRock logo

Tell us about your career and current role.

I started my career at J.P. Morgan as a China strategist, from there I rose to become Head of China Access, building relationships with executives from China’s leading enterprises and providing strategic advice to senior institutional investors on China investments. Later I joined Jefferies, heading up their Corporate Access division for Asia Pacific. In 2018 I joined BlackRock as Head of Corporate Solutions for Asia Pacific tasked with building a team and business from scratch when BlackRock became one of the first asset managers to step into this space.

My ambition was always to build a business that I could be proud of. The goal of our team is to cultivate long-term relationships with corporates across public and private markets and align across the platform to advise and tailor one-stop solutions to corporates. The last three years have been challenging, but it is also exciting as the business is growing much faster than we thought when we began. The most important thing is to share our vision with all our stakeholders so they can trust what we are doing and we can work towards the same goals together.

What is your advice regarding career progression?

I have never put any limits on my goals or career progression. I have always dreamt big, and then worked hard to achieve it. I have built three businesses in three different firms, each one quite different given the fast-paced nature of change in the industry. I enjoy the challenge of working in a complex evolving business and use all the experiences that come my way to build resilience, leadership skills and a stepping stone to go further and higher.

It is challenging moving from one business to another. Particularly when it comes to sharing your vision and convincing those around you to trust you and align with the strategy. It comes down to leadership and the ability to communicate with your stakeholders both internally and externally. At BlackRock, when you are a Managing Director you are considered a leader for the whole firm. You lead your team, but you also lead horizontally across different functions acting as a role model for the whole business.

How do you approach DEI?

I sit on the firm’s talent and culture taskforce where my focus is to work with my partners on driving the firm’s DEI efforts in the region. DEI is a priority for our business because it is critical to our success. For our culture and our business, we believe positive outcomes result from more voices coming from people of varied backgrounds and experiences. The more we can reflect the real world, the more we can adjust to our clients’ needs and concerns. My objective is to work closely with colleagues, clients and partners to bring more DEI into our firm, industry and community.

What advice would you give other women working in finance?

The best piece of advice I have ever been given in my career is to own it! That involves finding a purpose and your own definition of success. Next, build a strong and supportive group of people around you who can be constructive, provide honest feedback and challenge your everyday thinking. These people should also advocate for your career and motivate you when you are facing failure. It is also important to set milestones and celebrate achievements. Lastly, my main advice is to work hard and don’t be afraid of failure.

I wish I had been braver and spoken up more through the course of my career – learning to stand up and speak up for what you believe in is hard. I would also advise younger women to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that scare them and be ready to embrace success and failure.

Experiences, good and bad, provide a solid foundation for the future. I also advise colleagues to be patient and focus on the long-term. I hear people say they are struggling to get promoted or they are suffering a setback. But this builds resilience to face short-term failures that make us stronger – there is no need to hurry career progression. People’s hard work and resilience will eventually pay off and what they deem a setback or failure will be their best asset and a source of confidence for the future. As a leader today, who has experienced a lot of setbacks, I am much more empathetic and confident because I can share my own frustrations and failures, and how I’ve learned to overcome setbacks.

How should women ensure they are heard?

Women can do a number of things to ensure they are heard. First, they need to believe in themselves; believe they have something important to say and be vocal. Second, they should cultivate strong relationships with sponsors, colleagues, and clients who can create opportunities for them to speak up. Lastly, support and advocate for other women. At BlackRock, we have several initiatives which include Courageous Conversations, Inclusion Dialogues and Taking on the Stage, which encourage our employees to speak up. In 2019, our WIN (Women’s Initiative Network) APAC Committee created a program called the WIN Power Hour, which features the most talented and accomplished female leaders across the industry to share their views and career advice. As for one of my favourite moto’s – it has to be Robert Ingersoll’s “We rise by lifting others.”

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