How would you describe yourself?
I am driven, determined, and tenacious. Hence, giving up is not in my dictionary. If one way doesn’t work out, I will improvise accordingly until a problem is solved or a goal is met.
Why did you pursue a career in finance?
Finance was not my first choice. I studied actuarial science because it was said to be one of, if not the most challenging degree course, and I like to be challenged. But I was offered a scholarship by an investment management firm, so naturally I ended up working in the finance industry.
My career journey began with a one-year contract at Legal & General Investment Management in London as an analyst in the fixed income department. My first day was a historic date: 15 September 2008, the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. It was thrilling to see the fund managers react to the bloodbath in the financial markets, and I helped provide quantitative analysis to support the decision-making process.
Why did you undertake the CFA® Program?
Apart from acquiring knowledge, a constant reminder to myself that the CFA® designation was for my long-term personal career growth — to make myself more marketable, to earn trust and respect from investors and other players in the industry, and to prove that I am determined and not a quitter — was my main motivation to take and complete the CFA® exams. In hindsight, if you want to pursue the CFA Program, you have to make it a priority so that you are willing to make the sacrifices (in terms of time and effort) no matter how hectic your professional or personal life is. While not everyone in the finance industry requires the CFA® charter to boost to their career, for me, being a CFA® charterholder is a reminder to continuously uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity in my work.
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Have you faced any ethical dilemmas in your career?
I deal with numbers every day and am faced with ethical dilemmas, particularly on data integrity, every time there is an error. When that happens, the key is to immediately rectify and restate.
What is your work or life motto?
I believe that everyone has a choice in everything they do. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you and don’t let others define your success. If you want or believe in something, pursue it and remember to trust your instincts (not just facts!). As Steve Jobs said, “trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future”.
Which book do you think every investment professional should read?
I have recently developed an interest in Dr Kai-Fu Lee’s work. Every investment professional should read his book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order, to better understand the two global superpowers and how they move financial markets just by a tweet or public remarks.
What is the favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
In my daily work, I have to deal with internal stakeholders to make sure everyone is aligned in terms of objectives, and understand the numbers we present. This is my favorite and most challenging part of my job. In recent years, I have come to realize that in times of change, you need to be able to connect with people to effect change in a cohesive manner. Getting people’s buy-in through data and analysis gives me great pleasure as much as great annoyance.
Tell us your proudest moment to date.
I took a break for a year to pursue the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. It was not an easy decision as my husband had to take a career break as well. But we returned home with new perspectives of the United States after having traveled to more than 30 states together — and I came back pregnant.
Professionally, pausing my career meant risking a promotion round. However, my career mentor told me that in 10 years, I would not remember when I got the promotion, but would remember the invaluable experiences gained. She was right. I learnt the true meaning of diversity, and have developed greater appreciation of the different perspectives and insights that people from other cultures, industries and countries bring. The experience helped shape my compassion, and people skills. And, I did get my promotion after that too.
What is your biggest passion in life? What drives you every day?
Accomplishments and solving problems drive me. Drawn by technological advancements in the United States particularly on big data and artificial intelligence, I am passionate about enhancing traditional methods of analysis and decision-making to create more value.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I had developed my creativity and entrepreneurial skills more during my university years. In hindsight, the benefits of failing a start-up you founded far outweigh getting good grades. Furthermore, the younger you are, the higher the risk you should take in life and at work.
Disclaimer: The content was written in March 2019. Information, views, opinions, and recommendations expressed belong to the interviewees thereof. They do not necessarily reflect the views of CFA Society Malaysia. In no event shall CFA Society Malaysia be liable for any damages resulting from their opinions.