Michele Wee is the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, Vietnam.
Looking at your early career decisions, how did you become a broker and how was your experience?
It wasn’t planned. I was fresh out of school and fell into it. I had an interview with the bank to get a mortgage and needed a job so that the loan would be approved. The role was really fun and it was something I did for 8 years before joining Bloomberg just as e-Commerce was taking off in Asia. They hired me into their eFX Sales team, as part of their digital platform initiative which was a natural fit for a voice broker.
What have been some of the highlights of your career and what has enabled you to be successful?
I joined Bloomberg at a really exciting time and was part of the pioneer team that launched FX Gold in Asia. I did this role for two years and was offered a job at Deutsche Bank after a pitch I did to them which was again a timely move as I joined the original core team that launched AutoBahn into APAC. One thing led to another and I ended up being headhunted by Standard Chartered Bank who wanted to re-ignite their e-Commerce efforts. Both e-Commerce and FX as an asset class were growing exponentially so it was very much a “right place right time” situation. A global role from Singapore was a great jump in my career. I made sure that I was agile and open to taking up new challenges, and have been very lucky with the timing at each stage of my career.
What has been the toughest part of your career and how did you overcome it?
Joining Standard Chartered Bank was a big step up for me and it has been very challenging. It was at that point that I really started to think deeply about my value to the organisation as a leader. The toughest part of my career was going from a regional Director role in an established platform to a global Managing Director at a time when the bank was trying to change its business model. There was a very big change in culture and the way that I had to influence global stakeholders. I spent the first two years trying to understand the organisation and find my purpose. I had to learn on my feet, park my securities and never give up. I think it was my enate passion that got me through that period. I had a passion for the e-Commerce world and communicated it effectively. And with a lot of patience and some luck, I found a manager who truly understood me. This gave me even more confidence to do what I was hired to do.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you as a leader and how do you promote it among the teams you lead?
Diversity is not just about gender but the diversity of thought and the inclusion of mindset. Inclusion is a choice and diversity is the effect.
I strongly believe in the importance of good people managers but also coaches and mentors. These don’t have to be official mentors but just people who are there to provide you with little nuggets of information that you can digest and decide if you want to implement. Once you reach a certain level, it is no longer about growing yourself but growing others. When you get into a position where you are a hiring manager, you have a big responsibility and people look to you. I have found particularly good coaching topics include how to get balance, create presence, have influence and personal branding.
With mentoring in particular, female to female works really well although I have actually had a very good male coach who always creates a safe space. Coaches give you perspective. Family also gives you perspective and I have always taken inspiration from my children. Having children is your reminder of why you work so hard. When a child has a play date, there is a huge amount of diversity and they don’t see anything but the individual.
What is your vision for SCB in Vietnam and what role will diversity and inclusion play?
Vietnam has some fantastic local talent and building upon my predecessor’s work, we want to hire the best people, be agile and support our community. Vietnam is also very unique in it that the banking industry has a gender ratio of 70% being females. I was so pleasantly surprised during our first town hall to see what a great job we have done at hiring. We have re-written the people agenda with some tweaks and this includes mentoring some of our high potential successors.
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