In line with the recent developments in the realm of ‘women in finance’, our journalism team interviewed Jayce Loh, Regional Business Director at Affin Hwang Asset Management, who has two decades of experience in the banking, wealth and asset management to dig deeper into the role of women in finance.
Sailing towards Finance
Unlike other typical success stories, Jayce Loh did not come from a privileged background. Being the eldest in a traditional family, she had a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders from a young age. She started off completing a diploma in Accounting and Finance before starting her first job in the sales and marketing department in Citibank. With a fiery passion for Finance, she won several awards and was soon promoted to the associate team leader in less than a year. Not willing to stop there, she decided to upskill herself by pursuing an additional undergraduate qualification in Business Administration and Management as she acknowledged that a basic qualification wouldn’t be able to take her far in finance. Eager to explore the fascinating world of finance, she then made a pivotal decision in her career – join a different department in wealth management, consumer banking and investment advisory.
“When you find your calling, it is not a job, but joy.”
Jayce realised that she had found her calling when she got to the management level of Wealth Management in her mid-20s. She thrived working hard to leverage her knowledge in understanding the unique circumstances of her clients and loved interacting with the extremely talented people in her industry. With the huge responsibility to stay updated with news and technological advancements, Jayce admits that working in such a fast-paced and vibrant environment can get stressful at times. However, she chooses to see the bright side of this and believes that the unparalleled sense of fulfilment in being able to make a positive impact on a client’s financial health far outweighs its pressures.
“Don’t regret things done.”
Looking back at her own journey, Jayce proclaims that she would not want to change a thing. She appreciates that the hardships she went through shaped her into the person today, emphasising that we should all be aware of the fact that no one is perfect. She advocates for all women to have more self-confidence as they have the potential to achieve just as much as anyone else working in a male-dominated industry.
Gender Equality in Numbers
Malaysia is leading the world in this context; with the highest percentage of female board members (27.4%), while the global average is around 12%. A research by the 30% Club also found that Malaysia has the highest percentage of women CFO (34.9%) more than double the global average of 15.7%. However, while feeling proud, Jayce mentions that Malaysia still has a long way to go in achieving gender equality through effective measures such as encouragement for more women’s involvement, allocation of resources and new policies that need to be addressed.
Being a warrior
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is definitely not easy. Jayce highlights that it is crucial for women to take a company’s environment and culture into consideration when choosing a company to work for. For example, multinational companies or companies with diverse approaches would be far a better choice compared to companies that are hostile towards young women as they can be damaging to their career and self-esteem in the long run.
A strong support system formed by family, friends, female role models and a professional network is also crucial in building your career. Jayce emphasises that your professional skills, knowledge and qualities will always speak louder than words as your employer cannot deny their existence. Therefore, she stresses the importance of consistently upholding good qualities such as perseverance, focus and self-discipline.
Female Vs Finance
As a woman paving through the financial world, Jayce has had her fair share of challenges. Workplace discrimination is something women face on a daily basis that affects not only their work performance, but their mental health as well. She emphasised that a continuous challenge she has been facing since the start of her career was the misconception of how women are not as competent as men. However, this did not stop her. Her desire to rise against these adversities became motivation for her to work harder to prove that she could do her job as effectively despite the naysayers.
The women empowerment movement has been on the rise recently and when asked how this has influenced the financial world, Jayce believes it has definitely played a role in shaping the industry. The presence of female leaders in multinational corporations and public companies have allowed the financial industry to be more progressive as compared to other sectors, especially with the strong regulatory system in finance. With the support of ESGs that press on gender equality, more NGOs and groups such as Asia Women Circle have kickstarted the movement to transform the perception of women in the industry.
Women are underrepresented in the financial services workforce like investment banking and wealth management. But, according to Jayce, things are changing. Banking and finance sectors are quite highly regulated and the progressiveness of the industry has allowed the mandate of minimum participation threshold for women on the board to be 30%. This is important in setting the tone of governance and how women will be treated and perceived in any company, particularly when trying to obtain gender diversity.
Is it a trend?
When asked whether gender equality schemes implemented by financial companies are sustainable or are simply a trend that will diminish over time, we were ecstatic to hear how women have been fighting for their place in finance for decades. Gender equality is here to stay. Jayce emphasises that the movement is an ongoing effort by many progressive countries since having diverse backgrounds, policies and culture are shown to increase productivity.
Words of Wisdom for Women
As women, society traditionally expects us to play multiple roles. We are urged to balance our time with being a good wife and mother at home, whilst building a successful and fulfilling career. On that note, Jayce leaves some advice for our female readers. She stresses the importance of finding the right balance between family and our professional career.
“At times when you want to quit, don’t be too hard on yourself… You have to be your own cheerleader as your journey is a marathon, not a sprint.”
She advises women to allow themselves to be vulnerable despite the constant pressure to be strong. As someone who likes sports, travelling and attending self-improvement courses herself, she adds that in the midst of balancing the responsibilities of a woman, we also need the essential ‘me time’ to think and recharge.
With all these movements and changes to the finance industry, Jayce believes it is definitely a viable career path to go down five to twenty years later, especially for youths and aspiring financial leaders. “Finance is a very dynamic industry,” she underlines, “[it] has vigour”. As all the areas in finance are constantly evolving, Jayce maintains the view that this dynamism will prove to be advantageous to the finance industry’s robust nature. The rise of fintech, blockchain and even cryptocurrency, for example, gives youths the opportunity to apply themselves and learn different skills which can pave their future growth. Other current real issues and geopolitical changes such as the Russo-Ukrainian war, inflation and supply chain disruptions can also affect the financial landscape drastically. Hence, Jayce expresses that people hoping to build a career in finance must be adaptable and look forward to navigating this constantly expanding industry. She encourages women from underrepresented minorities especially to come and play a role in providing valuable new ideas for these unprecedented situations.
All in all, ‘women in finance’ is here to stay. Jayce herself has seen multitudes of this industry and has grown with it, having started at such a young age. With the ongoing women empowerment movement, we have to remind ourselves that
“There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama
Journalists: Audrey, Yuen Shii
Reviewers: Emeline Yong, Elina Yong
Editors: Mindy Liew, Emelia Anne