This week is dedicated to highlighting 25 women leaders in Hong Kong fintech, with “fintech” defined broadly. (Scroll below to find the first third of our group; more to come tomorrow.) About half are senior digital, data, information and business heads at financial institutions. The others are founders or running P&Ls in the technology world, from vendors to startups to crypto.
Gender aside, they represent the digital-finance scene in Hong Kong in microcosm.
But they are women. It’s no secret that finance, technology, and fintech companies skew toward males, to a degree that is often unhealthy.
From discussions with the people we profiled, this imbalance results largely from too many women opting out of the industry. We want to present our leaders as role models, in the hope it encourages younger women to stay in the game.
Michelle Chan, FWD
“Hong Kong is a hard market in which to go digital,” said Michelle Chan, head of business development at insurer FWD. “But we need to push because that’s the trend.”…READ HER STORY
Bianca Ho, Clare.AI
Four years ago, Bianca Ho made a list of the skills she’d need to be a business founder. She had already cut her teeth helping a tech startup, Zendesk, commercialize customer-support software…READ HER STORY
We heard a few stories from our leaders of overt sexism, but our batch of leaders powered past such slights. The real problem is subtler. Most men in tech and finance aren’t misogynists, but as a class, they are oblivious to their privilege. This manifests itself more at home than at the office. Family pressures and assumptions that women carry the brunt of childcare and other domestic chores is what can stymie a career.
More can be done. Government plays a role in supporting diversity. Hong Kong, for example, has just enabled spouse visas for same-sex partners. Society plays a role, too: diversity thrives in cultures that encourage multiculturalism, merit and competition.
Vikki Huang, Enuma Technology
Vikki Huang graduated from university into the teeth of the 2008 global finance crisis. She turned adverse conditions into a springboard for a career in investment banking, doing mergers and acquisitions…READ HER STORY
Annette King, Galileo Platforms
“I’ve stuck with tech because of the massive business opportunity,” said Annette King, co-founder of Galileo Platforms, an insurance software company. “Hundreds of millions of people in Asia…READ HER STORY
“Hong Kong is historically a multitude of talent,” said Charles D’Haussy, head of fintech at InvestHK, which partnered with DigFin on this project. “This city has always worked to attract skilled people from the West, from mainland China, and from the rest of Asia. Now Hong Kong, with its open-visa policy, has instituted a fast track for tech talent.”
Businesses should promote diversity. Not to be “nice”. But because it leads to better governance and decision-making. And because when there are structural impediments to inclusion, particularly of women, it deprives businesses of literally half the talent available. Imagine: as digital technology leads more businesses to personalize services, how are they going to generate revenues if they don’t understand what their women customers need?
Janice Ku, HSBC
From the start, Janice Ku was into tech. “I studied engineering,” she said. “I love computers and math.” But she came to prefer client-facing work to hardware development…READ HER STORY
Sandy Lau, GoBear
Sandy Lau feels like the development of her career has led her, almost inevitably, to her role as GoBear’s head of Hong Kong. The online comparison website has let her leverage on a career…READ HER STORY
Ultimately the barriers to women are flimsy; these 25 leaders testify to that. Here we present techies, math nerds, business heroes, type-A alpha females. From conversing with them, the closest thing to a gender type is that many women don’t push for something until they feel secure, whereas men are more buccaneering. So the lesson to is: go for it, gals. And don’t be shy angling for that exciting job.
As for employers, there’s a lesson for you too. It’s true that many companies actively seek female employees with science, computing and tech backgrounds. But it’s not enough to want to hire women: the work-life balance has to be addressed. Yet women don’t want to be patronized; nor should companies treat them differently.
Venetia Lee, Alipay
“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”…READ HER STORY
Connie Leung, Microsoft
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…READ HER STORY
DigFin – in the spirit of innovation – suggests a different way: make paternity leave mandatory for one month. Just as banks enforce an annual two-week, no-communications leave, employers should remove their male employees from the scene so new fathers may bond with their infants, take a few weeks to share in child-rearing, and be rendered inert to their colleagues.
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.