Connie Leung joined a startup out of university, writing programs for a software company creating a new wholesale banking solution. “We got 20% of the market share in Hong Kong,” she said, a result partly buoyed by the dotcom boom of the late 1990s – until it burst.
She learned the hard way that startups also go bust, so she moved from business to hardcore tech, helping merchant acquirer First Data break into Asian markets with chip-based smart-card systems. From there she held a number of business-development roles at vendors including Mysis and Swift. It was at Swift, helping corporations and banks with cash, trade and payments, that one of her customers, Microsoft, headhunted her to lead its sales to financial institutions.
The common thread in Leung’s career: “It’s about catching business transformation,” she said. Just as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella campaigns for a PC on every desktop, Leung says when banks look to technological transformation, “Every person needs to be an innovator. You can’t transform without technology.”
She sees opportunity in several areas. First is insurance, where regulation has lagged banks when it comes to cloud technology. Another area is regulation, and the hot topic in Asia is reengineering legacy systems to let their people engage with customers or counterparties via digital channels.
“Banks and insurance companies are still operating in silos,” Leung said. “There’s a lot to do from the ecosystem point of view. We help banks, insurers and capital markets bridge the outside world.”
Leung, now as Microsoft’s Asia business lead for financial services, expects activity to only increase, as banks move away from a tradition of internal builds and work more with fintechs and third-party providers.