Why did you pursue and build a career in finance? How has it opened more doors of opportunity for you?
The finance industry is an exciting and dynamic global industry with many areas of specialisation where the learning curve is steep with constant product innovation, against a backdrop of dynamic and evolving markets. Given the advisory content in many areas of specialisation, the requirement for human capital remains strong despite technological advancement. Moreover, if you are a type A personality, the fast-paced nature of the job, the feeling of accomplishment after a successful transaction is delivered and closed, and finding solutions/problem solving is exhilarating and fulfilling. Having extensive experience in your chosen field of specialisation will make you relevant and marketable across other key financial markets if you decide to pursue opportunities abroad.
What is your hope for the debt capital markets industry in Malaysia?
The Malaysian bond market is the third-largest local currency bond market in terms of percentage of GDP in Asia, next to Japan and Korea, and is known for its product innovation in multiple areas, including project finance, sukuk, hybrids (i.e., perpetuals), and recently, ESG-themed financing. CIMB continues to be invested in the growth and vibrance of the Malaysian debt capital markets and will continue to work with the local regulators to propel the market's growth in product innovation, diversity, scale, and access to markets.
What factors did you consider when you decided to pursue the CFA® Program?
Although it was not a requirement in my field of specialisation, I had wanted to have a certification which would be globally recognised to enhance and provide validation of my credentials as added insurance for my career path in this industry. It was the best choice then given that it is affordable and you could take the three levels of exams whilst working and building tenure in your career, and locally the return on investment for an MBA was unclear. CFA Program subjects are extensive with a graduate-level knowledge of finance and are a good refresh after college. Not only did it validate and enhance my self worth, it provided added confidence in pursuing my career path in the challenging and competitive area of capital markets.
How has the CFA Program helped you to navigate ethical situations in your career?
Holding multiple licenses and as a CFA charterholder, the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct can be applied in situations requiring professional and ethical judgment.
Thinking About Your Next Career Step?
A CFA charter can help boost your finance credentials. The CFA Program is designed to equip you with the kind of expertise and real-world skills in investment analysis that will help you advance your career. Once you complete all three exam levels and demonstrate the required experience, you can apply to become a charterholder.
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What is your definition of success? Has your definition of success changed over the years?
In the initial stages of your career, the sense of success is generally more localised to your current task or transaction at hand, such as your job and getting to the next level of promotion; but through the years, the definition of success does evolve. I have been in the ASEAN debt markets for more than 20 years and have been fortunate to oversee a team of talented professionals across the ASEAN markets where we are very much invested in the growth of the local markets, working closely with the local regulators and market community. Here in Malaysia, I am humbled to be the chair of the Malaysian Investment Banking Association Debt Capital Market's association for more than five years and in this capacity, our collective efforts and contributions work to shape the industry, fuel further product innovation, and foster growth and depth in the industry, specifically the Malaysian Debt Capital Markets.
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
To my mind a leader, regardless of gender, is someone who has integrity, is accountable for their actions both the good and the bad, is empathetic to understand and problem solve the team's challenges as well as bold and courageous in pursuing opportunities. This is whilst also remaining humble, to reflect and adopt improvements where required, and resilient especially during challenging times with the ability to effect positive change in a team. He/she also nurtures and brings out the best in the team rather than focus on the negatives. Women leaders have the added challenge to balance family and work life and I am in awe when I see many capable women leaders leading successful careers and being full-time mothers.
How do you prioritize work-life balance? What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?
There is no perfect science to work-life balance. Enjoying what you do at work and the people you work with will help with balancing your responsibilities at work and home, where you will need to make time for your loved ones even when your days end up collectively long. Multi-tasking and the art or science of prioritising are very important skills to balance both a successful career and full-time motherhood. Stamina is also a requisite to maintain high energy levels to deliver at work and not compromise your responsibilities as a full-time mother.
What are your outside interests?
In a very stressful and demanding industry where hours are long and stress levels are high, managing work-related stress is key. I find that regular exercise is not only a mood elevator and stress reliever, it works to maintain high energy levels through the long days and weeks especially when sleep deprived.
I do spend most of my time outside work with my son and enjoying time with him on his favourite games, activities, or tv shows and, when the weather permits, we cycle or play badminton together. My son enjoys home-cooked food and has a surprisingly elevated opinion of his mummy's culinary abilities where we experiment in the kitchen, baking and cooking dishes together. On rare occasions where there is the benefit of leisure time, I enjoy playing the piano and recreational reading.
Disclaimer: The content was written in July 2021 and the video was taken in April 2021. 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.