Top 20 Women in Finance

Top 20 Women in Finance

This is the complete list for the FinanceAsia Top 20 Women in Finance. Check out our August magazine edition for the full feature.

BNP Paribas
Asia-Pacific CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management

Mignonne Cheng has spent her 35-year career with two high-profile banks: Chase Manhattan and BNP Paribas. And during the course of that career she has amassed a wealth of experience. No wonder then that when BNP decided to shake up its wealth management business last year, it put Cheng in charge.

BNP has ambitious plans to grow private banking and has defined the Asia-Pacific region as strategically important to those plans. It has a stated target of doubling revenues and assets under management (AUM) by 2013 — no easy feat when considering that AUM in the region already stands at more than $40 billion. Cheng directly oversees the six regions in Asia-Pacific that BNP says have the greatest market potential, as well as the dedicated ultra-high-net-worth individuals unit that BNP created earlier this year. She is also a member of the global executive committee of BNP Paribas Wealth Management. In all, Cheng supervises more than 800 people.

Cheng joined BNP Hong Kong in 1990 as general manager for the Chinese division. Before she took on her current wealth management role she was head of North Asia for BNP as well as chief executive officer of BNP’s Hong Kong branch.


Morgan Stanley
Co-CEO of Asia-Pacific (non-Japan) and China CEO

Even rival bankers acknowledge that Wei Sun Christianson has helped Morgan Stanley expand its onshore footprint in China. For example, under her leadership, in June, Morgan Stanley launched its China domestic securities business, Morgan Stanley Huaxin Securities, having sold its CICC stake in December 2010. And, in May, the firm announced the formation of a China local currency private equity fund management company with Hangzhou Trust.

She first joined Morgan Stanley in 1998, working in the investment banking division. Between 2002 and 2005, she served as chairman for China at Credit Suisse and subsequently for Citi’s global markets. She rejoined Morgan Stanley at the beginning of 2006 in her current role. During her banking career, Christianson has had senior roles advising on many of China’s landmark privatisations, and on M&A transactions by overseas listed Chinese companies.

Before starting her investment banking career, Christianson was an associate director at the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). While at the SFC, she was already making history, given that she helped formulate the regulations in preparation for the Hong Kong public listings of the first group of mainland Chinese companies in 1993.


Deutsche Bank
Vice-chairman of Greater China coverage

When we called around to ask about Rowena Chu, what we heard is that she’s key in driving Deutsche Bank’s future business. For example, she has been instrumental in leading innovative deals such as the landmark Hutchison Port Holdings Trust initial public offering, the largest ever IPO and business trust in Singapore, which have helped Deutsche Bank’s equities franchise leap to the top of the Asia ex-Japan IPO league tables for the first time ever.

Chu knows the markets and the corporate world. Before taking on the coverage role of vice-chairman of Greater China, Chu was Deutsche’s chairman of equity capital markets, Asia. Before joining Deutsche, she was the chief financial officer of ICG Asia, responsible for corporate structure, capital raising and M&A activities, and prior to that she had a 20-year banking track record: she was viewed as the face of Asian technology at Merrill Lynch and, before that, head of Greater China equity origination and co-head of Greater China investment banking at J.P. Morgan.

Given this track record, she has worked with leading Asian companies repeatedly during the years, making Chu a mover and shaker in the industry.


Macquarie Capital
Head of Asia

Since taking the helm late in 2009, Kalpana Desai is credited with transforming Macquarie’s Asian investment banking business into a strong competitor. Her responsibilities cover all of Macquarie’s equities capital markets (ECM), debt capital markets (DCM), advisory, private placement and principal investment businesses across 12 countries in the region.

Macquarie has continued building its strength in ECM, with an overall top-five position in the number of Hong Kong IPOs brought to market since 2008, having managed some of Asia’s biggest IPOs in each of the past three years, including a bookrunner role in the $22.1 billion IPO of Agricultural Bank of China last year.

Under Desai, Macquarie has also recently been climbing the league tables for M&A, more than doubling its ranking during the past year for completed deals and also building a strong DCM platform. She has also spearheaded the growth of Macquarie’s regional footprint, adding country coverage teams in India, Singapore and Malaysia, hiring more senior bankers for China and Japan, as well as negotiating exclusive cooperation agreements with leading domestic players in Pakistan and Vietnam.


Standard Chartered
Group head, transaction banking

Standard Chartered prides itself on its Asia focus. For many of the bank’s products, Asia drives both strategy and revenues. Transaction banking is one such area. At Standard Chartered, the department encompasses trade finance, cash management, securities services and electronic channels. It stands alongside corporate finance, principal finance and financial markets as one of the bank’s four key business streams, and the foundation of the wholesale banking business. And the person entrusted with this critical charge is Fawcett.

Karen Fawcett, who joined Standard Chartered in 2001 from Booz Allen Hamilton, was appointed to her current position in 2005. Since then she has steadily grown the business. Her acumen was clearly in focus after the 2008 subprime-sparked crisis. She used the opportunity created by the dislocation at many competitors to strengthen relationships with key clients and gain a bigger share of wallet. She and her team of 2,000 transaction bankers around the world achieved revenues of $2.8 billion in 2010, up 9% over the previous year, and contributed more than 25% to wholesale banking revenue.

Fawcett also ensures Standard Chartered is an early mover in transaction banking, be it in using iPhone and iPad technology to facilitate client trade flows or in renminbi payments and collections.


Asia-Pacific head of global banking and markets

Anita Fung’s inclusion in this list was a shoo-in — bankers on the markets side, across firms, unanimously mentioned her name first when asked for their nominations. No wonder, when one considers that the global banking and markets (GBM) business accounted for half of HSBC’s total pre-tax profit in 2010. Fung has headed the Asia-Pacific GBM business for the past six years — and it is a business that in 2010 contributed $4 billion and accounted for 35% of profit before tax. HSBC is a dominant player in Asian currency markets, trading all 15 active Asian currencies and Asian credits in G7 currencies. It operates Asia’s largest dealing room, measured both by headcount and transaction volume.

Recently, HSBC has upped its efforts to gain traction with customers across products, using relationships developed through its markets business. This initiative has gained momentum under Fung’s leadership. Specifically, it is building out its equities business in Hong Kong and China, and enhancing its focus on targeted industries. Fung is also making efforts to ensure HSBC capitalises on its strengths in the region to lead both the onshore and offshore renminbi market.

Fung joined HSBC as head of domestic markets in 1996, from Standard Chartered.


Chief executive officer

Chanda Kochhar’s promotion to chief executive officer of ICICI Bank in 2009 was the culmination of a career progression that started in 1984 when she joined ICICI as a management trainee. Thereafter, Kochhar did stints in all key departments of the bank, a clear sign that she was in the running for the top job.

But Kochhar’s inclusion on this list is not merely because she climbed the rungs of the ladder to the senior-most job at India’s biggest private-sector bank. Kochhar has also earned her place on this list by virtue of decisions taken since she took the helm. Her first steps were to rebalance the asset-liability mix, improve cost efficiency and reduce credit costs while ensuring that the capital base was strong. Kochhar grew both the loan book and the retail portfolio, while maintaining a focus on profits and asset quality — net profit for the fiscal year that ended in March was up 28% over the previous year, return on assets grew to 1.34% from 1.13% the previous year and a key indicator, the non-performing assets ratio, was brought down to less than 1% in March, 2011 from 1.87% the previous year.


J.P. Morgan
Vice-chairman of Asia investment banking and head of Hong Kong investment banking

Catherine Leung’s blue-chip connections have been a driving force behind J.P. Morgan’s Hong Kong business. Her client list includes a who’s who of both established and upcoming corporates across Greater China. Indeed, one of the reasons behind Leung’s promotion last year, which added an Asia focus to her existing Hong Kong remit, was to leverage her skills to help the US investment bank strengthen its China business. And the revenue J.P. Morgan has won since then confirms that Leung is hard at work.

In her new role, Leung works with 350 colleagues across 14 Asian countries to provide investment banking advice to J.P. Morgan’s clients. “Catherine has the quality essential for a good investment banker — she can conceptualise a deal then see it through to fruition,” said one colleague. Apart from dealmaking Leung has also earned a name for mentoring women colleagues — she is committed to ensuring women in J.P. Morgan get the support, encouragement and advice to flourish.

Leung has 17 years of experience in investment banking. Prior to that, she was a consultant at Oliver, Wyman & Company.


Asia-Pacific corporate banking head

Citi’s corporate bank delivers the full spectrum of products to institutional clients in Asia, including both public and private corporations, and was the biggest regional contributor to its profit globally in 2010. This remit is the responsibility of Agnes Liew, who heads the corporate bank, excluding Japan and India. She manages a business that includes almost 4,000 clients and generates more than a billion dollars in revenue. “Agnes’s ability to keep track of the specifications and needs of the entire client portfolio is amazing,” said a colleague.

Citi currently has around 500 people in its corporate banking team in Asia ex-Japan and Liew is looking to add another 100. She will need them, as she hopes to grow revenues by at least 20%.

Liew is a Citi veteran who has spent her entire 30-year working career with the US bank, starting as a management associate in 1982. Liew was in charge of Citi’s global subsidiaries group (GSG) in Asia-Pacific until last year, tasked with the relationship coverage of global multinational subsidiaries in 16 countries. Alongside her GSG mandate, she was also global banking head of Asean (ex Singapore), responsible for the relationship coverage of top-tier Asean corporate clients.


Royal Bank of Scotland
Chairman and chief executive of China

Sherry Liu would probably have made our list in her old job at J.P Morgan, but she sealed her inclusion when Royal Bank of Scotland poached her in April to build its China business, marking her out as one of the region’s rising stars. Liu is responsible for all businesses in China, including corporate investment banking and markets, as well as transaction banking and cash management.

The past few years have established that getting a China strategy right is critical for Asian investment banks and RBS has brought Liu on board for precisely this reason. Clearly, she faces a tough challenge in establishing RBS as a top player in China’s over-crowded market, but in the few months since she joined Liu has wasted no time, helping to win mandates from China Development Bank, ICBC and China Power New Energy.

Liu has overall responsibility for some ambitious plans for RBS in China. The bank is aiming to grow its regional investment banking business 15% to 20% by 2014 — and its plan is to grow the China investment banking business at twice this rate. With Liu at the helm, we figure they are on the right track.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch India
Country head

J.P. Morgan caused a buzz in Mumbai when it lured Kaku Nakhate across in 2009 to head cash equities, equity derivatives and futures and options. Nakhate was a 20-year Merrill veteran and at the time headed the critical global markets business. Her move was seen as a big loss for Bank of America, which has defined India as one of its top four markets, and the bank did not take long to realise it. Within a year, Nakhate was back at Bank of America, this time as country head.

The onus lies with Nakhate to ensure that the Bank of America Merrill Lynch combine, which in India provides corporate and investment banking solutions, a global markets product suite, wealth management and transaction services, wrest a lion’s share of business from target clients. Nakhate brings to the table a mix of domestic and international experience, and is hard at work deepening client relationships across the firm, be it with foreign institutional investors, investment banking clients or users of the bank’s global treasury solutions. And the results are showing. For the fiscal year ended in March, revenues were up 24% and fee income at the investment bank was up 52%.


Morgan Stanley
Head of investment banking for Asia-Pacific

A Mandarin speaker and an 11-year Morgan Stanley veteran, Kate Richdale has held a variety of roles within the firm. She started as a debt capital market specialist during her early career, was head of investment banking for Southeast Asia from 2003 to 2006, head of the Asia-Pacific general industries group from 2007 to 2009 and CEO of Southeast Asia before becoming co-head of investment banking with Gokul Laroia in June 2009. She became head of investment banking for the region in March 2011 when Laroia took over the Asia equities business.

Morgan Stanley’s decision to give Richdale sole charge of the Asia-Pacific business speaks to the confidence in which she is held – Asia is a region where a number of Morgan Stanley’s competitors have opted for a co-head of investment banking structure, given the size of the region and the complexity. Richdale is also the only woman heading investment banking for Asia-Pacific for a Wall Street firm.

Richdale has advised on many high-profile transactions, including the IPOs of Petronas Chemicals, Agricultural Bank of China, AIA, Samsung Life, Coal India and, more recently, Samsonite. On the debt capital markets front her team has handled deals for Petronas, PSA, Bangkok Bank, as well as Temasek. M&A clients include LG Telecom, CNS and PetroChina.


Deutsche Bank
Head of global transaction banking

Global transaction banking (GTB) at Deutsche Bank, comprising cash management, trade finance, trust and securities services, is one of the bank’s top contributors to earnings. Asia-Pacific currently accounts for 14% of global GTB revenues and Deutsche has ambitious plans to double this number by focusing on key markets such as China, India, Indonesia and Korea, as well as regional hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore, with cash management and trade finance leading the growth. And even Deutsche’s competitors concede that within its defined niche in GTB, it is making waves, both in client wins and in revenues.

The appointment earlier this year of Lisa Robins as Asia-Pacific head of GTB for Deutsche was a clear vote of confidence that she was the person capable of delivering that growth. Robins joined Deutsche from J.P. Morgan, where she was head of treasury and securities services for China. Deutsche was early to build renminbi handling capabilities across its footprint in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, and aims to use Robins’ experience in China — she was first based there in the 1980s — to broaden its operations on the mainland.

At Deutsche, Robins oversees a team of 800, which includes all regional heads of Deutsche’s GTB business in Asia-Pacific.


Axis Bank
Chief executive officer

In 2009, ICICI Bank passed over Shikha Sharma for its top job, giving rival Axis Bank the opportunity to lure her. Sharma’s appointment as head of the India’s third-largest private-sector bank was contentious, but she was unfazed. She focused on the task at hand, namely creating a leading banking franchise.

Currently, Axis has a network of 6,270 ATMs, the highest number among all private-sector banks; the fourth-largest debit card base; and a leading position among its peers on various other parameters. Sharma is turbo-charging growth while ensuring that profits continue to grow as well. Last year, Sharma struck a savvy deal to kick-start the investment banking business by buying local firm Enam.

One of Sharma’s strengths is her ability to put the right teams in place to execute her plans. Among Sharma’s high-profile hires since she joined Axis Bank have been V Srinivasan from J.P. Morgan and Nilesh Shah from Prudential-ICICI Asset Management. People who join Sharma respect her vision and are confident that she will make Axis a strong competitor.

Sharma started her career with ICICI in 1980 and was CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance when she resigned.


Wealth management CEO, Asia-Pacific

In 2004, in the aftermath of Sars, Kathryn Shih spearheaded an effort to invest heavily and double the 250-strong UBS client adviser team in Asia-Pacific in three years. She met her goal, and indeed now the group boasts 900 advisers. During the more recent financial downturn, while rivals slashed staff, Shih continued to expand business in Singapore and Hong Kong, and invest further in organic growth across the region.

Such decisions, which demonstrate guts and foresight, are why Shih, who was appointed CEO wealth management in Asia-Pacific in 2002 (and became group managing director of the firm in February), made our list. It seems every other bank on the street is playing catch-up to Shih’s moves, trying to break into the Asia-Pacific wealth management business because this is the epicentre of growth.

Based in Hong Kong, Shih has one of the most critical, high-powered jobs in UBS, providing strategic oversight of the wealth management operations in Asia-Pacific, as well as spearheading the development of the business in the region. Consider that wealth management represents 31% of the firm’s pre-tax annual profits globally (ahead of investment banking at 29%) and that Asia-Pacific is one of its fastest-growing regions, and you see that Shih is core to its good fortunes.


Ministry of Finance, China
Head of finance division

In conversations with bankers about deregulation of China’s financial markets, Xiaoxia Sun’s name is sure to come up. She has held a number of key positions in the finance ministry and currently manages corporate finance, state-owned financial assets and foreign government loans. Financial-sector reform and managing China’s sovereign debt both fall within the purview of Sun’s department.

Sun led the team that re-organised China’s state-owned banks and insurers. Governance of both banks and state-owned financial assets is another area Sun’s department is tackling head on, as well as researching the effect of the recent financial crisis on the domestic market. As bankers’ salaries were identified as an area of concern, Sun proposed measures to govern compensation, under the principle that “incentives and restraint are equally important”.

Under Sun’s watch the ministry of finance twice issued renminbi bonds in Hong Kong, in September 2009 — the first-ever sale of sovereign bonds outside China — and then in December 2010. The issues provided a benchmark yield curve for other renminbi-denominated bonds to be issued in Hong Kong and were seen as a key step in the development of the offshore renminbi market. Sun joined the ministry of finance in 1982.


BDO Unibank
Chairman of the board

It seems all profiles of Teresita Sy-Coson start the same way: she is the daughter of Henry Sy, the billionaire founder of SM Group, which started life as a shoe shop and is now the biggest mall operator in the Philippines. Sy-Coson is chairman of the board of directors of BDO Unibank, which is part of the SM group. She is also vice chairman of SMIC, the holding company for her father’s business.

This prompted an internal debate — is Sy-Coson just the inheritor of a family asset or does she belong on a list alongside career bankers who have worked their way to the top?

So we asked around — and, while the view on her day-to-day role varied, we heard one thing consistently: Sy-Coson is a smart businesswoman who runs the show. We heard comments from several analysts that her family’s background in retail means that this is where she focuses her efforts, but our conversations with capital markets participants suggested that her role is much bigger than that.

“She’s not just protecting the family’s interests but is very much at the forefront,” said one senior banker in Manila with experience of dealing with her. “She works her contacts to get roles on investment banking deals and also acts as an advocate for the industry, helping to shape the direction not just of BDO but the whole market. She’s clearly a leader.”


J.P. Morgan
Chairman of global markets, China

Thanks to her in-depth knowledge of China’s markets, Jing Ulrich has been an important figure in shaping the international community’s approach towards investing in the mainland. Ulrich is responsible for covering J.P. Morgan’s most senior global clients across all asset classes, and for maintaining relationships with executives at the helm of China’s leading enterprises and government entities.

She has a unique role spanning all lines of businesses at J.P. Morgan with contributions to equities, commodities, investment banking, fixed-income markets and derivatives as China’s financial markets evolve and become more sophisticated. As China is central to the investment strategies of J.P. Morgan’s varied clients, Ulrich’s work boosts the bank’s revenues across multiple lines of business. As an adviser to major asset-management companies and sovereign wealth funds, Ulrich’s views influence the allocation of trillions of dollars of assets. She also serves as an adviser to Chinese institutions seeking to invest overseas.

She established J.P. Morgan’s Hands-On China series, which has become a leading forum for views and research on the key issues in China’s transformation. She is also credited with establishing the world’s foremost China investment forum, which routinely attracts business and government leaders from around the globe.


Group executive responsible for institutional banking

At DBS, institutional banking encompasses specialised corporate and investment banking, enterprise banking and global transaction services (GTS). And if this was not enough to keep her fully occupied, Jeanette Wong also oversees DBS’s international portfolio, making her responsible for 15 countries and 2,200 staff.

Wong wisely saw the subprime-sparked crisis as an opportunity for DBS to invest in businesses such as GTS and strengthen its relationships with key customers by extending credit when some other banks were turning clients away.

Institutional banking at DBS achieved a total income of S$3.5 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2010 with a net profit in excess of S$1.3 billion. Last year, Wong also grew the syndicated loans business and forayed into project finance. Her future plans include maintaining a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as growing cash management and trade finance.

Wong moved to her current role in August 2008 after five years as chief financial officer. Under her watch, DBS made many timely forays into the capital markets. She joined from J.P. Morgan, where she spent 16 years, with her last role as senior country officer for the US bank in Singapore.


Central Bank of Malaysia

Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz had to be the easiest choice for this list — she is the first woman from Malaysia, indeed from anywhere in Asia, to head a central bank. She has been governor since May 2000 and in April was reappointed to her role for another five-year term.

Dr Zeti has helped reshape Malaysia’s global image, rebuilding the nation as an Islamic finance powerhouse after the Asian financial crisis, and steering it clear of the worst of the recent downturn. Indeed she is recognised on the global stage as a force to be reckoned with, and in 2008 was appointed by the UN to work on a task force to examine possible reform of the global financial system.

She has been bold with her decisions, which often involve strong medicine. For example, she decided to hike interest rates in March 2010, setting the trend for bigger Asian economies such as India and China to follow suit. She was also instrumental in the first round of consolidating the banking industry, reducing the number of banks from 54 institutions to 10 banking groups, and she is once again a proponent of further consolidation in the sector. At the same time, she has supported lifting caps on foreign investments in the country’s banking and insurance industries. Such decisions, which had to have been politically difficult to push through, have strengthened Malaysia.

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