After taking the plunge into the world of treasury, Dawn Chua quickly began to see how dynamic and challenging the profession could be. In this interview, Dawn shares her thoughts on the profession, the importance of teamwork, a healthy work/life balance and the need to have passion for your role.
Head of Capital and Treasury
Dawn Chua is the Head of Capital and Treasury of SGX. She is responsible for the effective management of the capital of SGX and managing Treasury strategies and policies. She has more than ten years experience in various Treasury functions spanning across the Manufacturing, Property, IT and Investment industries before she joined SGX.
Dawn holds a Bachelor of Business degree (Honours) from NTU and has obtained ACCA certification.
What is the best piece of advice that you have been given in your career so far?
Very early in my career I was told that always having an eagerness to learn, a disciplined approach to doing things and working hard to follow things through, are very important qualities. Only through these can you gain the experience and exposure you need to progress. I have applied these qualities throughout my career, but I will leave the judgement on whether these are the right qualities for others to decide! In all seriousness, I truly believe that one should be willing to take on new tasks because you never know how doing them might enhance your skillset. I would encourage women to be forthcoming in this respect and to have more confidence and self-belief to take on new challenges.
How much opportunity is there for career progression within your role?
Over the past couple of years there has been a distinct focus on increasing awareness around diversity of all types, including gender. There are initiatives to encourage females to enter the boardroom of companies and create more opportunity and motivation for women to succeed.
Which regulatory initiative is currently the biggest concern for your treasury department?
Treasury always has to be aware of evolving regulations, and I wouldn’t say that one is of particular concern because there are many that we need to comply with. It is a very dynamic area and one that has to be carefully managed; and, if necessary, changes have to be made in order to meet the regulatory requirements. It is a challenge but it is also something that makes the treasury role more interesting. Working in treasury means being able to adapt to the ever-changing environment and adopt it accordingly.
A magic lamp that would allow me to resolve all treasury issues instantaneously! But while I have been waiting for this magic to happen, technology has had an increasingly vital role to play in the treasury space and this will continue, allowing treasury to further enhance front, middle and back office operational efficiency. These developments have allowed for enhanced risk management and allowed the treasurer to spend more time engaging the business partners. A few hours extra in the day to balance everything would also be lovely.
Finally, what is your motto in life, and your greatest inspiration?
A quote that has stuck with me since my teenage years is that ‘a thought that one has will eventually become an action and through this action it will become habit. This habit will then shape our character which will then define our destiny.’ I still believe in these four elements and therefore focus on being positive in everything I do.
I am inspired by continuously driving change in the treasury function, and seeing the department become an increasingly strategic player in the ecosystem of the organisation. For this to happen, we need people who are truly passionate about treasury to join the profession because being passionate about what you do brings happiness and motivation. Hopefully, this positive vibe can be caught on by others throughout the industry.
“Technology has had an increasingly vital role to play in the treasury space and this will continue, allowing treasury to further enhance front, middle and back office operational efficiency.”
Dawn Chua, who is Head of Capital and Treasury at the Singapore Exchange, entered the treasury profession following graduation from University. She found a job advertisement for a Treasury Executive role, and decided to take the plunge. Dawn quickly began to see how dynamic and challenging corporate treasury could be. “It was at this point I decided that this was the career path I wanted to follow,” she says. “The dynamism and the challenge that the role presented ticked all the boxes for me and it was something that I became passionate about doing.” Since then, she has never looked back and thoroughly enjoys her work.
This passion for the profession has seen Dawn stay in treasury her entire career and experience all the challenges it has to offer. “I have been very lucky in my roles and have been exposed to treasury on both the asset and liability front,” she says. From this Dawn believes that she has acquired important treasury skills to give her a more holistic view of the treasury function, allowing her to develop a methodical approach to treasury tasks that offer benefits to the organisation. Very importantly, she is grateful for the opportunities that were given to her by the companies that she used to work for. In addition, she is also very thankful for the support that she has received from her external business counterparts, such as bankers and lawyers who have been very supportive throughout her time at the different organisations that she has been with.
In Dawn’s view, being a value-add business partner is key and to achieve this, the treasury must operate harmoniously alongside the rest of the business. “Treasury is deeply integrated with the business in both operations and in facilitating any organic or inorganic growth plans that the organisation may have,” says Dawn. She is acutely aware however that the importance of treasury sometimes needs to be re-emphasised to the C-suite. “Senior management are very busy with macro-level strategy and planning; sometimes they need a gentle reminder of the key role the treasury plays either from the department itself or from an outside source such as Treasury Today Asia.”
Despite her experience Dawn is still very aware that in treasury no single person knows everything and she therefore has a strong belief in the importance of teamwork. “Working together in a team complements the individual strengths that each person brings to the department and allows us to develop more innovative solutions for the organisation,” she says. For Dawn, treating people as individuals is vital, be they male or female. “In business, just as in everyday life, people shouldn’t be seen as male or female – they should be seen as an individual and treated accordingly.”
However, some sections of the business world, in Dawn’s opinion, need to embrace modern ideas regarding balancing professional life and family life for females. “From my observations and conversations with friends and counterparts, there is a subtle and implicit expectation for women to be able to oversee their family life on top of their work responsibilities,” she says. “Both men and women only have 24 hours in the day but in some cases women are implicitly expected to do more on the family front.” What can be done to overcome this issue? “I believe that the business world needs to acknowledge that this is an issue so that it can then be managed accordingly,” she says.
Dawn is already seeing some progress being made with a handful of companies offering flexible working hours and has been further encouraged by recent developments in Singapore, that have seen the creation of a Diversity Action Committee, a group tasked with building the representation of women in the boardroom. “SGX is embracing diversity, and our CEO Magnus Bocker is the chair of the committee,” she says.
Indeed, throughout her career Dawn has already seen a growth in the presence of females in the industry. “In my current company I see a more balanced mixture of males and females and also when I go to events I see many more women than I did when I began my career,” she says. True diversity is therefore an achievable goal in Dawn’s opinion. “It will take a conscious effort from both the individuals in the workplace and the corporate world,” she says. “But I adopt the philosophy that positive thoughts will prevail and I therefore believe this will happen in time.”