WHOLESALE BANKING | Roxanne Uy, Singapore

Westpac's new institutional banking head for Asia David Koh dead set on building Australia’s first bank in Asia

Find out what his other 2 goals are.

Westpac Institutional Bank recently appointed David Koh as Head of Corporate and Institutional Banking, Asia. David will be based in Singapore and will join Westpac’s leadership team in Asia, reporting to both Bala Swaminathan, General Manager, Asia, and Andrew McDonald, General Manager of Corporate and Institutional Banking.

“Attracting a senior executive with David's breadth of experience is testament to the strong reputation we are building in Asia,” Mr Swaminathan said.

Mr Koh previously worked at JP Morgan where he was Managing Director, Treasury Services for Greater China, leading a team of 250 people across nine branches. Prior to this, he worked for Deutsche Bank in Shanghai and was at HSBC earlier in his career.

Asian Banking and Finance interviewed 45-year old David Koh to learn more about his future plans and business philosophies.

ABF: What makes you excited about your new position?

ABF: What three goals are you focused on?
First and foremost, I’m focused on making sure that my colleagues and I are being a true partner to our clients; by growing and deepening our presence in the region and broadening our product offerings to provide better service to them.

Secondly, I’m focusing on connecting our customers in Australia and Asia to the increasing trade and capital flows. We are in a unique position to do this thanks to the strength of our franchise in Australia & New Zealand, our ability to directly trade AUD/CNY in China and our capabilities in trade and structured commodity finance, FX and commodities.

Last but not least, I’m concentrating on building Australia’s First Bank in Asia. Westpac will be celebrating its 200th birthday in 2017 and we are really focused on doing all the right things to make sure that Westpac will have another solid 200 years - with Asia being a bigger part of the story.

Very importantly, in the same way we partner with our clients, we want to be partnering with our communities in Asia to help them prosper and grow. The work we do in the community in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands is outstanding, as is our leadership in sustainability. We want to bring these aspects of our brand to Asia.

ABF: What will you do differently in this position?
For our clients, bringing the opportunity and connection between Australia and Asia together in a seamless way. Not that Westpac have not been doing so already but you will find us being more proactive in engaging a larger number of Asian companies to do business in Australia and New Zealand and vice versa.

We want to ensure they get the right advice upfront and have a smooth, seamless experience in a new market with the Relationship Bank that can offer the best advice in our home market.

ABF: What changes are you planning for?
I am not looking to change anything for the sake of change. If anything, the key will be ensuring we have a strong team across Asia. And to build a truly robust client-centric platform, that will enable us to be here for our clients in the long term.

I expect there will be continued volatility in the global markets that will bring about constant changes to the Asian business environment. We will have to ensure we are strong, yet nimble enough to help our clients continue to succeed and prosper through these changes.

ABF: What are your key business philosophies?
There is a phrase often used in business: “It’s not personal, it's only business”. I do not agree with this. At the end of the day, business is a very personal thing for all stakeholders. Fundamentally, it is about building relationships with people – whether that’s customers, employees, business partners or shareholders. We need to treat people with respect and earn their trust and loyalty to establish a real relationship.

Another key business philosophy would be the importance of alignment of personal values with those of the firm for whom we work to achieve success. What has impressed me most since I joined Westpac is the culture, and how my colleagues really embrace the values.

Right across the organisation there is a spirit of One Team, of having the fortitude to conduct ourselves with the courage and integrity to do the right thing, to delight our customers and to give back to the communities in which we operate. This is why I believe Westpac will be successful in Asia.

ABF: What previous positions prepared you for this one and how?
There have been no two or three specific positions per se. Over the past 20 years, I have been very fortunate to work for great global banking brands in the US, UK, Middle East and Asia.

This has given me a deep appreciation of the many diverse and vibrant cultures that make up our world economy and how banks can help 'join the dots' - the right dots.

I have also been fortunate to have had the chance to learn from many great leaders and managers in these organisations - leaders who have allowed mistakes and the room to grow and try new things to contribute to the strong franchises around the globe.

ABF: Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and philosophies. I hope my philosophies resonate with your readers and look forward to making some new friends in Singapore who share them. 

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