When Linda Wong first transferred from Hong Kong to Shanghai around seven years ago, her assignment was clear: build a banking business from scratch. With a tiny office, no staff and hardly a word of Putonghua, the challenge facing her was formidable, but then again it was exactly what she wanted.
'When I heard there was a chance of working in China, I was the first to raise my hand,' said Ms Wong, who is now country executive for ABN Amro Bank (China), but back then was with Citibank, in a dual role assisting both the country manager for Hong Kong and the head of Greater China operations.
In this position, she had seen the potential of the mainland market and sensed the career prospects it would offer. She had also decided that to make the most of these, it was essential to move fast and be there in person.
There were three priorities in the first year - communication, building a team, and learning the system.
Ms Wong studied Putonghua for at least an hour five mornings a week and sought out individuals with the ability, ambition and knowledge needed to set up and manage a successful commercial banking operation.
'Especially in the first two years, I spent so much time in the office my colleagues became my friends,' she said.
When invited to join ABN Amro in Shanghai, she mulled over the proposal for almost nine months before accepting in 2004. What tipped the balance was the bank's 'very aggressive' plan for China, which includes being one of the top five foreign players.
'I look after the country as a whole and it is still very exciting, especially when something is in building mode,' Ms Wong said. 'The majority of my waking hours are doing something work related, but I don't mind that at all.'
Originally, she studied computer science and statistics in Canada and, after returning to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s, worked for a paint company. However, friends convinced her that the banking sector was a better long-term option, so she joined BCCI, which provided good all-round training.
Subsequently, with Standard Chartered, she spent a year in London working for the chief executive's office.
'It was good exposure and a chance to learn about investor relations, board meetings, and what senior executives need to think about,' she said.