- Citi Wealth
- Citi Private Bank
- HSBC GPB
- Standard Chartered PB
- Julius Baer
- Bank of Singapore
- BNP Paribas WM
- VP Bank
- Women in Family Offices
Fostering Citi’s inclusive gender culture as a leader
Promoting Citi’s inclusive agenda while leveraging her position as a leader are top of the agenda for Vicky Kong, head of wealth, Asia North and Australia.
Kong believes that obstacles to female advancement and representation are often self-imposed by female staff, despite the presence of an inclusive bank culture and environment. Confidence is always the first challenge, especially for her younger female colleagues, she said.
As a member of the senior management team in the bank, Kong feels responsible for making sure female staff feel comfortable and are equipped to do more. She also realises that this lack of confidence can be eliminated when supervisors or leaders in the room encourage colleagues to join in. “Don’t sit at the corner of the meeting room, lean in, sit closer to the table, share your voice, let people hear you,” said Kong.
Kong also highlighted the need for mutual understanding, which can be supported through inclusion networks and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion councils. “The more that people know and understand each other, the more we are aware of how we can support and help one another,” she said.
Culture at all levels
Kong stressed the importance of setting the tone from the top by setting aspirational goals regarding gender representation. She underlined the need to make these initiatives and aspirational goals known to staff at all levels, so that the culture of inclusivity is engraved in people’s DNA.
“This is also very important, because you cannot just say that you promote, you advocate diverse talent; you have to communicate to colleagues about relevant initiatives and opportunities and walk the talk,” said Kong.
Within the wealth division and across other parts of the bank, various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion councils and inclusion networks have been set up to drive initiatives. Citi also has in place various learning programmes, that help to identify, mentor and hire talent across the bank, including for summer and full-time analyst programmes. In addition, Kong also pointed out Citi’s self-identification initiative which encourages employees to voluntarily self-identify, with the aim that additional data in this area will help further deepen the firm’s understanding of the various dimensions of diversity of its workforce.
Citi’s inclusive culture
Kong added that her experience across different markets and her career within Citi encouraged her to do something to promote gender inclusivity. Seeing a lot of good leaders, both male and female, also motivated Kong to learn and become a better leader, so that she can pay it forward for her colleagues.
“We have no bias towards your background or your nationality, age, gender. Here at Citi, I see meritocracy, integrity, openness as well as teamwork,” she summarised. “These are the few characteristics Citi colleagues typically call out when asked about the culture at the firm.”
head of wealth, North Asia and Australia
Citi emphasises diverse talent to capture rising female wealth clientele
With the growing presence of female clients in the wealth space, San-San Chan, global market manager, Citi Private Bank, believes diverse talent is the key to serving this segment.
Chan believes the most important element in promoting gender diversity and equality is recognition, since a diverse team leads to diverse perspectives, which will lead to more balanced conclusions. “Our clients definitely do not fit into a single mould and having that diversity deepens our understanding of clients,” said Chan.
Citi is trying to recognise diverse talent by involving all of its staff, including the top senior leaders and allies in initiatives such as inclusion networks, mentorships, and rotational programmes.
The bank is also focused on learning programmes, which are available to encourage the development of all employees, including diverse talent.
“All these learning programmes help to meet the needs of talent at different stages of their careers, helping people identify future promotion paths, as well as opportunities,” said Chan. To recognise talent within her team, Chan saw the need to provide opportunities for people to showcase their abilities, especially encouraging the quieter ones to speak up. She believes this can help showcase work and encourage visibility.
In addition, Chan pointed out the importance of focusing on the promotion of meritocracy, as well as coaching and giving feedback on blind spots.
Asia’s prominent female presence
On the back of increasing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awareness and ongoing initiatives, Chan is confident that more women will continue the trend and step up into senior roles. “In Asia, we also see very talented senior women who are leading our private banks, as well as wealth management firms, and that is fantastic to see,” said Chan.
From the client perspective, Chan identified women as a growing force in wealth, making them one of the fastest growing segments in the ultra high net worth space. Chan believes such developments in talent and clients are part of the broader evolution towards female empowerment.
Keeping up with these developments, Citi’s focus goes back to having a diverse talent pool as it tries to understand and address the specific needs of female clients across business priorities and investment objectives.
Recognising gender gaps
Citi first publicly announced aspirational gender representation goals in 2018. On top of being one of the first banks to publicly share such aspirational goals, Citi also led in disclosing pay equity gaps, Chan revealed. Citi announced its expanded aspirational representation goals to include additional markets, as well as other underrepresented groups, Chan added.
Chan is also part of Citi’s global wealth Diversity, Equity and Inclusion council, which is responsible for driving initiatives related to inclusion and pay equity. “We are very focused in terms of increasing awareness as well as publicity to be an employer of choice for diverse talent,” she said.
global market manager, Citi Private Bank
HSBC eyes higher female representation with coaching programmes
As HSBC seeks to achieve 35% female representation in its senior leadership, Edith Ang, head of family advisory, Asia Pacific, is hoping to create a virtuous cycle and accelerate female growth with coaching.
Developing its female workforce
Ang revealed HSBC has been developing its female workforce in three areas: transparency, commitment, and accelerating leadership.
For transparency, HSBC has been publishing statistics such as gender representation in different ranks and pay gaps across its different lines of business through its global diversity studies.
“They’re trying to make it applicable across all markets, but obviously that’s a work in progress as well,” said Ang.
While already hitting the 2020 target of having 30% senior roles held by women on a global level, HSBC hopes to boost that number to 35% by 2025, Ang elaborated.
As for accelerating leadership, Ang explained that HSBC provides year-long mentorship programmes that include personal coaching and group study sessions on topics such as leadership communication to its staff, regardless of gender.
Those who have reached senior positions, such as Ang, are encouraged to give back by volunteering their time as mentors to those with an interest in being coached, thus creating a virtuous circle.
As diversity is increasingly embraced, Ang hopes future generations will learn to affect change for themselves and have an easier starting ground.
A softer approach to wealth management
Ang believes that as EQ – or emotional intelligence – matters in wealth management, having the softer touch of females in the business creates a fundamental shift in company culture.
“I’ve seen very tough clients. If you give them someone who is upfront, who is type A, the response tends to be more competitive. Versus if you give them someone empathetic and understands where they are coming from, they can arrive at a solution together,” said Ang.
However, Ang noted that women were not always able to bring this softer approach to the workplace. When Ang first started in banking 20 years ago, women might receive heavy criticism, or even risk having their client books taken away for taking maternity leave.
Now, this softer approach is acceptable due to increased diversity awareness, and more women are coming up through the ranks and making their voices heard, Ang said.
Overcoming obstacles with coaching
Regarding external obstacles, Ang pointed out the need for a reality check because there will be sacrifices involved when working in private banking due to the nature of the industry, but the most important thing is to find balance in what one wants to achieve.
On internal obstacles, Ang observed women tend to over criticise themselves and not give themselves credit when it is due. When women impose too many expectations on themselves, they forget to ask for help, which is where the support network becomes necessary, Ang further explained.
“Women tend to have a habit, even in speech, to say ‘I think, I feel, maybe’ versus saying the statement directly. There are these elements where we really do need some kind of coaching to bring you past your personal barriers to get onto another level,” said Ang.
head of family advisory, Asia Pacific
Supporting gender diversity with Standard Chartered’s female friendly initiatives
As awareness of gender inclusivity continues to grow, Lisa Teo, managing director and market head, Taiwan and Singapore, Standard Chartered Private Bank, believes the lender’s initiatives are helping to reinforce a focus on gender.
Increasing focus on gender
With the changes in economic participation and the promotion of diversity and inclusion, Teo has seen more women enter the private banking space, especially since she came to Standard Chartered two years ago. In her current team, there is a balance in leadership between men and women.
“I’m very conscious that besides looking at the experience and merits of the private banker, in terms of how much he or she can bring to the table, we have to take into consideration gender when hiring,” said Teo.
When she started her career in the early 2000s, Teo noticed the private banking space was small and the hierarchy was flat, and lacked a focus on gender.
The focus of private banking previously was purely on client needs, and the challenge for private bankers at that time was how to support clients during difficult times such as the 2008 financial crisis.
“You can see Standard Chartered is a bank that actually recognises values and diversity, as well as inclusion, as key elements of our culture,” said Teo.
Equally efficient at home
When Teo first heard about Standard Chartered’s formalised flexible working policy, where staff could work from home one day per week, which was present even before COVID-19, Teo revealed she was surprised since that was not offered that at her previous workplaces.
Teo explained that this policy was implemented because Standard Chartered believes working mothers can be equally effective even when they are at home.
As a mother of young kids, Teo benefited from this flexibility when she needed to juggle between work and family. As she is growing her market, she needs to be there for both the clients and relationship managers.
“I was very encouraged and very happy that I’m joining an industry and a bank where there is abundant support, especially for working mothers,” said Teo.
In addition, Teo acknowledged being a female in a male dominated industry can be intimidating. However, because of the progressive and inclusive culture at Standard Chartered, she felt welcomed as a high-performing woman, especially in leadership roles.
HR mentorship programme
When Teo first joined Standard Chartered, she recalled the bank’s human resources department asking her to look for a mentor. While looking to learn something outside of private banking, Teo also received guidance and help from female leaders through the mentorship programme. This further reinforced Standard Chartered’s efforts to create a conducive environment for women.
When the bank first piloted the mentorship programme, it was directed to more senior staff, but Standard Chartered is gradually opening the programme up to the wider bank, Teo added.
When asked what advice she had for other women in the private banking industry, Teo said: “Continue what you are doing, stay passionate, nothing is impossible.”
managing director and market head, Taiwan and Singapore
Julius Baer leverages intergenerational mentorship to build future leadership
Starting her career journey two decades ago, Namrata Singh, client partner, Julius Baer, has witnessed a shift towards greater gender representation in the private banking industry, while highlighting the importance of mentorship.
Mentoring aspiring female leaders
Over her years in the industry, Singh observed support for women significantly increasing, from maternity policies to flexible working arrangements. However, to build on this momentum, female leaders need to be encouraged to mentor the next generation, as leadership is not only about management, but also inspiring and making an impact, Singh noted.
Julius Baer has been running mentorship programmes since 2017, in which senior managers and younger employees are matched to foster intergenerational exchange, as well as cross regional and division collaborations.
In 2017, Julius Baer passed its milestone of having 700 mentoring pairs in the programme. According to the bank, it also offers special mentoring programmes targeting women in senior positions, high-potential employees, and working parents.
“Leadership isn’t just about management. It’s about inspiring and making an impact, something everyone can aspire to,” said Singh.
Reflecting on her experience with Julius Baer, Singh thanked the bank for encouraging her to voice out, bolstering her confidence and refining her professional navigation. Singh added that while many women possess passion and leadership qualities, they often lack opportunities and platforms. To her, both were provided by Julius Baer.
“The bank empowered me with a voice. I’ve consistently been encouraged to express myself, even before the board of directors,” said Singh.
According to Julius Baer, its effort to create a gender-balanced workplace spans through the recruitment stage and at all levels. It has also been providing training designed to tackle unconscious gender biases.
Multitasking and private banking
Singh noted that women’s natural multitasking ability aligns well with private banking’s multifaceted roles. The diverse roles in women’s personal lives has equipped female private bankers for the demands of the industry, she explained.
Singh advises women navigating their way in the private banking industry to embrace opportunity, growth, and dedication.
“Commitment is key. My own journey required long hours and passion, transcending a mere nine-to- five job. The banking industry offers ample growth avenues for dedicated individuals,” Singh said.
Looking forward, Singh’s vision for gender diversity centres on meritocracy. Purely promoting women based on gender can invite criticism, Singh said. She pointed out that one must recognise and elevate women based on their skills, while ensuring equal opportunities and remuneration.
“We should champion women leaders for their merit, not just their gender,” said Singh.
Gender labelling remains unsolved
While obstacles such as gender stereotyping still persist, the industry has made strides in recognising women’s strengths and capabilities, which paved the way for more inclusive future growth, Singh explained.
“While there were initial hurdles like gender stereotypes, today, the industry celebrates diversity. I now engage with clients as an equal professional, reflecting the industry’s positive evolution,” said Singh.
Bank of Singapore launches Women’s Network to foster positive work culture
Being mentored by different women leaders when starting her career, Teresa Lee, head of Greater China, Hong Kong branch, Bank of Singapore, hopes to replicate her experience by mentoring young female talent.
Bank of Singapore Women’s Network
As the chair of Bank of Singapore Women’s Network, Lee hopes to promote gender diversity, within the bank.
Established in 2020 and sponsored by the bank’s ESG Forum, Lee believes the network underscores the bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and its ESG targets.
Lee has four key objectives for the network: to build confidence, make connections, develop capacity for career development, and foster a positive culture and environment.
As the network consists of staff from different units and backgrounds, members are able to build connections and share experiences through regular meetings and activities, according to Lee. She has also advised on non-biased hiring and promotions, as she believes qualifications and performances trump gender, age, and background.
“We believe gender diversity is a strength for us and a prerequisite for offering the best customer experience,” said Lee.
From mentee to mentor
While Lee still reached out to female leaders in her organisation for guidance, when she started her career mentorship programmes were not yet established.
Today, support is much more comprehensive, and includes initiatives and activities such as panel discussions, charity partnerships, and lifestyle events.
However, there are obstacles to bettering the network. For instance, Lee revealed the struggle of having visible commitment from top management, which helps send a clear and strong message throughout the organisation, on top of encouraging others to embrace diversity and inclusion.
“I think this is the obstacle, but of course it is also our opportunities and roadmap,” said Lee.
Learning while leading
From being a mentor, Lee has earned to accept different feedback and new ideas from young talent.
Lee recalled getting ideas on a new brand name for a client segment from young female mentees. Although there were a lot of new ideas, Lee noticed they were afraid of bringing forth and promoting their ideas and strategies. However, after feeling their ideas were accepted by the mentors, Lee observed increased confidence in the group.
“I also learned how to accept advice from the young talents, and how to support them, and how to be a good listener. I think this is very crucial as well,” said Lee.
In return, Lee advises her mentees to be bold, be the change, own the journey, and lead with courage.
“I think proactiveness is very important, apart from courage, and stay committed, stay passionate, and stay interested in what you’re doing, and then eventually you will find a route to succeeding in your career,” said Lee.
head of Greater China, Hong Kong branch
“All they need is a fair opportunity”: BNP Paribas focuses on unconscious bias
Rather than deliberately empowering female private bankers, Shafali Sachdev, Asia head of investment services, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, believes that it is more important to provide a level playing field and remove unconscious bias.
Fair opportunity over empowerment
Sachdev believes in the importance of giving fair opportunities. For that reason, she believes organisations that are fair and unbiased, and are willing to recognise talent and leadership in whatever form it comes, are more effective in growing and developing their female workforce.
“In my experience, [for] most of the women that I’ve worked with, they are very capable and committed, and don’t actually need any specific empowerment to grow and develop. All they need is a fair opportunity to prove that,” said Sachdev.
Confidence vs competence
Sachdev also pointed out how talent and leadership can look different from person to person, and many organisations and managers tend to confuse confidence with competence, and mistakenly promote on the basis of the former.
Sachdev also noted that unconscious biases are real, as well as very hard to challenge since people are not aware of them. Sachdev believes that unconscious biases sometimes hold women back.
On that account, Sachdev thinks that specific initiatives are much more effective when targeted at culture and managers, rather than at female employees.
“In my organisation, we’re very cognisant of this and have specific training on biases. This recognition is essential if women are to get a fair chance to grow and develop,” said Sachdev.
Advice to aspiring female bankers
When advising other women who wish to enter the private banking industry, Sachdev advocates that females should not be afraid to speak their minds. She explained that diverse opinions make for better decisions overall. Therefore, speaking up and holding one’s ground is important, not just from a personal point of view, but also for achieving better outcomes overall, Sachdev explained.
In addition to this, Sachdev also recognises the importance of believing in oneself and working hard.
“Believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone else tell you what you can or cannot do. Work hard and over prepare. This will always stand you in good stead,” she said.
head of investment services, Asia
Pictet aims to provide a family friendly workplace while nurturing future talent
Having spent 12 years with Pictet, An Hui Ling, managing director, market head of Pictet Wealth Management Asia, has enjoyed good work-life balance while witnessing the bank’s gender equality journey.
In Singapore, An revealed that she has never experienced specific gender biases, whether it is a job application, performance reviews, or promotional considerations. An owes this to Singapore being a meritocratic society and the government’s efforts in promoting gender equality.
Yet, An pointed out that the many demanding roles of a working woman – for instance, as an employee, manager, daughter, wife or mother – will all inadvertently pose challenges amid the strive for a healthy work-life balance.
An noted that the inclusive culture and family-friendly environment in Pictet allows female staff the flexibility and space to strive for a good work-life balance.
“In this demanding environment, I make a conscious effort to work efficiently and effectively in order for me to be home to cook dinner and spend time with my family – this is the most valuable for me and my family,” said An.
However, such equality is not always the case. An mentioned that in her upbringing, women are largely expected to be housewives and family carers instead of breadwinners, creating a mental challenge for her.
“Convincing myself that I could be successful in what used to be a man’s world required mental adaptation and determination, for which there was little literature available at that time,” said An.
Nurturing future leaders
While Pictet infuses diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) elements into its recruitment practices, to reach true gender equality across the firm, An believes the bank should continually identify and develop a pool of talented female professionals who will become leaders of the next generation.
To this end, Pictet has several initiatives relating to its graduate and internship programmes, as well as partnerships with nonprofits advocating the promotion of underrepresented talent. On a senior level, the bank encourages merit-based development.
An also believes bringing together professionals with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking promotes an inclusive culture, strengthens teams, and enriches insights into clients’ needs and investment strategies.
Therefore, she calls for collective action from people at all levels to better reflect the societies and clients serviced.
“Every employee has the ability to be active in supporting and embracing DEI within their own sphere of influence, and as organisations we have a responsibility to enhance the systems in which we operate, both internally and externally,” said An.
Measuring success with EDGE
As part of its commitment to measuring DEI, Pictet is externally certified by EDGE, a global assessment and business certification for gender and intersectional equity. The certification process involves a third-party review against EDGE’s global standards.
These standards include representation across the talent pipeline, pay equity, effectiveness of policies and practices to ensure equitable career flows, and the inclusiveness of the firm’s culture.
In 2023, Pictet was recertified at the EDGE Move level and became EDGEplus certified. EDGE Move recognises the progress made by Pictet in terms of gender equity, while EDGEplus acknowledges its commitment to analysing intersectional issues in gender and other aspects of diversity.
An Hui Ling
managing director, market head
EFG strives to meet diverse client base with diverse workforce
Noticing the diverse nature of private banking, Tho Gea Hong, CEO Singapore, EFG, hopes to serve her client base with a diverse workforce.
Serving a gender diverse sector
With a client base comprising a different mix of individuals with unique needs, backgrounds, and preferences, Tho noted private banking stands out as one of the most gender-diverse sectors within the broader industry.
To better capture the diverse client base, Tho believes diversity in the workforce will bring a range of insights and viewpoints to EFG’s decision-making process.
Therefore, Tho believes the long-term success of EFG is linked to the level of diversity and inclusivity within the firm.
Tho noted the management team at EFG’s Singapore branch is diverse in both gender and nationality, with more than half of the team made up by women.
“Simply put: to serve a diverse client base, we need a diverse workforce,” said Tho.
Unleashing the potential of females
To unleash women’s full potential at work so that the needs of clients are better met, EFG has several initiatives that aim to support and foster its female workforce.
EFG’s “new ways of working” framework allows staff to work from home two days per week, and staff can request to combine their “work-from-home” days up to a maximum of two weeks if they require such flexibility. The EFG Women’s Network offers a platform for female staff to connect with one another.
Other than that, EFG has also been educating its employees on diversity and inclusion topics, in which issues such as unconscious biases are touched on.
Tho hopes these initiatives will provide structured support in training, mentorship, leadership, and networking, thus preparing women for bigger roles and ensuring a larger pool of female talent.
With the emergence of more female leaders in the industry and the sharing of their successes, it will help to motivate other women to aspire to bigger roles, Tho explained.
Looking back, pivoting to private banking from consumer banking was challenging for Tho, but she is grateful to have a network of supportive managers and colleagues to help speed up her learning curve.
“What is important is to understand the success criteria of the role you are considering. Speak to existing practitioners who can share their experience and advice and trust yourself to pursue the career path that you choose,” Tho advised.
Tho highlighted that besides working full time, many women also carry the primary responsibility of children’s wellbeing, education demands, elderly care, as well as household chores. Tho believes it is important to recognise these circumstances that many women face outside of the workplace.
To overcome this obstacle, Tho suggested providing a safe environment and supportive culture for female colleagues to share their situations, while having understanding, supportive, and flexible managers.
“The focus should be to help our women colleagues get through any challenging situation they are facing. Ultimately, this will result in even greater commitment and loyalty from our staff,” said Tho.
Tho Gea Hong
Remote work is helping female bankers juggle career and family
While considering Hong Kong’s private banking industry as already female friendly compared to other parts of the financial industry, Jackie Pang, managing director, Hong Kong market head, UBP, believes that work-from-home policies can further help support female private bankers.
Improving a female friendly industry
In private banking, Pang pointed out, women are either the majority or equally represented. A possible reason for this is the relationship-building focus in private banking, in which women are particularly capable, Pang explained.
Pang also pointed out that not only in private banking, but Hong Kong as a city is also very female-friendly.
However, Pang mentioned that there is still room for improvement. Despite having more women in leadership positions, the very top, global heads of banks, are largely male dominated.
“Maybe it’s because of the nature of banking, that it is still a bit old fashioned. But I think that will change because we talk about it a lot more, we are a lot more conscious,” said Pang.
As for support for women, while COVID-19 popularised the work-from-home concept, Pang realised that it would be great if such arrangements were available when her kids were little, since there are many women who want a career alongside raising children. Since COVID-19, she has been able to work from home one day per week.
“Now you realise, we can do it this way, and it is nice for someone who wants to continue with their career, and do other stuff at once,” said Pang.
Pang credited her domestic helper for aiding her in juggling work and family, as well as making Hong Kong a female-friendly place. The accessibility of domestic helpers allowed her to go to work with peace of mind and pursue other interests, knowing that her kids are in good hands.
While noting that balancing work and family life is challenging, Pang advises other women in the industry to make good arrangements in order to keep pursuing career goals and not miss out on a family life at the same time.
Pang also stresses the importance of asking for help at work, since she believes if someone has proven to be a good worker and adds value to the business, the company will treasure and help them.
“I don’t think you need to make sacrifices these days, because being in Hong Kong, you have helpers, you have close family to help you out. Do not sacrifice, but don’t give up on your dreams or on your career,” said Pang.
Learning to multitask
Pang also thinks multitasking is crucial in juggling these various roles. With the commitment required from work and as a mum, Pang often found herself not having the space to debate whether to finish a task or not.
Knowing that people depend on her at work and not wanting to let them down, Pang turned to multitasking. However, she believes a work-from-home policy would have helped her to juggle this better.
“Because, if you don’t do it, no one else would do it. So, you have to quickly finish your meeting, and keep your high heels on, and go pick up your kids. And then run back to the office, stay a bit longer, because you need to catch up on stuff,” said Pang.
market head Hong Kong
Indosuez toppling male private banking dominance by growing female talents
While the private banking industry has traditionally been male-dominated, Qian Su, head of asset management, Asia, Indosuez, told Asian Private Banker about the firm’s initiatives that aim to help women reach their potential.
Progression in a male-dominated industry
Starting her career 15 years ago, Su noted that most of the key decision-making senior management were male. These industry veterans became Su’s source of inspiration, and pushed her to prove herself.
Instead of feeling pressured in this environment, Su believes it is important to be open-minded, agile, and resilient, so that a collaborative working environment where staff focus on the same goal, despite gender or cultural differences, can be built.
Today at Indosuez, Su noticed how more women leaders have increased the variety of leadership traits of the firm.
“Indosuez has been putting human value in our DNA collectively, whether as a senior management member or as an employee,” said Su.
Developing its female workforce
To help female talent reach their potential, Indosuez has been running leadership training and mentorship programmes. In 2021, the firm conducted a global dedicated review of its promising female staff at the executive committee level. Female employees are also involved in key strategic projects to make sure their voices are heard.
Regarding career planning, Su noted that Indosuez strives for extensive support of female employees at important moments of their careers, such as providing at least 16 weeks of maternity leave and educating all managers on unconscious biases, as well as giving both genders equal opportunities internally and during hiring.
Su pointed out that Indosuez’s internal development programme, TREMPLIN, provides young female talent the tools to map out and meet their career goals.
“We need to have a clear vision to pursue a balance between passion and objectivity. We do not need to strive for perfection in every single detail, but we can achieve outstanding results and unlock great potential by focusing on the most important goals,” said Su.
As for increasing the visibility of women, Indosuez publishes a profile of one of its female employees each month on its intranet and websites, alongside systematically giving attention to gender in its corporate internal communications, Su said.
Obstacles for female representation
Despite the above initiatives, Su mentioned the journey for female representation and growth within Indosuez and other financial institutions is not without obstacles.
For instance, there are certain biases affecting recruitment, promotion, and leadership chances for women, which can be mitigated by awareness training and creating an inclusive environment, Su said.
While work-life balance is another challenge, the firm has been addressing this issue through flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies. To that end, Su advises other females in the private banking industry to be open-minded, flexible, and communicate effectively.
“In this industry, challenges can come from gender, culture, age, social constraints, especially when we are in a client-facing role. It’s important to constantly improve communication skills in order to build
up valuable bridges, gain trust and scale up your network,” said Su.
head of asset management, Asia
Gender pay gap no longer troubles VP Bank, yet behavioural biases persists
With more women than ever making their way into private banking, VP Bank believes that the gender pay gap is no longer an issue for the Liechtenstein-headquartered bank.
More females in the market
Having worked across the globe, Pamela Phua, CEO Asia, VP Bank, noticed there were fewer women in the workplace when she started her career. She noticed gender diversity rising unintentionally, as more women were hired and received more support.
“That is an encouragement to those coming to the market, because if you don’t see it, you don’t know it exists.” said Phua.
Heline Lam, managing director, chief of staff Asia, VP Bank, revealed the bank has been working hard on gender equality over the past three years. Thus, a lack of gender diversity and a gender pay gap are no longer issues at the bank, she reckons.
VP Bank is among the first signatories of the Luxembourg Women in Finance Charter, entering a commitment to set voluntary targets regarding balanced gender representation – especially at the management level – and to publicly report its progress.
The bank also sponsors projects in sports and culture, including the “VP Bank Swiss Ladies Open,” the largest female tournament on the Ladies European Tour.
On a personal level, despite not facing any prominent obstacles in terms of a compensation gap, Lam noticed challenges regarding how she worked and behaved throughout her career.
While men are thought to be more assertive and aggressive, when a woman acts in a similar way in the workplace, different feedback might be given, Lam observed.
“I have encountered more feedback regarding these areas – why are you so blunt? The adjectives used for a male counterpart would be quite different,” said Lam.
Fortunately, a positive change over the past decade has been observed in the industry as people start realising the advantages women have to offer the workplace, according to Lam.
Lam believes individuals and genders complement each other, collectively bringing a lot to the table. “We cannot ignore the other 50% of the population when we work together in society,” said Lam.
While Phua said she has been in many committees where she is the only woman, she noticed the two genders offer different perspectives. This is vital in building a business, as it helps the business evaluate different points of views, opportunities, and risks.
Building on the idea of collectivity, Lam recognised that gender is just one aspect of diversity, and issues such as age are also involved, which VP Bank also wishes to focus on too.
On advising females in the industry, Phua and Lam noticed women tend to criticise themselves and each other a lot. However, the most important part is to move forward after learning from past experiences, Lam explained.
“Self reflection can help us grow to learn, and that is the purpose of it, not to put an individual down or to get stuck in,” said Phua.
“I think self-reflection is a very beautiful attribute. At the same time, too much of anything becomes a bad thing – take too much of a vitamin in, and it becomes toxic,” Lam illustrated.
Women in Family Offices: Behind the organisation defining women’s space in wealth
Sharon Sim, founder of Purpose Venture Capital, noticed there was a lack of conversation around the role of women in family offices in Singapore.
This lack of a dialogue led to the founding of Women in Family Offices (WIFO), which she co-founded along with four other like-minded professional women, including Serene Tan, head of investment at Sun Venture, and Serena Wong, head advisory at Kamet Capital.
“It came about quite organically. It was maybe a very impulsive kind of decision, but we felt very deep in our hearts, there’s something that is a gap,” Sim explained.
Women in leadership roles
Sim believes there is a glass ceiling and pay gap for senior women in private banking.
Sim believes this is due to a lack of clarity and transparency around compensation in the industry, particularly in relation to the discretionary bonus structure, which is more skewed towards men as they typically hold more senior positions.
“This leads to a lack of understanding of what we can contribute as women,” Sim explained.
Recalling when she was pregnant, Sim was supposed to be promoted. However, she believes she was overlooked due to her pregnancy. Although she cannot prove it, she always had the thought in her head.
Family office careers
Being a mother, Sim hopes her daughter will enter a workforce where discussions of gender diversity and female empowerment are no longer necessary.
“It then becomes a case of the best person wins, right? The best person gets the job, but I know we are very far from that idea,” Sim said.
Sim believes family office roles could be natural career options for women, despite the sector still being at a nascent stage. She thinks the long-term family legacy planning angle aligns well with women.
Family offices are also smaller scale compared to banking roles, so women have more opportunity to showcase themselves, Sim explained.
Sim moved into private banking from investment banking in 2014 when she had young kids. She then moved to a family office in 2019 as she noticed potential bottlenecks in the private banking industry.
Sim moved into private banking from investment banking in 2014 seeing the potential in private wealth, when she had young kids. She then moved to the family office in 2019 as she noticed potential bottlenecks in the private banking industry.
“Making career shifts is always very daunting for everyone, but I think particularly for women,” said Sim. “But at the end of the day, I think you still have to take that small bit of risk.”
Sacrificing for a career
Noticing the sacrifices women make for a family, Tan believes that women are not networking and promoting themselves enough, both internally and externally.
“I wanted to tell young and ambitious women: you can have both, a successful career and motherhood. There will be trying times and you will struggle. But don’t take it all upon yourself to do all the heavy lifting at home. It’s time we empower the men in the house to do more at home,” Tan argued.
Tan also recognised the importance of networking, specifically in relation to the exchange of investment ideas, deal flows, sourcing and making deals. She also explained while staying in the office will result in good deliverables, one might risk missing out on getting other perspectives.
Tan recalled that when she worked for an asset manager in her late twenties, senior management rounded up some young, female, and recognised talent in the company in search of the next generation of future female leaders.
Upon questioning why only women were chosen, Tan discovered this initiative was put forward as women were underrepresented at the board level.
Tan felt insulted as she was only picked because of her gender. “I think that is wrong. And I think that in the end, you actually end up discrediting the very people that you want to promote,” said Tan.
“Be sure of your capabilities and never doubt yourself. Promote yourself and network. Lastly, find a job that you love. And the rest will fall into place,” said Tan.
Demand for female wealth advisors
As women now own an increasing share of wealth, Wong believes this is an opportunity for more female wealth advisors, but work is still needed in terms of both the demand for female advisors, as well as supply of talent.
Wong would like to see the number of female wealth owners grow, in turn boosting demand for female advisors. The share of women’s wealth globally is projected to hit 34.2% in 2023, according to a Boston Consulting Group report in 2019, with women holding 32.2% of wealth in Asia.
As the number of wealth advisors grows, Wong hopes to see more actively engaged female advisors allocated to female-led businesses.
“That’s exactly why we started Women in Family Offices, to provide that safe space for this to grow and to make sure that this message is visible and heard,” said Wong.
Vulnerability in wealth management
Speaking from her own experience and observation, Wong discovered female wealth owners tend to make their families the first priority and think collectively.
However, Wong added that female stereotypes have plagued the wealth management industry. In her experience, to succeed, women were asked to have masculine characteristics.
“If you’re an advisor, you need to be vocal, or if you want to be seen and respected you need to have the endurance of an athlete and stay up late, watching the markets,” said Wong.
As a wealth advisor, Wong likes to be an elevated version of herself while also being vulnerable. Building on the idea that no one is infallible, Wong believes pretending to never be wrong invites distrust, while embracing vulnerability does the opposite.
However, Wong noticed that being vulnerable in private banking might not be as easy as in a family office. Working in family offices, Wong has the luxury of spending time to address difficult questions, while private banking tends to take a top-down approach where advice is put in a shiny package.
“All of this is completely within our capability, so let’s not hold ourselves back,” said Wong.