RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, Singapore

UOB's Christine Ip sets diversity in workforce as one of the bank's key success factors

By valuing the combination of different individuals in the team, she notes positive results for the company.

Christine Ip, the CEO of United Overseas Bank (UOB) Greater China, joined the bank in 2011. She spearheads the overall strategy and operations for UOB in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and oversees the different banking services and solutions provided by the bank to both retail and wholesale banking customers and corporate clients.

In this exclusive interview with Asian Banking and Finance, Christine talks about the importance of having a diverse workforce from the point of view of a leader and what women need to succeed in banking. 

What are some of the highlights in your career in the banking industry?
I have been in the industry for more than 30 years and have experience covering product and sales management, customer segment management and risk management in Canada, mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and US.In 2011, I was hired by UOB to develop the bank’s Greater China strategy and was appointed as CEO of UOB Hong Kong the following year. 2012 was a meaningful year for me as I was named then by the All-China Women’sFederation as one of the Top 100 Greater China Senior Women Executives. More recently in July 2016, I was tasked to oversee UOB’s business in Greater China.

My achievements at UOB include helping UOB Hong Kong to become one of the leading wholesale banks here and ensuring that our business continues to grow steadily. In addition to supporting our clients as they seize business opportunities, we believe in giving back to the community where our people and our clients build their lives.

It is my honour to receive the CEO of the Year Award from Capital CEO Magazine in Hong Kong in September 2016. The prestigious award was a tribute to the hard work and dedication of my team, a testament to our focus on serving our clients with professionalism, passion and pride,and a recognition of our efforts as good corporate citizens.

As a woman in the banking industry, what are the challenges you’ve had to face over the years, and how did you overcome those challenges?
Working in a bank, I face different challenges every day but this is also what I find attractive about the job. Change, to me, is an opportunity to build competitiveadvantages. Instead of waiting for change to happen, I try to create change by tapping my experience and expertise. For example, together with my team, I anticipate potential issues and strive to come up with preemptive solutions.

In the highly-competitive banking industry, it is important to have diversified strengths amongst the workforce to strengthen our business competitivenessand organisational performance. To ensure that everyone has a common goal, I also encourage open conversations amongst the team, so that when a challenge happens, we can approach the issue in step and with clarity.

What do you consider as your biggest achievement?
My biggest satisfaction in recent years is from building a great team within the Greater China region for UOB. Employees are the greatest asset of a company. These greatminds have enabled the Bank and me to achieve so much across different aspects of the business. I am so blessed to have the team working together, united and committed.

I attribute my accomplishments to belief, action and discipline. It is about having faith in my goals, believing that I can do it and nothing is impossible. This enables me tohave focus and energy which in turn motivates me to reach greater heights. It is also the willpower to follow up on my plans consistently to increase my chances of success.

What can you say about the notable progress in the number of women joining different highly-competitive industries such as banking?
It is encouraging to see more women joining different male-dominated sectors. In Hong Kong, we elected our first female Chief Executive in 2017, a development that Ihope will encourage more women to run for public office and to run and lead companies. I also hope to see more men participate in the dialogue, planning, and actions to help women advance in their careers.

But diversity is not limited to gender. At UOB, we respect the differences in age, backgrounds, cultures, experiences, knowledge and skills, as we value the diversity instrengths different individuals can bring to the organisation.

What is your advice to women who are aiming for a leadership position in banking?
I strongly encourage women who are aiming for leadership positions to realise their dreams. The following traits have enabled me to succeed and I believe that they will alsoempower more women to attain their goals.

The first one is assertiveness or being upfront in interpersonal relationships. Maintain your stance – rationally, not emotionally – and embrace new challenges and opportunities. Second is having confidence in your ability to overcome challenges. Third is having the energy. Being enthusiastic and bringing team-inspiring vitality to the office will constantly encourage and motivate your colleagues to resolve difficulties and to achieve more successes. Fourth is empathy or being able to listen to and understand the feelings of others. As humans, we have frailties and fears, but also opinions that deserve airing. As a leader, it is even more important to acknowledge and to address concerns with tact and compassion. The last one is humility. Being a servant leader means being committed to the service and interests of everyone. 

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