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Women in Finance Asia Awards Update

Markets Media Group is moving forward with its second annual Women in Finance Asia Awards!. At this time we have extended the nomination deadline until April 20 — we encourage readers to make submissions here.

Regarding the WIFA reception, we are closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation and we will announce further details regarding a date when appropriate.

Ahead of this year’s WIFA program, GlobalTrading interviewed some of last year’s winners. Topics were ‘secrets of their success’, advice on striking a work-life balance, future goals, and overall views on the state of women in the highly competitive (and still often male-dominated) trading space.

Christine To, T Rowe Price

Christine To, Head of Asian Equity Trading, T Rowe Price

What is the state of women in finance in 2020, broadly speaking? What progress is still needed?

Women are still the minority in the financial industry, and this is especially true in trading. To achieve greater diversity and inclusion in the industry, more effort should be made in two areas.

First, there should be an awareness of unconscious bias. The impact of unconscious bias can be more prominent than conscious prejudice, and could play a big role during the hiring process. This should be highlighted to associates at all levels, particularly to hiring managers. Raising the awareness of unconscious bias in the workplace can also bring together more diverse ideas, which could result in more dynamic discussions and outcomes. 

The second area is introduction sessions for students. It’s important to show the younger generation that women can play a major role in the financial industry. If they are aware finance and trading are careers they can consider, they can work towards that in their academic planning.

What is the ‘secret of your success’ as a woman in finance?

I am very fortunate to have built my career at T. Rowe Price, a company that is very supportive of diversity and inclusion, and 44% of its global workforce is female. I work with managers and peers who are aware of unconscious bias and treat male and female associates as equal. More importantly, I always consider myself to be as competent as my male colleagues. I think sometimes women can also fall into the unconscious bias and hold ourselves back if we don’t think of all genders as equals in the workplace.

How do you connect individual success and organizational success?

At T. Rowe Price, the long-term success of our clients is made possible by the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, talents and experiences of our associates. We believe our culture of collaboration enables us to identify opportunities others might overlook. Our associates, in turn, enjoy more opportunities to grow their careers in such a diverse and collaborative environment. I believe if more financial companies recognize this link between individual and organizational success, the industry and our future generation of practitioners will achieve even greater heights.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

Careers in finance are often demanding. It is never easy to strike a balance. To help resolve that, T. Rowe Price has put in place a flexible work arrangement for those who need extra flexibility to juggle their responsibilities. As for me, the key is to set aside time to separate myself from work and decompress. In fact, the beauty of being a trader is that I can switch off from work after trading hours to relax, watch my favorite TV shows and play with my dog.

Vivian Peng,
J.P. Morgan Asset Management

Vivian Peng, Executive Director, J.P. Morgan Asset Management

What is the state of women in finance in 2020, broadly speaking? What progress is still needed?

Within the financial industry, there has been significant progress made, with more women being recognized with bigger responsibilities. However, we still do see a large percentage of males occupying senior management roles. Over the past year, we’ve seen an increasing momentum of attention paid towards diversity and within our firm there have been many new initiatives aimed at empowering women. In the next few years, I hope to see a larger gender balance in senior management roles.

What is the ‘secret of your success’ as a woman in finance?

Be bold and take risks. It is okay to challenge boundaries and be rejected. Jack Ma was famously rejected by Harvard 10 times. He also applied to over 30 jobs and was rejected from those too. Yet, he never let that discourage him and believes rejection is something we should get used to. The bumps along the way only prepare us for larger opportunities in the future. It is important to believe in yourself and be the best you can be. You will be amazed with what you can achieve.

How do you connect individual success and organizational success?

I believe individual success is the foundation for a company to achieve anything. People are the most important asset. I am a strong believer that when a firm spends the time and effort grooming its people, their talents and potential are unleashed, helping them grow in their career and building the firm towards organizational success.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

It is extremely easy to be occupied with our work life and forget to relax and spend time with family. I enjoy travelling and exposing myself to different cultures, therefore I plan trips to periodically refresh and recharge. Travelling often brings new perspectives that changes approach to problems.

What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

I love to explore mysterious countries such as Tibet. The untouched mother nature and culture is alluring to me. The views from snowcapped mountain ranges are magnificent, and yet so peaceful.

What are your future goals?​​

Surrounding yourself with influential leaders and right people changes everything. I have been very fortunate in my career to have an amazing manager who always finds time to provide me with tremendous mentoring support and guided me along my career path. I hope to one day be able to offer someone the same and give my unequivocal support.

Josephine Kim,
Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Josephine Kim, MD, Head of APAC Execution Services Sales, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

What is the state of women in finance programs in the financial industry?

We’re seeing a huge focus across the globe highlighting the importance of having a diverse group, especially at the board member level. Conferences and advisory groups have started implementing a conscious effort on mixing participants. Also there was a study that showed having a mixed and diverse group actually improves decision making. So this will continue to be a focus.

 What is the ‘secret of your success as a woman in finance?

Having a GRIT and never being afraid to challenge the status quo. Also know your strengths and weaknesses. Self-acknowledging your own weakness can be hard at times but start with awareness then slowly move towards a step by step action to improve. You may not realize but this will actually turn people to your side.

How do you connect individual success and organizational success?

The fundamental success factor is to ensure that your success as an individual can be replicated by other individuals. Success should be shared and repeated. Successful organizations mean there is a clear objective as a group and it is repeated by people, not by a few individuals.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

It is the same answer to the question of how you strike a balance between meal time and sleep time. I bet most people don’t ask this question to themselves as we all know this will be just given and people naturally allocate their time on these two. I do think the same goes to work-life balance and I do think we all do every day but the difference is whether one is making a conscious effort to adjust to their own lifestyle and time frame. Personally for me, depending on the circumstances, I break my time into 30 mins and you will realize you can achieve a lot more than what you can within a day. Also there are times where I look at my time in weekly horizon. Say this week was a business trip and there was a heavy weight on work then the following week, I will make a conscious effort to allocate more time on other things I missed.

What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

I am starting a one-month sabbatical to conquer the 800 kilometers Santiago Trail in Spain in April. This was on my bucket list so I am very excited that I am about to cross off one item from the list!

What are your future goals?​​

To lead by example, and to do more to promote Diversity & Inclusion in our industry. Also I started to think more about the community and see how I can influence and make a positive change to the society. I currently have 2 young boys I sponsor in Africa for some time but I am looking to spend some time in remote areas to help the local community. 

Azila Abdul Aziz, Kenanga Futures

Words of Advice from Azila Abdul Aziz, CEO of Kenanga Futures and the winner of the CEO of the year award 
In the predominantly Gen Y & Z economy of an AI-enabled world, when IQ and technical skills are similar, you need to inculcate emotional intelligence skills to perform better and succeed in a corporate environment. No doubt, emotional intelligence is less common than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader.

Being emotionally competent entails three aspects:
first, practicing self-awareness of recognizing how you feel; second, developing self-control and keeping impulse in check; and third, understanding what motivates you towards achievement, drive and commitment. If you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage distressing emotions, or if you don’t have empathy and can’t have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. Truth be told, not every personality is wired for naturally solving problems with soft- skill solutions. We are not perfect, nor should we pretend to be, but it is necessary to be the best version of ourselves.

Leadership has nothing to do with gender, nor should it. The best leaders are women and men who have first-class training, bright minds, warm hearts, a passionate embrace of their mission, a sense of connection to their colleagues and communities, and the courage to be open to tuning to what is already here.