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Inspiring Business Women In APAC: Luzanne Chong

Luzanne Chong is the Head of Customer Experience at FWD, in this role, she is responsible for building and sustaining a customer-led organisational culture. She also manages customer experience across multi-disciplinary functions such as UX/ UI, design, research, insights and analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, customer communications, and the call centre.  

Can you tell us about your career journey thus far?

15 years ago, I began my career in the Financial Services industry, as a Customer Service Officer at DBS. Recession was kicking in and the Lehman Brothers incident happened shortly after. 3 years later, I began taking on various leadership roles in the Consumer Banking operations space, from leading my own team in the call centre to leading 10 different teams across unsecured lending and consumer banking operations.

After 6 years, I decided to broaden my perspective and moved into a regional function, leveraging lean methodology to create standardisation of processes across our regional operations. 2 years later, my role evolved into CX & Innovation where we leveraged Human Centered Design to create better experiences across operations, self-service banking services delivering several successful innovations like a new ATM interface design, a new cheque deposit machine and more. That’s where I fell in love with Digital CX.

DBS is a great company and I learnt so much through my rotations around the bank. At this point I wondered if I would remain effective and my skills remain relevant in a different environment. I wanted to join an industry where my skills would be useful, to deliver change that enhanced people’s lives. Therefore when Jason from Argyll Scott introduced FWD insurance to me, I knew right away that it’d be a perfect next step in my career, since the company’s vision is to “Change the way people feel about insurance”.

Can you share with us some of the things that you’ve built at FWD?

Joining FWD in October 2016, the insure-tech start-up had only launched the business for one month. Having met both our CEO and CMO, it was clear that Customer Experience was a firm priority for this business. I was charged with the mandate to nurture our Customer Experience across the end-to-end customer journey, from purchasing insurance online to getting a claim. I was intrigued by the fact that I could begin my mission on a blank slate and develop strategies that would support this grand vision.

Other than setting the foundations of CX metrics and voice of customer (VOC) measurements across our touchpoints, my role evolved quickly and expanded into customer research & insights, user experience & interfaces (UX/UI), customer communications as well as chatbot AI. The opportunity to leverage technology to create better experiences and empower our customers to do what they need to do was refreshing and very fulfiling.

As a working mom, how do you balance between your work and family?

I have a seven-year-old daughter, therefore whatever time I have, I would make the most of it and spend it with her. We would read together, talk about her day and reflect on the incidents that might have happened. This enables me to solidify her values and also prepare her for different social situations. Sometimes, I will also share my day at work with her, what I do and how my work improves people’s lives. I hope to be a role model for her, so she can confidently pursue her interests and purpose as she grows and takes on multiple roles in life.

I’d be honest that I struggle emotionally at times as well, balancing work demands and the demands of raising a child. As both my husband and I are full-time professionals, we’re extremely grateful that we have help at home, giving us support and peace of mind.

What are some of your proudest moments?

Reflecting on my career, I’ve realised that the moments which made me the happiest or shaped me were not the things I’ve built or the achievements I’ve had at work.

Instead, it was moments where the people I’ve worked with came forth and shared their story on how I’ve influenced their development or careers, through our past encounters. I didn’t realise that the advice I had provided to others had such a positive and lasting impact on their lives. Many of them went on to be leaders who then exert the same positive influence on others.

Being able to make a difference in other people’s lives will always be my proudest moments. 

What would you say are your biggest influences?

Recently, I’ve been doing a leadership course which promotes self-reflection, and as I looked back in the past, I realised it was leaders I’ve worked with both directly and indirectly who’ve had the biggest influence on me.

Through sharing their principles on what was a priority in life and at work, reasons behind the choices they made and the advice they’ve given, these leaders influenced my priorities and work ethics.

Do you think you’ve ever been held back in your career for being a woman?

Growing up in Singapore, equality is what we pledge to uphold. I’ve never felt disadvantaged, in school or when entering the workplace. In a nation where meritocracy is valued, I’ve always felt that by excelling in my work, I was given equal opportunity to progress in my roles.

However, I was conscious of the fact that I am a woman and might therefore at some point encounter certain stereotypes. At work, I was conscious of the typical assumptions people may have of a female leader and openly addressed these with my hires so they have a clear understanding of my leadership style.

During my pregnancy and the year after however, my career became stagnant while my peers progressed. Later, I realised that people assumed my priority was solely on my child and not my work, despite the fact that I was working extra hours while tending to my child at home after office hours. A woman’s effort should never be discounted because of maternity leave and companies need to support women’s efforts to better integrate work and life after having a child.

What do you think companies can do to further promote diversity and inclusion?

Many corporations today openly support diversity and inclusion. They put in place structural practices like defining their hiring processes, promotion criterion and other policies which support these initiatives. However, we also see a disconnect in terms of execution. Managers play a crucial role in this as they communicate frequently with candidates and employees, and not everyone understands the intricacies of how to manage in a way that respects diversity and inclusion. I believe more work needs to be done to support managers in this journey.

Lastly, any advice for up-and-coming leaders on how to be successful?

Always try to stay relevant – be relevant to your market, your customers, and your role. With technology, our workplace will keep evolving and new skills would be needed. The ability to learn and adapt is now more important than having just technical skills. Organisations will benefit from those who educate themselves and add shareholder value.

It’s also important to trust your own ability. Research has shown that men would say yes to opportunities even if they’re not really ready, but women would want to make sure that they’re ready first. As a woman and as an Asian, we tend to be more reserved and less vocal about opportunities, and more cautious when it comes to taking on something new. Sometimes, we just need to step up and say, “let me try, let me prove myself” and take the bold step ahead. It might also be useful to ask yourself whether you might regret it years later if you didn’t seize the opportunity.

Posted over 4 years ago
About the author:
Jason Lockwood

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