By Hanniz Lam
Roughly 250 years ago, women were seen as property, and, for centuries, women were shut out of the financial world completely.
Women were given power over their money decisions, and while we still have a long way to go to reach pay parity and bridge all gender and racial wealth gaps, we want to celebrate the progress we’ve made.
It’s important to present stories of people who push against stereotypes and with International Women’s Day coming up on March 8, here are some women who are making waves in the finance and business world in Asia.
Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah binti Mohd Yunus
Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah binti Mohd Yunus is the Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia from 1 July 2018, replacing Tan Sri Muhammad bin Ibrahim. She has served as Deputy Governor of Bank Negara from 2010 to 2013 and from 2013 to 2016. Later, she joined the International Monetary Fund as Assistant Director of the Financial and Capital Markets Division.
She is the second woman to be appointed as Governor of the National Bank after Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.
Professor Dr Normah Omar
UNIVERSITI Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Accounting Research Institute director Professor Dr Normah Omar has been recognised as one of the most influential women in Islamic finance for her passion in Islamic financial criminology.
She is a pioneer in her field and has contributed immensely in making Malaysia a hub for Islamic finance.
In 2017, Normah became the first woman selected by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to join its Anti-Corruption Certification Programme.
In addition to holding national positions, she is also passionate in elevating the status of women entrepreneurs.
She continues to mentor dozens of academics, and her advice is highly sought-after by influential thought leaders.
Yeoh Kim Hong
Yeoh Kim Hong, CA(M), CPA, CFP has more than 24 years experience in the unit trust industry. Yeoh is the Chief Executive Officer of Public Mutual since July 2007. She is also a member of the Board of Directors and the Investment Committees of Public Mutual.
Yeoh has played an active role in the development of the unit trust industry. She sits in the Board of the FIMM and is a member of the Industry Development Committee, Regulatory Committee and Disciplinary Committee.
Prior to joining Public Mutual, Ms. Yeoh was with an international public accounting firm for more than 12 years during which she gained exposures in auditing and management consultancy and advisory, both locally and in the United States.
YM Raja Teh Maimunah Raja Abdul Aziz
Raja Teh Maimunah has over 25 years of financial services experience covering Islamic, Investment Banking, Wholesale and Digital Banking. She is at present the Managing Director of Wholesale Banking, AmBank Group. Prior to her current appointment, she was the Chief Executive Officer of AmInvestment Bank and before that, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hong Leong Islamic Bank and COO of Digital Innovation and Transaction Banking at the Hong Leong Banking Group.
Prior to that, she held the position of the Global Head of Islamic Markets at Bursa Malaysia, Chief Corporate Officer and Head of International Business at Kuwait Finance House Malaysia, Senior Director of Bank Alkhair Bahrain (previously known as Unicorn Investment Bank) and Head of Investment Banking at RHB Sakura Merchant Bank (now RHB Investment Bank).
Photo credit: FMT
With over 20 years’ experience across HR Partnership and Business Operations in succeedingly bigger roles, Nisha leads teams with Regional and Country HR responsibilities across Corporate Banking, Institutional Banking, Consumer Banking and Operations and Technology .
During her tenure, Citi Malaysia introduced new employee benefits that includes maternity leave of 180 days, adoption leave to mirror maternity leave and paternity leave of 10 days for employees in Malaysia.
Photo credit: WEI LENG TAY/BLOOMBERG
Wong, is the first-ever woman to helm the 89-year old Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC), Singapore’s second-largest bank by market value. She was appointed group CEO in April, succeeding Samuel Tsien, who had held the post since 2012. Wong’s career has come full circle. She started in banking at OCBC in 1984 and became its first China desk manager in Hong Kong a year later, before joining other banks. In February 2020, Wong returned to OCBC as deputy president and head of global wholesale banking based in Singapore, after having spent 17 years at HSBC, where her last role was as chief executive of Greater China.
Her China experience bodes well for OCBC, which has been expanding in the world’s second-biggest economy. With hubs in Singapore and Hong Kong, the bank has positioned itself to capture increased business flows between China and Southeast Asia, as Wong noted in the bank’s latest annual report published in April.
Wijaya joined payments startup Xendit in 2016. In 2018, she became chief operating officer as well as getting the title of cofounder. Before Xendit, Wijaya spent six years in private equity, learning skills that she says helped her scale the startup.
Xendit became a unicorn in September after it raised $150 million in series C funding led by Tiger Global Management. Xendit has already made its first foray outside Indonesia, tapping into the Philippines market last December.
It also hopes to expand to Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam within the next two years and offer working capital loans in the near future. From January through September this year, the startup booked $10 billion in total payment volume, up nearly fourfold from the same period last year.
A passionate advocate for more women in tech, Wijaya initiated the Women in Tech Indonesia program, a platform where women entrepreneurs and tech professionals share their experiences in workshops and digital forums. About 40% of Xendit’s staff are women, according to Wijaya.
Datuk Nora A Manaf
In addition to Datuk Nora Manaf’s role as the Group Chief Human Capital Officer and member of the Group EXCO of Maybank, Datuk Nora chairs several national-level committees and holds several Board memberships. Datuk Nora’s Board memberships include the Board of Etiqa General Insurance Berhad and MBB Labs Private Limited, Bangalore.
Datuk Nora is actively engaged in the country’s Financial Institutions, Employers’ and Education circles via the leadership roles she holds. In 2018, Datuk Nora was appointed to the Malaysian Human Resource Minister’s Advisory Group. She is also Chairman of the Malayan Commercial Banks’ Association, Chairman of the Banking Sector HR Networking Group (HRNG), Council Member of Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), a member of the National Labour Advisory Committee (NLAC), and an Advisory Council Member of Yayasan Peneraju Pendidikan Bumiputera as well as for the University-Industry Advisory Council Universiti Utara Malaysia. Datuk Nora was recognised as a Global Top 50 Human Resource Professional and was appointed into Talent Compact 4.0, an Industry Talent Advisory Panel of Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad.
Kimberly Wan is the co-founder and CEO of Otomate Me – a Kuala Lumpur-based communications automation Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company. Otomate Me equips businesses with tools to send critical, personalized value-nurturing messages and attachments via email, WhatsApp, and SMS.
Business aside, Kimberly trains and represents Malaysia as their top
Defense(wo)man in the national women’s ice hockey team and as a game official in international ice hockey tournaments.
Being the co-founder of Kiddocare, she helps parents find reliable care for their children, supports a mother who’s struggling to cope with her newborn baby, gives moms and dads the opportunity to have their date nights, empowers a stay-home-mom to take time for herself, and especially now, helps work-from-home parents get effective and productive work time while their children are safely entertained.
A mother of six, Nadira runs another six companies and networks involved in tech, software and hardware and is deeply involved in women’s activism.
Yienyee is the cofounder and Group COO at AVANA – a social commerce enabler that empowers more local businesses in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to bring their products online and scale to compete on a global level Yienyee graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) from HELP University College, Malaysia. During her university years, she founded an online fashion aggregator called A Shopaholic’s Den – pioneering a strong community of online sellers in Malaysia.
Yienyee’s passion for helping local businesses to grow has powered her successful career trajectory. The young entrepreneur started organizing offline events to complement the online community. It was during this time that Yienyee discovered the challenges facing online merchants: there was little technology to automate routine tasks such as updating inventories, managing orders, and tracking deliveries.
This was the spark that drove Yienyee to develop a solution to empower small businesses In 2016, Yienyee teamed up with Luqman, to build AVANA as an affordable and scalable end-to-end platform for local businesses to automate their business operations, tap into social media as discovery and sales channels as well as partner with logistic and payment Today, with a team of more than 80, AVANA empowers more than 100,000 businesses of all sizes and KOLs across the region to grow their business and is looking to empower more across Southeast Asia.
In 2019 Nadia Ismadi launched Pod, a mobile savings app, with the objective of helping gig workers better manage their finances. Most gig workers often cannot access financial products from banks due to their irregular income stream. Nadia, along with her co-founder Ng Ying Teng, is lending them a hand by offering micro-financing, which helps build their credit trail. Pod has successfully attracted users from gig platforms such as GoGet, TheLorry and FoodPanda.
Yuhwen Foong, is the founder of SushiVid, an ASEAN leading influencer marking company. She has produced over 11000 branded content for brands across Southeast Asia for over 1500 brands.
She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008, worked in Investment banking as an equity research assistant till 2010. She became an actress in 2010, joined an entrepreneurship agency in 2012, worked in 3 startups until 2015 and has worn many hats.
She has worked in both small startups and big startups. She’s seen companies grow from 2 people to 5 people to 30 pax raising rounds after rounds. Her motivation is her refusal to settle for mediocrity.
Lennise Ng’s B2B online marketplace Dropee connects wholesalers with retailers. The idea for the startup came to Ng when she entered her family business and quickly recognised the need for technology to connect offline-to-online B2B transactions, while also enabling retailers to easily buy and sell stock in bulk. Many micro, small and medium enterprises struggle with proper documentation and need access to digital tools to help them stay relevant. With the e-commerce market bigger than ever due to the pandemic, thousands of businesses depend on Dropee to help digitise their sales channels and optimise costs.
At insurtech startup PolicyStreet, Winnie Chua and co-founders Yen Ming and Wilson Beh are on a mission to make the process of buying insurance affordable and easy for all. Prior to PolicyStreet, Chua worked for seven years in the insurance industry, with experience at major players such as Allianz General Insurance Company. Since its inception, the company has worked with over 35 insurers and now offers more than 1,000 insurance products, such as car, motorcycle, employee benefit and medical insurance.
Coming from an IT and finance background, auditor, entrepreneur and finance specialist Penny Choong was forced to see the inherent fragility of the global economy when the 2008 financial crisis hit. After graduating from university, she entered her first job with the added pressure of having to set aside money to support her younger brothers’ tertiary education.
Little by little, she began to look for opportunities to earn extra income, gaining invaluable experience about finance and wealth management. Choong soon started teaching kids financial literacy under the licensed programme from MoneyTree, and realised she had a gift for explaining financial concepts in more easily understood ways. She eventually founded MoneyPenny in an effort to help teach people financial literacy and better ways to manage their finances.
Mac Chung Lynn
Mac Chung Lynn is the Managing Director and CEO of Nando’s Malaysia and Singapore. Nando’s is South African multinational fast food chain that specialises in flame-grilled peri-peri style chicken. Founded in Johannesburg in 1987, Nando’s operates over 1,200 outlets in 30 countries.
Under her guidance, Nando’s Malaysia has expanded to 75 restaurants throughout Malaysia and 10 outlets in Singapore since starting off operations in 1998.
Tan Hooi Ling
Hooi Ling Tan is the Co-Founder of Grab, Southeast Asia’s leading superapp that offers a wide range of on-demand services in the region, including mobility, food, package and grocery delivery services, mobile payments, and financial services to millions of Southeast Asians.
Based in Singapore, she oversees critical pillars of Grab’s operations, including corporate strategy, technology (product, design, engineering, data science and analytics), user experience and people operations.
Prior to joining Grab full-time in 2015, Hooi Ling led high priority strategic and operational projects at Salesforce, working at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. There, she specialized in Corporate Strategy, Corporate Operations, Pricing Intelligence & Monetization. Before joining Salesforce, Hooi Ling was a consultant at McKinsey & Company, advising global corporations in Southeast Asia, North America, Latin America and Australia on corporate strategy and operations.
Hooi Ling is a member of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Board of Trustees, and sits on the board of Wise (formerly TransferWise).
Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza
Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, a successful business woman may be arguably the number one best singer of all in Malaysia but aside from her musical prowess, Dato’ Siti is now also very well known for her cosmetics line.
She is the Founder of SimplySiti, a Malaysian cosmetic company. Since SimplySiti products have hit the shelves of nearly every single drug store available in Malaysia.
The company was launched in 2010, and it’s headquarter lies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With the help of her husband, Datuk Seri Khalid Mohd Jiwa and two others business partners, she ventured into the cosmetic industry after two years of research with AC Nielsen to study the market and target customers. The cosmetics are produced in Korea. with the incorporation of nanotechnology.
“Until you see people in areas that aren’t traditional, you don’t always think they can be there.” – Dr. Joyce Jacobsen, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and author of “The Economics of Gender” and “Advanced Introduction to Feminist Economics”