‘To get to the top of the corporate ladder, requires hard work. But in working hard, do not neglect your health,’ is the advice of Latifah Mohamed Yusof, Treasurer at Astro Group. In this interview, she explains the importance of a strong work ethic in treasury and the challenges still facing women in the profession.
Latifah Mohamed Yusof
Latifah Yusof is Group Treasurer at Astro Group. Based in Kuala Lumpur, she is responsible for the group’s cash management operations and foreign exchange and interest rate exposures. She has played an instrumental role in managing the group’s financing requirements and was part of the key working groups for corporate exercises such as the company’s listing, credit ratings and privatisation.
She started her career at accountancy firm Coopers & Lybrand, located in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, before moving to Malaysian-based UMW Group, where she championed the set-up of an investment unit. She joined Astro Group in 1997, and has led its treasury group for 12 years.
Latifah holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Bath, UK and a CIMA Business Accounting Certificate. She is a member of the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of Malaysia and she recently became the Secretary for the Malaysian Association of Corporate Treasurers.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing now, as a corporate treasurer, and as a woman in a male-dominated sector?
Of course there are challenges in the economy, and the day-to-day work of the treasurer, but one factor that I’m really working hard to achieve right now is enhanced visibility in the boardroom and in meetings between business units. This is not a result of being a female treasurer, but more that treasury is still seen as a mere support unit and not part of the core business.
That said, I do believe that female treasurers need to work harder to stand out and be acknowledged by our superiors – not necessarily through any fault of our own, but because of legacy approaches to business.
Do you feel that women respond to the needs of treasury in the same way that men do – or do they bring something different?
Personally, I believe that women bring passion and empathy into the profession. We are perhaps more likely to guide our team members in mastering treasury skills than our male counterparts – in the same manner that we nurture our children. Also, women often seem to believe more strongly than men in the power of collaboration, not least when it comes to achieving the company’s goals – be it working in partnership with our internal or even external stakeholders, such as bankers and shareholders.
How much opportunity is there for career progression within your current role?
With sound experience and understanding in the treasury space, as well as a positive attitude and commitment towards taking on more challenges, I believe opportunities for career progression abound. When I joined Astro, I was just an associate with barely any specific experience in treasury – I’ve now been heading up the company’s treasury department for 12 years.
Balancing professional and family life is tricky – is the business world progressing in the right direction?
I absolutely agree that getting the right mix of personal and professional time is difficult. The good news is that awareness of this tricky balancing act is definitely more apparent among employers now than it used to be. As such, I believe the business world is progressing in the right direction in providing the relevant support systems for parents in the workplace. For example, the ability to continue to work from home and also to have flexi-hours has become more common in companies of all sizes. In bigger organisations, play schools and day-care centres are also made available.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
Without doubt, my family is my greatest inspiration. But I aspire to be a role model for successful career women and mothers – excellent at work and at home!