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Anita Fung: The HSBC chief executive who broke through the glass ceiling

Top banker is proud of her success, especially as a home-grown talent in a fiercely competitive industry, writes Josephine Bond

 

When Anita Fung Yuen-mei became HSBC's first female CEO for Hong Kong in September last year, she inherited a hot seat.

The lender had just announced 3,000 job cuts in Hong Kong and the pressure was on to ramp-up the bank's presence in China.

This did not detract from Fung's relish in taking up the role. "For me it is a great honour to be the first woman to take up the role of CEO of Hong Kong at HSBC, being the group's flagship business," she says.

 She derives a certain amount of pride at being a home-grown talent, given the bank's 150-year history in the city.

"Taking up the role of CEO was indeed a milestone in my career. To be appointed to this key role in a town where I grew up made it especially significant for me," she says. "As a home-grown banker, I am very excited about ensuring we stay ahead of our competition in one of the most dynamic market places in the world."

Fung began her banking career in 1983 at rival Standard Chartered Bank, having graduated with a major in finance from the University of Hong Kong and a master of applied finance from Macquarie University in Sydney.

She joined HSBC in 1996 as head of domestic markets in the bank's treasury and capital markets division.

At one point she worked on the trading floor, traditionally a bastion of male egos, and enjoyed the experience.

"When looking at success, I do not believe one should focus on gender," she says. "There are a lot of senior women colleagues in HSBC who are running key businesses and geographies for the group. My belief is that getting on in an organisation is about a passion for what you are doing and a desire to develop your career."

Fung, nevertheless, remains in the minority on the bank's board, with four out of 17 members being female, according to a report by Standard Chartered Bank and Community Business, entitled "2012 Standard Chartered Bank Women on Boards: Hang Seng Index 2012".

Hang Seng Bank leads the way among banks with five out of its 16 board members being women. The study found that among Hong Kong's leading corporations, little has changed in the past few years in terms of gender diversity in the boardroom. In all boardrooms at Hang Seng Index companies, just 9 per cent of members are women. Fung, however, believes it is necessary to move past this kind of glass ceiling, if it exists. "It is pleasing to see a growing number of female executives rising to key roles in the sector," she says.

"Companies that want to compete in this environment need to function as a talent incubator and as a meritocracy because the pressure of finding and retaining good people is increasing, especially on the mainland. Organisations with a male bias are seeking talent in a smaller field, reducing their ability to find top performers."

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