“I always put myself in a position where I’m little bit uncomfortable,” said Venetia Lee, Ant Financial’s general manager for Alipay in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. “I always want to do something interesting, something I haven’t done before.”
Lee studied computer science in the U.S., but always wanted to put tech to work in a job that allowed her to interact with people. After college she worked as a software engineer at Sun Microsystems, but she wanted to do more than programming. “I like the applications side because you can see how your work has an impact on people’s lives,” she said.
She moved to consulting with Ernst & Young to help clients solve problems, and along the way learned business analysis and project management. She then took on the first of several substantial projects: leading PayPal’s launch in China, in 2005, which saw her move to Shanghai to run it as a product manager.
Lee wanted to return to her native Hong Kong, but for internet businesses, the city lacked the same opportunities, but it remains important for financial services. “I’d done digital payments, but not banking,” she said.
She joined DBS in Hong Kong to run its new business in consumer digital banking, which involved a lot of internal lobbying for putting budgets behind things like customer experience. Although banks remain conservative when it comes to adapting to digital, she learned they are good at business, partly because they understand regulation. Those insights helped her take the lead on big fintech initiatives.
She launched ApplePay into Hong Kong and Singapore. Then Ant came knocking, with a much broader set of products and a strategic interest in Hong Kong, as a stepping stone for the company’s international ambitions. “There’s a lot here I can do,” she said.
Her role has several dimensions: to run Alipay in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, driving merchant and consumer acceptance, which in turn should lead to new services that Ant offers in mainland China. She also represents Ant to work with Alipay H.K., a joint venture with Hutchison. She also coordinates the Hong Kong business with other arms of parent Alibaba where they operate in the region.
Photos: DigFin Women Leaders
Full house at DigFin’s networking event for women leaders, students and young professionals.
DigFin hosted an event on Monday, December 3 on the back of our October series featuring 25 women leaders in Hong Kong fintech. The idea was to leverage our list to create a learning and networking opportunity for young people. Too many qualified young women drop out of science, tech or finance jobs too early, perpetuating a stark gender imbalance in the industry. We wanted to highlight success stories for students and young professionals.
We organized an evening at Eaton House to bring together some of our women leaders, students from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and many younger and mid-career professionals contemplating a move into fintech. There were a few older souls as well. Fintech is open to everyone! (Click on individual photos to enlarge.)
25 women leaders in Hong Kong fintech: the list
We list 25 notable women founders, business heads, technologists and digital experts among fintechs, financial institutions and vendors.
With the support of InvestHK, DigFin is proud to highlight 25 women leaders in Hong Kong fintech. Our leaders have hardcore tech jobs at financial institutions, senior executive roles overseeing digital initiatives, are founders and business managers of fintechs, and run large tech vending businesses. Click on the name to read their story.
Thank you to the following people for helping us generate this leaders list: Karen Contet Farzam of WHub, Michelle Paisley of The Women’s Foundation, Warwick Pearmund of Pure Search, Fran Thompson of Pathfinder Talent Solutions, and Maaike Steinebach of Fintech Association of Hong Kong.
Head of business development, Hong Kong
Senior product manager for digital and data
Hong Kong CEO
General manager and head of Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau
Senior director for financial services, Asia Pacific
Chief information officer, Asia Pacific
Yunfeng Financial Group
Head of core cash management, Asia Pacific
Chief information security officer (APAC & business delivery center)
Chief customer and marketing officer
Prudential Hong Kong
Head of regulatory affairs for Asia and Europe
Asia head of technology business development and innovation office
Managing director, head of Asia Pacific
Edge Technology Group
Head of digital transformation, Asia
Joining an insurance company
Head of innovation technologies, Greater China
UBS Wealth Management
Director, I.T. global strategy, Asia
Head of global liquidity and cash management, Hong Kong
Head of institutional sales
Head of principal investments & acquisitions, North Asia
25 women leaders in Hong Kong fintech: day three
We conclude our profiles of women leaders, plus views from headhunter Warwick Pearmund.
Today concludes our project highlighting women leaders in Hong Kong fintech, which was conducted with the support of InvestHK. Tomorrow we’ll run a list with all 25 people. Our women-leaders project will remain free to all visitors to our site.
To accompany this project, we asked Warwick Pearmund, a headhunter at Pure Search, to tell us the implications for talent when there remains such a skewed gender ratio in fintech roles.
Megan Pillsbury, Morgan Stanley
With an education in engineering, Megan Pillsbury naturally gravitated to high-tech companies and startups – but now she’s helping drive innovation within a major financial institution…READ HER STORY
Emily Randall, Edge Technology
Emily Randall has pursued a career in financial technology as it has transformed. As the MD and head of Asia Pacific at Edge Technology Group, she is at the center of cloud and cyber-security…READ HER STORY
Josianne Robb, on the move
Josianne Robb thought her career was over before it had even begun: a junior operations person at Euroclear in her native Belgium, she entered the wrong information on a ledger and cost the firm $18 million…READ HER STORY
As the father of two young girls I am, of course, interested in their hopes and dreams. I will certainly do everything that I can to help ensure they have access to the right opportunities, and access to the role models to help them make their own decisions.
In my day job, as a recruiter for advanced technologies, these are the two themes that crop up, time and again, when people ask me about the under representation of women in technology.
Cat Rüst, UBS Wealth Management
The biggest surprise Cat Rüst experienced when she moved from the world of tech startups to that of banking came about three months into her job. She had just joined UBS Wealth Management…READ HER STORY
Maxine Ryan, Spark
Maxine Ryan studied international relations in Australia, but upon graduation, “Nothing interested me.” She returned to her native Hong Kong and a friend introduced her to crypto – and she was hooked…READ HER STORY
Jessica Wu, MetLife
In 2008, Jessica Wu got her dream job. A technology graduate from university in Canada, she had begun a career in software sales at IBM before returning to her native Hong Kong as a contractor at HSBC…READ HER STORY
First: Why is it that, in a sector that is expanding across all industries, and in an environment that, in many countries, favours female empowerment, technology is failing to keep pace? It is not for lack of opportunity. If anything my clients often go out of their way to ask for female representation on candidate shortlists.
Second: Do we lack role models? No. But there are far fewer senior female leaders in technology in Hong Kong, and regionally, than is ideal.
How can we facilitate change quickly and equitably?
Yvonne Yiu, HSBC
After twenty years of running cash-management businesses, Yvonne Yiu this summer took on the role of head of global liquidity and cash management for Hong Kong at HSBC…READ HER STORY
Amy Yu, BitMEX
Amy Yu grew up in Texas. “I’m from ‘Houston, we have a problem’ Houston,” she said: her mother was a NASA programmer. Yu didn’t want to follow in those footsteps: she felt the action was in finance…READ HER STORY
Nina Zhou, Swiss Re
Nina Zhou built a career in investment banking in the U.S. and Asia before making the jump to fintech, joining CreditEase, then one of the pioneering peer-to-peer lending marketplaces…READ HER STORY
Companies are finally realizing the importance of work/life balance and adjusting their policies accordingly. Competition is part of this driver, as China and America’s biggest tech companies have become employers of choice. If traditional industries want to keep themselves attractive to the brightest and the best then they too have to focus on flexible working arrangements, family considerations and other non-monetary selling points.
Despite best intentions, the truth about recruiting women executives is that there is a shallower pool to draw from. We need, therefore, to look at the reasons for the imbalance and how we can address this. Girls routinely outperform boys in secondary education and yet there is a massive disparity of men and women reading for technical degrees in university. For those that do graduate and move into the high-tech industry, the quit rate is more than twice as high for women (41 percent) than it is for men (17 percent), according to the U.S. National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Therefore we must start at a younger age. Although information technology is an accepted part of children’s education, programming and gaming are too often seen as boys’ hobbies. We need to get girls coding, gaming and tinkering from a young age to develop a love of technology. Open source and APIs should come as naturally to my daughters as riding bikes.
The good news is that people are acting on these needs. The Talent & Diversity Committee of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong, which I co-chair, works with universities at the post- and undergraduate levels to incorporate fintech into business degrees. We are working on initiatives to get children, boys and girls, to visit innovation labs and other projects that show how tech embraces the wider world – that it matters, and is exciting.
Finally we are supporting ideas like DigFin’s profiling of women leaders in Hong Kong fintech – because it’s not enough to simply groom future entrepreneurs and execs, but to show young people that the role models they want to emulate are here now, and that they are the new normal.