Cover Pamela Hsu Phua, CEO Asia of VP Bank

Pamela Hsu Phua, the chief executive officer Asia of VP Bank, reflects on her rapid advancement in the competitive financial industry and how each challenge is a lesson in itself

Welcome to Upfront With, where we get real with ground-breaking women about their career paths and what it takes to do what they do

“When I first started out in the banking industry, I understood that I needed to absorb and learn as much as I could,” recalls Pamela Hsu Phua. “After all, nothing is entitled nor a given in life.” 

This sense of pragmatism and true grit has served Phua well over the years, including propelling her to her very own high-flying path within the banking industry. Earlier this year, the female banker took the helm as the newly appointed chief executive officer (CEO) Asia of VP Bank where she’s responsible for the Liechtenstein-headquartered bank’s operations in Singapore and Hong Kong. 

Phua’s ascension is inspiring on many fronts. The banking industry is notorious for having relatively few female leaders—on average, women account for only 10 percent of positions in the C-suite. Female bankers like Phua had to learn how to hold their own under difficult circumstances. 

Her secret? Finding comfort in the discomfort. “I decided early on in my career to move away from my family and support system to work in Zurich and subsequently, in Hong Kong,” she reveals. “Stretching outside of my comfort zone was not easy but invaluable.”

This independence proved to be a great training ground for the determined banker. “I remember when I first came to Hong Kong working for a bank that did not have a strong presence in Asia at the time,” Phua recalls. “I went literally door-to-door to introduce and promote the bank. You can imagine the level of rejections that I initially received. However, in the end, I managed to grow that intermediary business into one of the largest in Asia.” 

To thrive in the male-dominated industry, Phua recommends one to embrace the obstacles wholeheartedly.“Like many others, I have encountered challenges and disappointments, but these experiences only enabled me to become stronger and more resilient,” she says with palpable pride. In her own words below, Phua shares more on her journey and lessons learned.

Stretching outside of my comfort zone was not easy but invaluable.
Pamela Hsu Phua, CEO Asia of VP Bank

On the moment that my appointment as CEO Asia of VP Bank was finalised

When my appointment as CEO Asia was finalised and announced, I felt invigorated to embark on a new adventure and was ready to build. I remain confident to contribute towards our forward-looking ambitions.

Don't miss: Upfront With Microsoft's Cally Chan On Becoming A Female Leader In Tech

My leadership style: Breaking barriers

I joined VP Bank with the goal of making a difference. I believe a strong leader is approachable, decisive and inclusive. Therefore, it is important to me to promote a dynamic, open and direct culture, one that removes hurdles from managers and empowers them to lead their teams effectively.

In case you missed it: SCWO CEO Angel Chan on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Balancing Work, School, and Her Family

Being a female leader…

…is the same as being a male leader in my field. Putting this another way, I feel that gender labels sometimes limit rather than expand us. What is more important for any leader, whether female or male, is to inspire with conviction, empathy and integrity.

I am who I am today not because I am a woman but because I am a proven professional with over 20 years of diverse experience building up businesses.

I believe a strong leader is approachable, decisive and inclusive.
Pamela Hsu Phua, CEO Asia of VP Bank

My advice for other female bankers seeking senior leadership roles

I am fortunate to be in a field that supports women, especially in Asia. A lot of times, we are our own worst enemy. So in any industry, it is about breaking our own stereotypes and the glass ceiling in our minds.

Read more: How Women Can Thrive in Male-Dominated Spaces

How I cope with the stress of the role

My faith and family keep me grounded. I am also grateful to have a supportive husband whom I thoroughly enjoy spending time with—simply being with John helps me destress.

Why my work in finance is so rewarding

I am part of an organisation that embraces change, communication and mutual respect. It is highly rewarding that the Group has entrusted and empowered me, along with my talented team, with the opportunity to grow the Asia region with a clear vision in Strategy 2026 [where the bank intends to complete its transformation into an international open wealth service pioneer by 2026]. 

NOW READ

9 to 5: Est.lab’s Karen Lam on Overcoming Obstacles as a Second-Generation Business Owner in Singapore

Dione Song, the First CEO of Local Fashion Brand Love, Bonito, on Empowering Women

Money Milestones From Female Serial Tech Entrepreneur Charlene Ree


A resource for women to become their best selves, Front & Female celebrates trailblazers and tackles timely, provocative issues through inspiring content and events. Join the community by subscribing to our newsletter and following #frontandfemale

Tatler Asia
© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.