• Perspectives
  • 20 March 2020

Empowered Women: Seek to exceed expectations

Empowered Women is a three-part series aligned with International Women’s Day to showcase how our female leaders have risen in the workplace to make a difference in their respective business areas.

In the final instalment of this series, we feature our Head of Portfolio Management and Research Office Ms Jean Chia, who owes her leadership style to lessons gleaned from three important women in her life. Today, she oversees our diverse team of over 30 research analysts, portfolio managers and investment experts.

Early in her banking career at another financial institution, Jean was placed in a leadership role and made to manage colleagues who were more senior than her.

While there were naysayers between the ranks, Jean took it in her stride to change their perception.

“I spoke to every single member of the team to really understand them and to get to the DNA of the people. I have always been a people leader and believe in an informal style leadership where I seek to help others grow wherever I can.”

Six months later, those who had doubted her, saw how she protected and developed her team. They subsequently gave her their vote of confidence.

“Ultimately, leadership is not an election where it’s a popularity vote. I’ve always felt that if you deliver results, people will come into your fold,” she says.

Jean attributes her gung-ho trait in taking on leadership challenges to lessons learned from three important women in her life – her nanny, her mother and her mother-in law.

Women have an amazing ability to switch between modes and effectively get things done. It’s a skill that will be unique in the corporate environment. In all our roles - as mom, wife, daughter, leader, employee, friend and mentor - there’s just so much we bring to the table, and the boardroom.

Ms Jean Chia, Head of Portfolio Management and Research Office

Up till the age of 12, she stayed with a nanny who looked after her on weekdays as her parents held full-time jobs as civil servants. Her mother was a nurse who did shift work, while her father was a statistician with a government ministry.

“My nanny taught me how to persevere, even when the odds are against you,” she says.

Jean describes her nanny as someone who believed in the value of literacy. Through sheer determination, she taught herself how to read Chinese and in doing so, could read aloud to Jean certain sections of the Chinese-language newspaper.

She recalls, “She didn’t believe that just because you were poor, you couldn’t help yourself.”

Later in her childhood, she and her two younger sisters were trained to be independent and to work as a team by their mother. Whenever her mother worked the night shift, she would leave behind a “self-help guide to cooking” by writing out the menu and readying the ingredients for Jean and her sisters to prepare dinner for the household.

They had an unwritten rule that whichever sibling came home first from school had to do the cooking and the last one to return had to do the washing up.

“I was the eldest, and the leader of the home in those days. We were taught to be independent and ran the household without a helper. We also cooked for our dad who never complained because he had an army of women taking care of everything,” she says with a laugh.

She also looks up to her mother-in-law, who taught her to be willing to try new things with a never-say-no attitude.

“She impressed me with how she was ready to do things out of the ordinary, like cooking from a new recipe or planting a fruit tree,” she says. Likewise, Jean keeps an open mind to new ideas at the office and challenges her team when they tell her that something is impossible.

“I always tell them: ‘It’s up to you to define that’,” she adds.

Her advice to young women in the workplace is to play up their inherent strength in multi-tasking and exceed expectations of delivery.

“Women have an amazing ability to switch between modes and effectively get things done. It’s a skill that will be unique in the corporate environment. In all our roles - as mom, wife, daughter, leader, employee, friend and mentor - there’s just so much we bring to the table, and the boardroom.”

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