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Inspiring Business Women In APAC: Cora Cheung

Cora Cheung is the Executive Director, Head of Consumer Banking Operations at DBS. Having worked in both multi-national and local retail banks and financial institutions, she has extensive experience in the management and execution of daily operations within digital payment, contactless card payment, credit card and call centre, among other large-scale projects.

Can you tell us about your career progression into your current role? 

After graduation, I joined the Banking and Financial Services industry and began working in marketing. Then opportunities arose for me to move into operations and business analytics roles, which allowed me to further brush up my knowledge on banking products and processes, paving the way for my future progression within operations.

Do you think that gender ever hinders one’s personal progression?

Maybe, especially when you consider how senior managements and c-suites are still pretty male dominant in general. However, I do see that the status of females is on the rise, with more women taking office in countries around the world, e.g. the UK, Germany. Therefore, I am hopeful about what the next chapter in the business and political world holds.

In your experience, what are the benefits of diverse teams and diverse organisations?

There are lots, for example increased flexibility in terms of strategy and operating models, higher adaptability when coping with changing environments, and the attraction of talents who like challenging and fast-paced environments.

You have served in multiple capacities throughout your career; do you feel that diversity and inclusion is a feature of only certain industry sectors or job function?

I do. While diversity and inclusion are very important, some sectors are evidently lagging behind in this regard, one of which would be operations. Therefore, it is important to see them as catalysts of progress, where diversity helps bring about new ideas and help us break away from the traditional approaches, and continue to work on improving diversity and inclusion.

Can you share with us some personal experience you’ve had in terms of diversity and inclusion?

When I was in credit card marketing, the majority of the team was female, whereas the credit collection team was mostly male. Working at a multi-national bank, it was interesting seeing the diversity in terms of people’s backgrounds; I became more inclusive and worked on offering them the support needed to adapt to the local culture. Nowadays, fintech and technology & data-driven businesses are no longer just considering people’s skillsets but also putting more of an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

What one factor has helped you the most throughout your career?

My willingness to learn.  The business environment is constantly changing, therefore it is important to keep learning in order to stay on top of industry trends. After working in the Banking industry for years, I decided to take up contactless payment operations at a non-banking firm, and that experience gave me the chance to learn things like reputational risk management and stakeholder management, which I wouldn’t come across otherwise. 

Have you ever had a mentor or role model in your career?

When I was working at a multi-national bank, I had one who helped me understand that there’s no golden rule where someone must win, and subsequently taught me how to balance between my business and working partners, and find solutions that would benefit everyone. 

Do you feel that you gravitate towards either female or male leaders?

I wouldn’t say that gender is something I look at when it comes to leaders, but I do recognise the differences in terms of attributes that each side represents. For one, male leaders often take a higher stance and have trust in their people, whereas female leaders tend to pay more attention to details and focus more on people management.

How do you balance long hours with your personal life successfully?

Through exercise, something that I make sure to do even if I’m really busy to help lift my spirits and relax. As an open water swimmer, I sometimes participate in open water races, I also swim during the weekends as it is a bit difficult to do so on weekdays. Besides, I also do some stretching and yoga at home to keep my body flexible.

Do you have any advice for working moms on how to progress and succeed?

As working moms, we need to balance our work and personal lives, therefore having advance planning on both schedules is very important. Personally, I would plan my schedules two weeks ahead, so that I would know how to reshuffle my time if needed. On the other hand, I would always reserve weekends and holidays as family time and dedicate all my time to my kids.

Taking a much broader view, are there any industries that you think have fostered a better environment in helping women progress?

I’d say the internet industry. Tech giants like Google, Alibaba and Facebook all have the experimental mindset. As they diversify their businesses into different industries, they don’t just focus on one area but many potential ones. If something doesn’t work out, they would close it down and start to look into new areas to try out. And it is such a mentality that has allowed talents regardless of gender to progress and succeed, there is Marissa Mayer (former CEO of Yahoo), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Susan Wojcicki (CEO of Youtube), just to name a few.

What’s your advice to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?

Have patience and listen to the feedback from your colleagues. And when it comes to hiring, don’t just look for a resume that is a perfect match to the job description, but also think about how you can bring in more diversity that way.

Posted over 4 years ago
About the author:
Wanny Soh

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