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Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

On Thursday April 11th Treasury Today Group’s Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019 took place at the prestigious Four Seasons hotel from 12 noon to 4:30pm. This highly popular annual industry event is firmly established in the diaries of women and men across the Asia Pacific region and was attended by record numbers of people from all sectors of the industry.

The Forum opened at noon with a lively pre-lunch welcome reception which included an opening speech from Sophie Jackson, Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, Treasury Today Group. Commenting on the day, Sophie said, “It’s never felt more important to be here today to celebrate women in our industry. I’ve been delighted to see the fantastic representation for women there is here in Singapore at senior levels in corporate treasury and finance and the support from our community here for the Women in Treasury initiative really has been overwhelming! It’s been fantastic to see how our community and Forums here have grown year on year and to see the relationships and conversations that have been formed as a result.”

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury initiative was established to pioneer women in the corporate treasury and finance industry and to create a new professional community where women can come together with each other and with male allies to share their experiences and encourage each other’s professional development. Singapore has a vibrant and active corporate treasury community which has been supportive of the Women in Treasury initiative since the beginning. The dynamic event was a fantastic opportunity to come together again and to reflect on how the initiative and the global dialogue around diversity and inclusion has grown and expanded.

The Women in Treasury initiative is composed of a number of different elements; the first is the Women in Treasury Study, the only global study looking at women in corporate treasury and charting their professional journey and experiences in the workplace. The second is regular profiles of female corporate finance professionals within the This Much I Know feature. There is a dedicated LinkedIn Women in Treasury network and a Woman of the Year category within our Adam Smith Awards global programme. There is the newly launched Within community resource for women in treasury which offers advice, tips and inspiration on a regular basis for the women in treasury global community. Finally, there are our Women in Treasury roundtables and forums which now take place across the US, Europe and Asia Pacific. The Women in Treasury initiative is constantly growing and expanding, driven forward by the women and men who are part of our community and lend their voices to our conversations around diversity, inclusion and representation in corporate treasury.

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

At the heart of the Women in Treasury initiative is the annual Women in Treasury Global Study which Meg Coates, Joint Publisher & Head of Operations, Treasury Today Group, spoke about in her opening presentation, summarising the broad findings of our Women in Treasury Global Study 2018, proudly supported by State Street Global Advisors. The data from the study forms the basis of Treasury Today’s analysis of gender representation, diversity and inclusion in corporate treasury. The 2018 study was conducted from May to September 2018. The study attracted 348 responses from a broad universe in terms of age, experience, geography and role, with over half of respondents completing the study for the first time, offering a new data set with some eye-opening results.

Over a quarter of respondents to Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury Study 2018 have felt overlooked and ignored in the workplace because of their gender.

The majority of respondents were aged between 35 and 54. Forty seven percent had dependent children and 17% had other dependents. The voices reflected in the 2018 results were those of women who have dedicated a significant part of their career to the treasury profession, with more than half holding a treasury role for over ten years. Respondents outlined for the first time what the term diversity means to them. Here are some examples:

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

‘Diversity means the freedom to bring your full self to work, not having to feel you have to excuse yourself for who you are.’ ‘If our work culture is not inclusive, we never achieve diversity. Diversity is perceiving difference; inclusion is valuing it.’

On the topic of gender parity regarding pay and opportunities, 49% of respondents said they felt they earnt less than their male counterparts. Only 5% felt there had been improvements in pay parity over the past year and over a quarter of respondents have felt overlooked and ignored in the workplace because of their gender.

The welcome reception was followed by a three-course lunch in the sumptuous Crescent Ballroom, during which the panel discussion took place on stage with our leading industry speakers. The dynamic and insightful debate was moderated by Sophie Jackson and featured our superb line up of influential panellists with a wide-ranging set of experiences from across the industry.

Our panellists were Catherine Yu, VP Regional Controller APAC & China, Herbalife Nutrition, Lay Perk Toh, Corporate Treasurer, Kulicke & Soffa, Yeng Butler, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Business, State Street Global Advisors and Jason Horn, Head of the Asia Pacific Cash & Short Duration Liquidity Business, BlackRock. The candid and thought-provoking discussion explored the views of the panel on some of the issues highlighted by the respondents of the study and the ongoing challenges to the progress of diversity in our industry, as well as practical career tips and motivational messages for both women and men working in the treasury function today.

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

Yeng spoke about her beginnings in finance and her wide-ranging experience at Merrill Lynch, where she moved across to asset management. Following ten years at Merrill Lynch and with an interest in the intersection of the public and private sector, instead of pursuing an MBA, Yeng took a Masters in public administration at Harvard. During this time she spent six months in Western Samoa working in microfinance which made low value loans to women who were looking to start small businesses to fund their families and education for their children. For Yeng this was an incredibly rewarding experience. A decade ago, Yeng was recruited back to Boston to build out a global team at State Street Global Advisors and she hasn’t looked back since!

Catherine began her career after studying corporate finance in university. Despite wanting to go into investment banking, her CV suited CPA and after having children she worked for a pharmaceutical company where she learnt the ropes of a corporate multinational environment. Moving to Merck, she took roles in different parts of the finance function and then she moved into treasury before heading across to BT’s APAC office as a Regional Treasurer. Then followed an MBA from Manchester Business School which she finished within 18 months whilst balancing the demands of a family. This drive to build a professional network set her up well to move across to Herbalife Nutrition, where she now manages more than 150 people. ‘Every day you have someone to learn from. Keep that in your suitcase and then you can keep that knowledge and that has really been important.’

Diversity means the freedom to bring your full self to work, not having to feel you have to excuse yourself for who you are.

For Lay Perk, there was an opportunity for a regional treasury manager at Honeywell which she was willing to undertake, despite having no previous experience of treasury. This willingness to learn has propelled Lay Perk over the course of more than a decade’s experience in treasury. “Every profession is unique and special. We all bring value to the organisation in our own way. Treasury for me, is something I have passion doing, and we make our profession ‘special’. I enjoy every single part of my job, especially providing solutions to streamline and automate to drive higher level of efficiency across various functions in the organisation. You can make a very big difference with a small team, which many of us have!”

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

Jason offered his perspective as a male ally, driving forward an agenda of diversity and inclusion as he leads his team and seeks to impact the broader industry. “It’s great to be up on the stage with these fantastic female leaders. The financial services industry has been typically male dominated, especially in the early stage of my career.” Since joining BlackRock in 2016, Jason has noticed how the firm and the industry have made meaningful changes to address this balance.

The panellists discussed what diversity and inclusion actually means, with the concepts of meritocracy, access and hiring all being raised. Returning talent to the workforce and equal access to parental leave which is in a nascent stage in Asia were also topics of discussion on the day. Following the panel discussion, an enthusiastic open question and answer session took place, with many members of the audience taking the opportunity to share their own experiences and seek advice from the panel. “As more and more companies offer parental leave it would be fantastic to see more males take it, as it normalises the traditional responsibilities of the mother, that a father can take their children to the doctor or to a playdate.” The panellists agreed that destigmatising male access to parental leave is imperative for gender equality.

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2019

Catherine’s advice to everyone regardless of industry is, “Be mindful and continue to advance yourself through continuous learning. Nowadays there is so much disruptive technology, so keep learning from different experts who can help you to be successful.”

There was a powerful human side to the conversation on the day, as Lay Perk spoke about overcoming a car accident in which she was left blind, and her journey to recovery. Lay Perk learnt a lot about accepting the severity of situations that may occur in our personal or professional lives and the importance of staying focused on our future aims. Lay Perk has gone on to speak to school children about the lessons she learnt from her biggest personal challenge. “Strive for the best, while preparing for the worst,” is the lesson she learnt from this.

Summing up the day, Sophie said, “Over the past seven years that we have been working on our initiative, one thing that I’ve noticed is how often we come back to the idea of human qualities. Not many people think about the human qualities of kindness, empathy and nurturing for example, but these are what make us special as individuals and we bring these unique qualities to our professional lives. Take some time to think about the things that make you unique and special and consider how you might amplify them and build on them, rather than ignoring or overlooking them and seeking to emulate other business leaders. Becoming the best and most authentic version of ourselves will reap rewards in both your professional and personal lives.”

Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury initiative

Our Women in Treasury initiative recognises the importance of women in the treasury profession and creates a means for women to communicate with one another; learn from each other and network in order to help each other. Women need to be much more visible in their roles, both inside and outside of their organisation. Women and men need to come together to celebrate diversity in all its forms and move the conversation forward. Events such as our Women in Treasury Forums are an integral part of this path to diversity.

Our Women in Treasury Forums take place annually in Singapore, London and New York.

Our Women in Treasury initiative also includes:

  • Profiles of female corporate leaders.

  • The annual Women in Treasury Global Study, proudly supported by State Street Global Advisors.

  • Our Women in Treasury LinkedIn networking group.

  • Woman of the Year awards at the Adam Smith Awards and Adam Smith Awards Asia.

To learn more about the Treasury Today Women in Treasury initiative please visit: treasurytoday.com/women-in-treasury

For further information please contact Lisa Bigley, Global Head of Events, lisa.bigley@treasurytoday.com

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