Can you tell me about your professional background and your current role?
After reading law at university, the only thing that I knew on graduating was that I did not want to practise law for a living! I was given the opportunity to join Citi’s Management Associate programme and during one of my training rotations, I ended up working in the Global Transaction Services team in Singapore. At that time - in the mid-nineties - the concept of corporate cash management was fairly new to Asia, but my manager brought me on in what was essentially a sales associate role. It then evolved into a marketing role because I ended up doing a lot of the communications and messaging for the business. After a few years, I moved from Citi to HSBC and then to Standard Chartered Bank. Since then, I have transitioned to different Marketing roles in the B2B environment, and almost always in financial services.
After Standard Chartered, I returned to Citi again and eventually ended up working in New York. I then decided to return to Asia after three years, joining Thomson Reuters in their Financial and Risk business, where I ran the Asia Marketing team. All the experience that I have gained as a Marketer has led me to my current role. I have always viewed Marketing as being more than just an events and communications function: it can support the sales teams to drive business. In fact, I would say that everything I’ve done in my professional career has been about sales enablement in some way, with a specific focus on corporate and institutional banking.
I really have been fortunate in my career. I have had the chance to live in different countries, I have also worked in various corporate cultures, so I recognise and believe that the best results come from having different perspectives. There is always something that you haven't thought of yourself. Our greatest learnings come from listening to different people and recognising that there are other unique points of view.
I have always believed that having diversity of thought is the most powerful tool you can have in an organisation and that comes not just from gender and racial diversity but spans language, religion and so on. I have worked in offices where people do not speak English as a first language, but because they work in a multi-cultural and multi-national environment where English is the business language, they may not always be able to express themselves as articulately. It affects the perception of their presentation skills and I hope I have learned to become sensitive to this.
Broadening our horizons
When encountering discrimination or prejudice in the workplace, I have learnt that at the end of the day you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. Credibility is earned, and if you do not have it with colleagues then you have to work out how to change peoples’ minds. When confronting our own prejudices and biases, I have learnt that although it is incredibly hard, we must recognise that we all make generalisations. I found attending a course on unconscious bias helpful - programmes like this force you to reflect on your behaviours and think about how to improve them.
I have also observed regional variations in diversity and inclusion conversations. In the US, specifically New York, it tends to be more focused on gender, sexual orientation and race, particularly black identity. In Asia, the conversation around gender is nuanced, as there is an extra dimension of “localisation” that really is unique since the region is not homogeneous. However, one of the practical things that I believe we can apply in any region is to focus on constant communication. Speaking up and sharing your point of view, as well as listening to others, is really important, as is not being shy and trying to break through some of those traditional barriers.
Push and pull
To truly drive change, I believe senior leadership must pro-actively listen, reach out and be willing to spend time with colleagues. And I’d advise the next generation that they must recognise that they should keep sharing their thoughts and experiences with people who are willing to listen and give them a platform to also speak up.
I believe it comes down to creating an environment where people feel they have flexibility and are valued. It’s about having a guiding framework and structure, because diversity and inclusion rules are going to apply differently to different people. As the saying goes: ‘We're all in the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat’.
Finally, I believe that employers should support staff with responsibilities and priorities other than children. For example, people who want to be able to prioritise taking care of their parents or even distant relatives or close friends. These “life choice” decisions should also be equitable to parenthood. The future environment should support all employees, as we increasingly redefine what family is and adjust the framework we offer to those who work with and for us.