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The Champion: Angel Ng, Citi

Angel Ng has spent more than two decades working at Citi. She has now become a key role model for women in Hong Kong.

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Angel Ng, who first joined Citi 22 years ago, didn’t want to be a banker when she was growing up. She was keen on a career in marketing or journalism, so she majored in business administration at university, with a minor in journalism.

But a professor dashed her hopes of becoming a journalist by bluntly telling her that she was not cut out for the profession. That forced Ng to reconsider her career plans, and led to her first job at HSBC as a management associate, “purely for exposure” to banking. After two years at HSBC, she joined consumer goods company Procter & Gamble in a marketing and brand management position, and stayed there for seven years before Citi came calling.

Even though it wasn’t an easy decision for Ng to join another bank, she was attracted by Citi’s approach at the time, which was to expand and focus on consumer banking. The fact that the bank wanted to hire someone with marketing experience to bring new life into consumer banking – and that it intended to add more staff to the team globally –was appealing, she says.

Senior positions

Ng has held a host of senior positions since joining Citi in 1998, including running the Hong Kong operations for retail banking, wealth management and cards. In June 2015, she was named consumer business manager for Hong Kong, in charge of driving innovation and digital transformation in the team.

Under her leadership, Citi in Hong Kong recorded strong client-led growth in the business and was the first bank to kick off a full-suite consumer open application programming interface (API) platform in the Asian financial centre. In May 2018, she was promoted to CEO of Citi Hong Kong and Macau.

Beyond her technical skills, Ng is also well known for championing work-life balance and diversity. She was co-chairwoman of Citi’s women’s network in Hong Kong in 2015 and 2016, and is a founder of the Hong Kong women CEO network – an exclusive group for female CEOs of financial institutions – which drives initiatives focused on gender diversity in the financial industry.

The end goal is to take gender away from the equation because it’s not relevant to a decision
Angel Ng

She says the diversity issue is rooted in the social cultures of different countries, meaning the first step towards equality is to help change the culture and social involvement. “We have to peel the onion and show more data around gender diversity,” she adds.

Ng has had to overcome plenty of difficulties during her career, and has made sacrifices. In the early 2000s, she decided to move to the US to support her husband’s pursuit of a PhD: initially she took a two-year sabbatical from Citi, but then decided to quit her job completely.

She stayed in the US for five years – and was a housewife throughout that period – before she rejoined Citi. The break, however, helped her bring a different perspective from the US to the bank’s Asia business.

Ng points out that a lot has changed over the years when it comes to diversity.

“Thirty years ago, if you went to a management off-site, about 90% of the people would be men. But today when you have a meeting, the dynamics are very different,” she says.

“The challenge of being heard around the table still exists, but the mindset [around diversity] has changed a lot.”

Leadership nuances

A host of factors, including social and cultural stereotypes, as well as personality bias, contribute to whether women are heard or not. But here, change can be brought about through a better understanding of the nuances of leadership styles and leadership qualities.

“Thinking about leadership style instead of leadership quality when it comes to choosing senior leaders or thinking of promotions can kill a lot of opportunities for women,” says Ng. “When people talk about leadership styles, socially and culturally, male qualities come to mind. But leadership quality is quite different.”

Having male sponsors and allies, as well as giving women more opportunities to express their opinions, can go a long way to bridging the gap between men and women. But Ng says a greater representation of women is only a means to an end.

“The end goal is to take gender away from the equation because it’s not relevant to a decision. If we achieve that state, we can celebrate. By then, whether women’s representation is 50% or 80% doesn’t matter anymore. Diversity is just a means to achieve equality.”

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