Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: where community wins

Published: Aug 2023

On July 26th APAC’s treasury community gathered in Singapore’s Four Seasons Hotel to network and to share their insights, challenges and achievements. Our congratulations to this year’s Woman of the Year APAC award winners whose achievements were celebrated on the day with our vibrant and thriving women in treasury community.

Women in Treasury APAC Forum 2023 panellists

Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury APAC Forum took place in the sumptuous Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore on July 26th. Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today’s Publisher & Head of Strategic Content hosted a panel discussion and celebratory lunch where treasury leaders from across the region discussed their career stories, how best to create inclusion, and the importance of community in a truly unique networking event.

Four expert panellists joined us:

  • Rania Ali Alkatiri – Head of Treasury, PT Goto Gojek Tokopedia Tbk

  • Irene Thng – Executive Vice President and Group Treasurer, Toll Group

  • Boon Fong Yaw – Head of APAC Payments Business Management, J.P. Morgan Payments

  • Michael Spiegel – Global Head of Transaction Banking, Standard Chartered

Portrait of Rania Ali Alkatiri, Head of Treasury, PT Goto Gojek Tokopedia Tbk

Meg Coates, Joint Publisher & Head of Operations, began by welcoming over 120 delegates. She noted the overwhelming support Women in Treasury has received since the initiative was launched 11 years ago. She explained that the platform was established to pioneer women in the industry and to create a community that shares their experiences and encourages each other’s professional development. She went on to outline how the network has evolved from first profiling women, then to the annual Global Equity Study, supported this year by Standard Chartered, which charts the progress of gender equity in corporate treasury and finance, and explained how the platform now encompasses many different events like the Forums hosted in Singapore.

Sophie then hosted a fireside chat with a very special guest speaker, Honnus Cheung, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Fintech called On-us Group. This is her third start up that she has built from the ground up. She co-founded On-us in 2019 in Hong Kong, and it is now expanding to South-East Asia and Taiwan. With her characteristic energy and humour, Honnus shared her career story, which includes eight years as a founding executive and Regional Finance Director for Asia at Yahoo. She was recruited into the business to establish the Asian operation from scratch. Drawn to the vibe of startups, she joined Travelzoo as a Founding Executive and CFO, building its Asia footprint from nothing within just two years. She held a dual role as CFO and China General Manager, where she stayed for over a decade. Throughout her conversation, she peppered in witty anecdotes about building businesses from zero to multi-billion-dollar enterprises, the power of mentorship, and how to help develop the careers of other founders. The discussion also seriously focused on Honnus’ personal and professional commitment to social issues. This includes a newly launched study on wellbeing and mental health in Asia, which builds on her previous white paper research on social issues affecting employees and organisations. She is also creating an ecosystem to connect NGOs and Social Enterprises with Banks via her fintech company.

Portrait of Boon Fong Yaw, Head of APAC Payments Business Management, J.P. Morgan Payments

Before guests sat down to their appetiser, this year’s Woman of the Year for APAC award winners Rania Ali Akatiri, Head of Treasury PT Goto Gojek Tokopedia Tbk and (Highly Commended) Michelle Ang, Group Treasurer, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, collected their awards. To a burst of applause, Michelle gave special thanks to her team in Japan.

The panel discussion opened with Rania and J.P.Morgan’s Boon Fong Yaw, Head of APAC Payments Business Management, discussing how they began their treasury careers. Rania, one of four sisters born and raised in Saudi Arabia, traced her career success to her father instilling the importance of education. “At that time, women didn’t have many opportunities to work. Being a family of all girls, my father’s rule of thumb was education, no matter what.” Rania began her career working in Malaysia before moving to Indonesia where she currently resides.

Fellow panellist Boon Fong explained that she has always sought roles that involve working with different teams and different nationalities. She graduated in Political Science from National University, Singapore, and was drawn to finance when she joined J.P. Morgan in 1997. Since then, she has moved up the ranks to head up the bank’s Asia Pacific Payments business management function in her current role.

Boon Fong observed how when she was younger, she had a bold and fearless approach to her career. Today, that has been replaced by wisdom and insight, but she said both characteristics have helped fuel her career at different times. She urged delegates to have “no regrets” but focus on what motivates them. “It’s about what drives you and what works for you,” she said.

Irene Thng, Executive Vice President and Group Treasurer at logistics company Toll Group detailed how she grew up in Singapore, spent many years studying in Western Australia and has lived and worked in countries including China, Indonesia and France. Irene began her career at KPMG during the Global Financial Crisis in a “baptism of fire.” Back then, she quickly realised her favourite part of the job was working and forging relationships with banking partners. Later, she spent time overseas where she learnt about giving colleagues space and respecting the working hours of different cultures. She counselled on the importance of alignment with peers and espoused the importance of “learning about each other.”

Portrait of Michael Spiegel, Global Head of Transaction Banking, Standard Chartered

Fellow panellist Michael Spiegel, Global Head of Transaction Banking, Standard Chartered said he was humbled and honoured to be on the panel. His career journey began at Deutsche Bank where he joined as an apprentice and went on to spend 32 years. His experience includes working in Vietnam and stints in Hong Kong, New York, London and his native Germany. In a nod to the importance of taking risks and enthusiastically grabbing opportunities, he said his decision to move to Vietnam back in the early 90s was born from an instinctive enthusiasm to see the world.

As the workplace becomes truly global, panellists reflected on the importance of inclusion and belonging through the prism of language and culture, observing that both can be tools of inclusivity and exclusion. The conversation touched on how language can become a barrier to inclusion. Irene recalled the challenges she felt communicating in French when she worked for a French company, explaining that she garnered most respect from colleagues when she spoke French – but only truly mastered the nasal accent when she had a cold!

Michael, whose career includes long stints overseas, stressed the importance of learning about the country you are living in and immersing yourself in its culture. Sharing lessons learnt from time overseas, panellists concurred living abroad had taught them that there is “no one truth” when it comes to culture and values. It led Michael to reflect that diversity should also be encapsulated in debate, voicing his concerns that debate is often stifled because people worry about saying the wrong thing. For him, diversity should always be accompanied by tolerance and people having the courage and confidence to say what they think and feeling empowered to speak up. “A truly diverse workforce is both more fun and effective,” he said.

The conversation turned to the different barriers that can lead to exclusion. Rania said her hijab can trigger preconceptions in some situations until people realise “it’s just me, and I can still do my job.” She urged her peers to believe in themselves and have confidence in their abilities, throwing off the self-doubt that restrains many women. “Prove yourself, and your performance will speak for itself,” she said.

Boon Fong said DEI can only progress with the right corporate culture, that must be rooted in respect and appreciating different mindsets. Like Michael, she said that diversity improves the quality of discussion. “Diversity is good because it sharpens the debate,” she said.

Portrait of Irene Thng, Executive Vice President and Group Treasurer, Toll Group

However, she noted challenges to progress in DEI, particularly for women seeking to get back into work after a career break. She stressed the importance of supporting people on different career journeys. Panellists also reflected on the future impact of technology, particularly AI, on inclusion and why it remains so important to interact in-person.

Irene said progress also depends on ensuring role models for the next generations. Working in a male dominated sector has shown her that female role models are vital to encourage other women into the logistics industry. “We really need that balance,” she said. “More women at the top encourage others.”

Panellists also reflected on the importance of mentorship. Boon Fong emphasises the importance of having an open and honest conversation. She acknowledged that mentors must undertake the responsibility of creating a safe space for candid dialogues and advises mentees to articulate their expectations from the mentorship. “It is a symbiotic relationship rooted in mutual growth and realisation of potential.”

The panel discussion ended, and delegates turned to their peers and friends on their tables over entrée, dessert and coffee. Lively chatter and laughter reverberated around Four Seasons beautiful ballroom until late in the afternoon. We very much look forward to our next Women in Treasury networking events in London and New York.



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