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Women in Finance Asia Q&A

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With Azila Abdul Aziz, Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director and Head of Listed Derivatives, Kenanga Futures, pioneering member of the Advisory Board for Markets Media Group’s Women in Finance Asia Awards program.  

How have the last 12 months been for you and your clients, dealing with the pandemic?

Working from home has been a difficult challenge for many, and personally, I will look back on the last 12 months as an unprecedented time. The global exchange-cleared derivatives markets underwent an extraordinary real-world stress test with record volumes and volatility. We were placed in a high-stakes environment where we closely monitored the resilience of our infrastructure and had to respond to any downtime whilst maintaining operational efficiency.  We focused on making progress daily, recognising this is unchartered territory and that success will not be quick in coming.  The biggest compliment I can pay to the team is that clients would not have known we were not operating under the same roof as the services deliverables and access into various markets that we offered remained business as usual.  

What lessons have you learnt from the pandemic that you will take forward?

As the COVID-19 scenario has calmed down, we have to emphasise the importance of business continuity planning and a deeper exploration of “lessons learned.” Crises are often catalysts for turning points in people’s individual lives, and the same is true for companies, The current pandemic is another turning point and provides an opportunity to transform work in a way that disrupts traditional narratives and beliefs into new norms and values that make “work” work for everyone. Being in the driver’s seat, I have learnt to be comfortable with chaos and to find a more positive way to lead – to be versatile, to find opportunity in uncertainty. to make it personal and improve that human touch. Making time to regularly check-in with the team, either virtually or on-site, and asking how the pandemic is affecting them personally will also open doors for future collaboration.  It is not just the business that matters. 

Azila Abdul Aziz

Why is it important to have an event such as Women in Finance Awards Asia at this time?

As working from home and virtual meetings are becoming the norm, there is an increased desire and need for connection and community. Having Women in Finance Awards Asia at this time would not only allow us to recognize and appreciate the achievements of women rising through the ranks in the finance industry; but is also a timely encouragement to everyone in such a challenging time. WIFAA helps women empower women.      

Why is it important to make nominations?

WIFAA nominations represent a rare opportunity for everyone to formally acknowledge and recognize women’s contribution and impact  in the region. It is more than just a ‘thank you’ but also an opportunity to be inspired and mentored and a celebration of the talented and accomplished women across the financial markets. 

To make a nomination please CLICK HERE.

What is the recent progress for women in the region?

Women’s participation in the labor force has made huge strides in the past decade, but still trails behind men. We are seeing a slight increase in women at both senior management and at board levels. However, economic difficulties brought about by COVID-19 in 2020 have led to some challenges across the whole labor force.

How can diversity be increased?

We are not specifically looking for gender diversity, but “diversity of thought”. This can be achieved with team members from different backgrounds, life experiences, employment history, education, as well as different genders. We have a very good mix in diversity of thought and we definitely see the benefits in decision making, implementing solutions and how we approach our clients’ issues or requests. 

What is the key to your success?

I am always motivated by opportunities to grow and improve in my workplace, business and even my personal life. I became a more authentic version of myself through continually learning and re-learning, being fully present and listening deeply. In order to be able to lead others, I continuously improve my emotional intelligence, self-awareness and executive presence. In a world of ambiguity, where solutions to today’s problems are largely undefined, the true test of leadership comes when times get tough . So, I embrace the ebb and flow of a business and the challenges and opportunities that come along the way. 

What advice would you give to women entering finance?

The early years in a career are pivotal and you need to absorb as much as possible, which is challenging with prolonged remote working. It is a tough battle and as you try to first-hand experience and figure out how to grow into the salesperson that you want to be. Face-to-face interaction with peers and superiors is key to amassing crucial skills needed to keep climbing the steep hill of success in a finance field still dominated by men. Zoom and FaceTime communication help, but they do not replace face-to-face in the ability to sense stress levels. You need to be extra cognizant in looking out for each other. 

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