Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Rebekah Wong, J.P. Morgan

Published: Feb 2022

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This Much I Know

Rebekah Wong, Head of Singapore Payments and APAC Transformation & Execution at J.P. Morgan, discusses the challenges of the last two years, and the importance of having a positive mindset in an uncertain world.

Portrait of Rebekah Wong, Head of Singapore Payments and APAC Transformation & Execution, J.P. Morgan

Rebekah Wong

Head of Singapore Payments and APAC Transformation & Execution

J.P. Morgan logo

Rebekah Wong is the head of Singapore Payments for J.P. Morgan, responsible for franchise strategy, product development, new technology delivery, service, and implementation across three lines of business: Treasury Services, Global Trade and Merchant Services. In addition to her Singapore role, she also leads APAC Transformation & Execution and is responsible for driving the business transformation agenda and identifying partnership opportunities for the region. Rebekah joined the firm in 2013 as a regional Payments Product Manager and previously had a decade-long career with Citibank, where she headed operational transformation and re-engineering efforts for APAC Trade & Treasury Solutions.

Tell us about your current position.

Having started my career with Citi in operations, I joined J.P. Morgan just over eight years ago as a regional product manager in the payments space.

I currently helm the Singapore payments franchise. It is very much an organisation centred on products, with responsibilities in sales and client service and implementation and delivery operations. In other words, the whole works. I also look after what we call market positioning initiatives for the region, as well as some of the more transformational aspects of the business, mission critical initiatives and projects for APAC payments.

How can junior professionals be empowered to challenge bias and promote diversity?

I think most of the time, junior professionals may be a little bit guarded about what they say or don’t say. My advice would be to start making a difference in your own department in your way. The more you start to challenge bias, the more comfortable you will be to continue challenging bias. Perhaps you need to find a role model, someone who has been successful in challenging bias, and try to emulate them.

Another way to have a voice is to join and participate in dedicated diversity and inclusion committees. In my organisation, we have quite a few of those. We want to hear more from people about what they think works and doesn’t work. That's part of the beauty of diversity, right? Junior professionals could have a very different perspective that perhaps we don't see because the way that they interact, or the things that matter to them, are different.

How has the conversation around inclusion and diversity evolved?

There is so much more awareness than there was ten years ago, to the extent it is even being featured on managers’ KPI scorecards. And of course it is very important to measure progress. But inclusion is incredibly difficult to measure. Someone once told me – diversity is seen, but inclusion is felt.

Increasingly, many organisations have dedicated committees to address these problems. The most important thing is to focus on changing the mindset. The way to start is through information and education, and then embedding some of these things in the work policy. In terms of hiring new recruits, it is important to ensure a diverse selection of not only interviewees, but also interviewers.

Is it important to have a defined career plan?

Although we might all like to have a defined path as much as possible, work and life don’t usually work out that way. Sometimes, due to major changes or events, we may decide to prioritise one over the other.

If we look at the banking industry, so much has changed, from technology all the way to consumer behaviour. So I would say that it's important to stay open and flexible. And when the right opportunity comes along, it might feel uncomfortable. But it’s OK to feel uncomfortable.

What is your motto in life or your greatest inspiration?

Life is a journey, not a race.

I also think it helps to subscribe to a very positive mindset. One of my mentors from my early days told me that no matter how hard the day is – the day will pass.

Career progression

One of the biggest challenges that Rebekah has faced in her career came early on, a couple of years after joining J.P. Morgan as a regional product manager. “One day I was offered the chance to become a manager in the finance and business side,” she recalls. “This was an opportunity for me to go into something very different from the positions that I had been trained in and had experience of.”

The new role gave her access to senior managers. “I gained a very ‘top of the house’ view on how the business is run and how it is positioned,” she says. “When I started my career, it would never have occurred to me that I would be managing the portfolio that I have now. Sometimes doors open, and you just have to go with your gut instincts. You should do your homework as well, of course. But to be challenged in different ways can be fun.”

Challenging times

During the time that Rebekah has been involved with cash management, she has seen the remit expand to include looking after trade and merchant services. She is a firm believer that the business she is in allows clients to be supported by their banks throughout their whole ecosystem, helping them in a variety of ways.

The events of the past two years have also demanded greater agility in terms of how clients are supported. For the APAC region, the storm really hit in April 2020. During the initial period of the pandemic, as clients were adapting to the new normal and working from home, working capital needs had to be met either through emergency or exceptional funding.

“If there was a silver lining to the cloud, it was that we were able to expedite the launch of quite a few solutions, especially digital tools,” Rebekah recalls. “I think that clients who were unwilling to consider certain digitisation initiatives in the past are now a lot more flexible.”

With face-to-face meetings impossible, learning new ways of connecting with clients was of the utmost importance for Rebekah and her team. “The challenge for us was how we could utilise Zoom meetings without clients becoming ‘Zoom-fatigued’. And information sharing, such as regulatory changes, had to be channelled through webinars,” she says. “It was very much a journey for all of us.”

Another challenge of remote working was to keep connectivity without overwhelming people by checking in all the time, and to evaluate members of the team remotely. “I would say that as a manager you need to be flexible and supportive during these difficult times and possibly recalibrate your own expectations,” Rebekah explains. “Things that came very easily in the past might now be much more difficult.”

Career development

When it comes to offering advice to women establishing and developing a career, Rebekah highlights the benefit of seeking out mentors, sponsors and advocates. “A mentor can help you with your overall development,” she explains. “And an advocate, or sponsor, can be there to promote your interests and open doors for you.”

While different women face different challenges, she emphasises the value of building confidence and asking for help and support when needed. “I also think it's important for women to stay flexible and to be open to new opportunities,” Rebekah advises. “And while it’s important to know what you want, sometimes I tell my team that it's good to know what you don’t want. We really need to be very flexible in life, because you never know what might happen next.”

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