RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

How did HSBC's Yvonne Yiu become a part of the bank's pivotal transformation?

It’s a matter of providing effective solutions, from innovative services to capable business models.

Yvonne Yiu, the regional head of international countries for global liquidity and cash management, Asia Pacific since 2015, has direct management responsibility of the cash management business of HSBC across 12 markets. She is based in Hong Kong and has over 18 years of experience in the industry.

In an exclusive interview with Asian Banking and Finance, Yvonne tells us about how passionate she is for her banking career, how she worked her way up the organisation, and how a female banker like her found the company that offered equal opportunities and balance. 

What are some of the highlights in your banking career?
I am very fortunate for having the opportunity to rotate to different roles to enrich my experience and exposure. I had a number of regional roles spanning across sales, product management, finance, business management, and now in my current international country management remit. These required me to travel a lot, but I get to work with a diverse group of colleagues and clients across different sectors, functions and countries, which have helped me to develop a broader understanding on business issues and challenges and gain a better appreciation of the holistic perspective on our business and strategic direction. This is a key enabler to get me to where I am now.

What motivated you to pursue a career in banking?
Liquidity and cash management may appear transactional on face value, but it is the core function of most companies–as our services are essential for operating account and working capital management, and are required by all companies. For us to provide effective solutions, we need to go deep in understanding the requirements and challenges of our clients, and that’s the time we start to learn about their business priorities, growth strategies, operation requirements, liquidity and settlement consideration, risk management agenda, etc. This is truly fascinating as every customer may have different requirements, and we get to learn so much from them. This is one of the drivers.

In addition, it gives me a lot of satisfaction when we can design or implement services that help our clients to enhance their competitiveness, be it gaining operational efficiency to the extent of transformation of their business models through our innovative solutions. We play an important role in supporting our clients to advance along their journey, and this is a key motivation for me to go to work every day. What is one of the toughest decisions you have had to make and how did it impact your life? The toughest decision was probably when I was asked to consider moving from sales into product management. At that time, I was doing very well in sales, and I was reluctant in moving into product management given that I was not IT savvy. I felt anxious by leaving my comfort zone and moving to lead a team of experienced product managers who were more technical than me. I took up that challenge finally and it was a very tough move. In the first 6 months, I worked so hard to make myself equipped and connected with so many different people to get their support. Yet it was proven to be one of the best decisions in my career. Because of that move, I had overcome some of my personal challenges and have since become more open to trying out new assignments; hence my rotation experience as mentioned above.

What do you consider as your biggest achievement?
I think my biggest achievement is my contribution to the transformation of our business. I was part of the core team in building out our capabilities and business models. We have worked very hard in the past decades, and it was a big satisfaction that we have now reached the market leading position in the region. I am very proud of our business achievements today, and it is such as privilege to have had the opportunity to work with a group of passionate and talented colleagues throughout this development journey.

What can you say about the notable progress in the number of women joining different highly-competitive industries such as banking?
Financial services is a very demanding industry in terms of time needed to be devoted to work. How to strike a balance to create an environment where flexible working hours is achievable can certainly be a challenge. However, with improved technology, it is doable to work from home and away from the office. This has certainly helped when it comes to attracting and retaining women in the industry. This is something we embrace at HSBC. We constantly advocate our organisation ethos, which includes being able to work the hours and locations that suit the individual. All these things are important. You need to have the right HR platform in place to support it and it must be supported at the top. By putting in place work-friendly, women-friendly policies, industries are making huge progress.

What is your advice to women who are aiming for a leadership position in banking?
Set your priorities straight. Devote time to planning your career and your life. Understand that priorities have to adjust to get the right balance. Set your mind right so that you will be able to achieve what you want. Take advantage of company initiatives such as flexible and remote working to enable you to achieve a good work and family balance. Companies do understand the challenges women face when it comes to striking a balance. Make sure you take advantage of these to make the job work for you. 

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