Personal development has been a strong theme throughout Yeng’s career, which began at Merrill Lynch. Yeng confesses that as a political science graduate she knew little about the industry at the time and joined the bank’s professional development programme to “learn something new”. It turned out to be a good choice, as Yeng has become a successful leader in her industry.
After spending two years rotating through the bank, Yeng settled in the institutional asset management business, focusing on short-term fixed income. Her career took an interesting detour when she decided to move to work in micro-finance in Western Samoa, providing small loans to women to help them start their own businesses. Reflecting upon this decision, Yeng notes that she felt, and still feels, passionately about women being given a chance to succeed. “My mother was an entrepreneur and it is a tough business,” she says. “I took this role to act on that passion and help give these fantastic women a chance to flourish.”
Today, Yeng leads State Street Global Advisors’ cash business, after spending the last eight years leading its strategic expansion. She explains that the past eight years have been immensely satisfying on many fronts, but what stands out is the team that she has built and the way in which it works together. “To see the team working to their full potential and utilising the skills they have is very gratifying,” she says. “I believe this is one of the main reasons that last year we were one of a few top institutional cash managers to gain market share, something I am very proud of.”
Setting an example
As a highly respected female leader in finance, Yeng believes that she has a responsibility to help shape a better workplace. Most importantly, she wants to create a frictionless pathway for women to meet their career ambitions.
Yeng believes there’s already been progress in this regard. “I remember early in my career when a female colleague received a promotion and a gentleman next to me quipped that she only received the promotion because she was a woman,” says Yeng. “Comments like these were commonplace back then. Today, this doesn’t happen as much, if at all, and there are plenty of strong female leaders blazing a trail, which is a sign of how far we have come.”
That being said, some legacy issues remain. For example, Yeng says that women sometimes find it difficult to strike the optimal work-life balance. This is something Yeng admits falling foul of once or twice in her career. “I remember when I was on maternity leave and decided that I would check in with work for a few hours every week,” she says. “I didn’t need to do this; I had a newborn to focus on and it was very hard to zoom in and out of work at the same time. It was unfair on my child and on me.”
Most importantly, Yeng felt like this didn’t set a good example for other women in her team, something she is keen to do. “I remember feeling uneasy about it at the time because I didn’t want to be perceived as a ‘supermum’ that could do everything at once because that is unrealistic,” she says. “I was just trying to keep in touch with what was happening in the office.”
Indeed, setting an example and elevating the level of conversation around diversity in the workplace is a major objective for Yeng in the years ahead. “Through our work internally at State Street Global Advisors, and with Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury initiative, we are trying to do something impactful and play our part in creating a better world,” she concludes. “I am deeply passionate about this, and determined to make a difference.”