Charlotte Thng, Head of Human Resources, has worked in senior country and global HR roles for Standard Chartered Bank over the past 14 years, following a decade of HR leadership experience in the IT industry.
She’s responsible for implementing strategic human resource initiatives to attract and develop talent; build an agile, efficient and diverse organisation; and nurture a best-in-class culture, in partnership with the management team and other key stakeholders in the country.
Charlotte, what has been your experience of balancing a successful career in banking with your life outside of the workplace?
My role is demanding, but as I am married with three children it is important that I balance my work and home life by being disciplined, setting priorities and sticking to a structured timetable! It also helps if you do something you love as a career – I started out as a trader following my Banking & Finance degree, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t where my passion lay, so I reskilled in HR. Although I knew I could be successful as a trader, my purpose in life was to interact with people and make a difference.
What are some of the barriers you think the industry faces in achieving a truly diverse workforce?
We have an unconscious bias embedded in our society that makes changing a traditionally male industry a huge challenge. So, at a grassroots level, there is a lack of interest from young women in banking, particularly for technology roles, probably not helped by their parents’ stereotypical beliefs about what constitutes a suitable career for women.
This bias is most prevalent at the interviewing and promotion stages and all leaders need to come together to change that. In this climate, women also tend to struggle to position themselves and shout about their achievements.
Can you share some of the initiatives Standard Chartered has done to empower female employees? What have you found works best?
There have been some significant steps forward at the bank – with a strategy across the three pillars - Processes, Learning Opportunities and Leadership – to ensure a positive environment for females to join, succeed and return.
We have tightened up our hiring process, which includes maintaining a percentage of suitable female candidates in every shortlist of banded roles. We also have a strong relevant candidate pool of ‘return to work mothers’. I left the bank for four years and successfully returned because my boss was willing to retrain me and invest in me as a female leader.
Mentoring is a core part of our strategy and also something that I have personally benefited from. It covers not only mentoring for high potential females in the bank, but also all leaders on unconscious bias and how to understand the wellbeing of all staff.
We must be doing something right because the country management team at Standard Chartered in Singapore is over 40% female!
How could the Banking & Financial Services industry collaborate better to increase the number of senior female employees in male dominated positions?
We need people to take the lead and create a forum for honest discussion with expertise from different bodies, such as our recruitment partners. It must be a collaborative approach between both men and women – the day we have a panel discussion that is 50% male would be a big milestone! As an industry, we have a responsibility to create internal learning opportunities for staff. For example, Standard Chartered Bank offers a new reskilling opportunity at least every two years for all staff.
Finally, do you have any advice for leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture or for future female leaders in the industry?
Leaders must walk the talk. It’s not just about policies and processes or token females in roles, but a genuine positive representation of diverse talent. And to the future female leaders – be yourself, be bold, be comfortable with re-learning and be humble. But know that the sky is the limit!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Director, Hydrogen Group
Adam Solomons is Director of the Asia business for Hydrogen based in Singapore. After joining the group in London, he was part of the team to establish the Singapore office in 2009. Adam has a recruitment and consulting background in Technology & Business Transformation and has an extensive APAC network in the Financial Services industry. In his current role, he is responsible for driving the growth of our core practices as well as being Account Director for Asia key accounts.