Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Gwendolyn Ng, Danone

Published: Jul 2024
Gwendolyn Ng, Senior Treasury & Financing Manager, Danone

This much I know

Gwendolyn Ng, Senior Treasury & Financing Manager at Danone, explains why it’s important to step outside your comfort zone and remain open to new opportunities when building a career in treasury and finance.

Gwendolyn Ng

Senior Treasury & Financing Manager
Danone logo

After starting her career at Standard Chartered, Gwendolyn Ng joined Danone’s Asia Pacific & Middle East (ASPAME) treasury team in 2020. Since then, she has played an instrumental role in developing and implementing new systems and supporting local treasury teams in all aspects of treasury operations and processes. In 2022 she was the recipient of the coveted Adam Smith Awards Asia A Rising Star award.

Headquartered in Paris, France, Danone S.A. is a multinational specialist food and beverage company operating across more than 120 markets worldwide. With more than 96,000 employees spread across 55 countries, and annual sales of over of €27bn in 2023, the company operates in four key areas – dairy and plant-based products, early life nutrition, medical nutrition and bottled waters. Its brands portfolio includes Activia, Actimel, Alpro, Danette, Danonino, Danio, Evian, Volvic, Nutrilon/Aptamil and Nutricia.

How did you arrive at your current role?

I started my career in the transaction banking field, which sparked my interest in corporate treasury. Initially, I wasn’t fully aware of the breadth of responsibilities that corporate treasurers handle, but I was eager to learn how companies manage their cash flows, financial risks and investment decisions.

This led me to pursue an exciting opportunity at Danone, where I currently manage treasury planning for Southeast Asia, Oceania and Japan, looking after liquidity, funding and FX exposure management. In addition, I oversee back office activities across the broader Asia Pacific and Middle East region.

What advice would you give finance professionals in terms of establishing and developing a career?

At the beginning of your career, it is OK not to have everything figured or mapped out. I believe that consistently giving your best, embracing challenges and seizing opportunities as they arise will lead you to success.

I also see the importance of finding a reliable mentor who can provide advice and guidance, assist in navigating your career path and support you in your professional journey. I have been very fortunate to have a supportive boss who gives me autonomy, and senior colleagues who have generously shared their knowledge and perspectives.

Would you recommend having a defined career plan or being open and flexible?

While goals are necessary, I feel that it is more important not to be overly rigid in our career plans. Most of us begin with a blank sheet of paper, and our journeys evolve as we accumulate new experiences and knowledge. Along the way, we discover our interests and the areas we wish to develop.

It is difficult to predict the future, especially when conditions are volatile. Things may not go according to plans made many years ago due to unforeseen events like the Covid pandemic, which can be very disruptive, but also bring new possibilities like remote working.

Sometimes, stepping out of our comfort zones and being open can lead to unexpected and interesting career outcomes.

By expressing their aspirations and priorities, women will be better positioned to stay in control and steer their careers forward.

What is your motto in life or your greatest inspiration?

I have two mottos that are close to my heart. The first one is, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” It serves as a constant reminder to me that challenges are a natural part of any endeavour, and that they can be overcome with determination and a positive attitude.

The second motto is, “People will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” The impact of empathy and respect resonates far longer than any task or achievement. It gives me a deeper sense of fulfilment and purpose in my daily interactions with others.

Continuous improvement

With a belief in the importance of learning and sharing knowledge with colleagues, Gwendolyn is a treasury professional who keeps a close eye on opportunities to add value to the business. One of her key priorities is to enhance existing processes whenever possible by increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.

In particular, she is a firm proponent of leveraging technology and best practices to optimise the treasury function and support the company’s objectives. However, she notes that it is necessary to strike the right balance between the cost of new initiatives, and the benefits they bring to the company. She also highlights the need to evaluate how new systems align with current capabilities to avoid duplication or additional manual steps in process workflows after integration.

“The implementation doesn’t need to occur all at once – it can be phased,” she explains. “However, maintaining foresight throughout the entire process is essential.”

Gwendolyn’s belief in continuous improvement is equally pertinent when building a career in finance. Her advice for junior professionals is to communicate their aspirations clearly. “This especially applies to women,” she notes. “Some people may hold assumptions about women at certain life stages, and may presume that they are more likely to prioritise family responsibilities over career advancement.”

She reflects that by expressing their aspirations and priorities, women will be better positioned to stay in control and steer their careers forward.

Remote working options can help both men and women better manage their work-life balance, share their family responsibilities and pursue career goals.

Challenging bias and promoting diversity

Gwendolyn believes that empowering junior professionals to challenge bias is something that needs to come from those at the top of an organisation and at senior management level. “If they can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and make the subject an open topic of discussion, it will create a safer space for juniors to express their perspectives,” she reflects.

At the same time, Gwendolyn highlights the growing awareness of – and advocacy for – diversity and inclusion. “Many organisations are recognising the value of these principles – they are incorporating them in their business goals, and embedding them into their culture,” she says.

At Danone, various cultural holidays are celebrated, and employees are encouraged to share their traditions and cultural backgrounds. “We have regular dialogue sessions to gather employee feedback and workshops to build awareness of unconscious bias,” Gwendolyn explains. “We also have workplace activities such as sports and family events, which bring us closer together. All these initiatives contribute to creating a more cohesive workplace where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

Gwendolyn acknowledges the progress being made on this topic in the corporate sector. In particular, she notes that many organisations promote flexible work arrangements. “Remote working options can help both men and women better manage their work-life balance, share their family responsibilities and pursue career goals without compromising on their personal commitments,” she concludes.

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