There are only a few female professionals in the world who consistently make the list of the most influential or most powerful. Jing Ulrich is always on top of such lists.
Educated at Harvard and Stanford universities, Ulrich serves as managing director and vice-chairwoman, Asia-Pacific, at JPMorgan Chase. For years, she has been considered the top analyst and commentator on economic and financial issues for China.
Numerous accolades have come her way, with several notable ones among them. Ulrich has been consistently included in Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Global Businesswomen and Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. She was cited among the 20 youngest global power women. In 2011, two prestigious magazines - China Entrepreneur and China Business Watch - ranked Ulrich among the country's top business elite. She is also regarded as a prominent adviser to some of the world's largest asset management companies, sovereign wealth funds and multinational corporations. In addition, she serves as an adviser to Chinese institutions seeking to invest overseas.
Global institutional investors have voted her as the best China strategist numerous times. Her views and advice can move billions of dollars of assets every year. Her expertise and sources have made her an important figure, shaping the international community's approach towards investing in the world's second-biggest economy.
Ulrich says that in all business, no matter what you do, you have to understand China and the major Asian economies. Her expert economic knowledge of China has helped JPMorgan's clients understand the huge potential of the mainland market and the do's and don'ts of doing business there.
"My work helps foster greater cross-border collaboration between the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world, and leverage JPMorgan's global expertise to serve the firm's most senior clients. My interactions with clients and colleagues give me great opportunities to learn and work with business leaders throughout the region," she points out. In 2005, Ulrich established JPMorgan's Hands-On China series, which has become a leading forum for views and research on the key issues in China's transformation as a market-focused economy.
Talking of the series, Ulrich says: "We hosted hundreds of corporate leaders and industry experts around the world. I also inaugurated and continue to run the world's foremost China investment summit, attended each year by thousands of global business and government leaders. Essentially, we have established a high-level think tank for our global clients, bringing together a network of executives in various industries and organisations."
Talking of the mainland economy, Ulrich says that global investors monitor China's economic performance because it's still the biggest growth story in the world. Right now, everyone is focused on China's economic data and its continuing potential.
"It is unwise for people to overreact to the slowdown of the Chinese economy. Although China's growth rate has declined over the last few quarters, it grew 7.5 per cent in the second quarter, which is still within our expectations. Although recent economic data point to decelerating growth, we believe the long-term picture for the Chinese economy is positive," she says, adding that the growth rate should come down gradually and expand at a stable and healthy pace for years to come.
"The slowdown is paving the way for a series of reforms that will put the Chinese economy on a healthier and more sustainable footing. The risks of a hard landing in China are small," she says.
Ulrich says that ultimately, in the next five to 10 years, service industries will replace heavy industries and investment, and become the brightest spot for China's economic growth. The continued rapid urbanisation on the mainland will unlock a new wave of investing opportunities because the country needs to spend at least US$6.4 trillion to bring 400 million people into the cities over the next decade.
"With more people moving to cities from the countryside, and with an ever-higher average living standard, a lot of new opportunities will emerge from such sectors as education, retail, e-commerce, logistics, media and other service industries."
Ulrich believes that to reach the top in the financial sector, one has to have "a good education, dedication and confidence". Because of good remuneration and growth prospects, professionals are attracted to the financial sector, especially in Hong Kong.
"An intense pace and other pressures characterise the financial sector. Women and men alike need to be prepared for the hard work and sacrifices before they decide to enter the industry," she says.
Ulrich says women have strong numbers in various industries in Hong Kong because that fosters a meritocratic society. "Women are well-represented in the major professional industries and in government. Hong Kong is business-friendly, and the work culture is challenging, but many women are succeeding and managing to balance life and job responsibilities."
Ulrich says Hong Kong could do more by giving more representation to women on the boards of listed companies.
"Board diversity is an issue worldwide and is more pronounced in Hong Kong. Even among S&P 500 companies, 10 per cent of these do not have a single woman director. Research studies have found that companies with more women on their boards outperform those with fewer or no female directors across various financial metrics. While many firms have recognised the value of diversity at the board level, it has taken some time for them to focus on really making it happen."