Cover Being forward-looking and listening to different perspectives are qualities of a leader, says Amy Lo (Photo: Stephanie Teng/Tatler Hong Kong)

The co-head of UBS Global Wealth Management Asia Pacific, and head and chief executive of UBS Hong Kong reflects on staying agile, building more flexible work environments, and grooming the next generation of female leaders

Amy Lo has been a fixture of UBS for nearly three decades, but she is far from slowing down. She continues to take on new challenges, driven by her passion to make a positive impact and her love of continuous learning.
 
“I strongly believe that as a leader you have to be forward-looking; just like in football, I’m not here to look at where the ball is right now; it’s where the ball will be in the future,” says Lo. “Where are the growth opportunities and how am I going to attract and retain talents?”
 
These aren’t rhetorical questions; they inspire Lo to take action. She held an overnight offsite that combined workshops, brainstorming sessions, and team building with secondary students. And she established a shadow board of young talents to work closely with her and the senior management team. These initiatives give her and the team more insight into the ideas and motivations of the next generation.

“Listening is important, it gives you perspectives and helps connect us with different people and build stronger relationships,” says Lo. “When I was younger, I was appointed as a sparring partner to give feedback on strategic issues; I really enjoyed and benefited a lot.”

Lo is paying it forward by mentoring millennial women within UBS, a relationship that she finds to be mutually beneficial. Her actions are inspired by a mentor in her own career, Kathryn Shih, previously the Head of Wealth Management for Apac.

When Lo left Chase Manhattan to join UBS in 1995, she took on a bigger role as Shih’s chief of staff. She was sent to the headquarters in Zurich for a senior workshop. “I was intimidated because it was all male, maybe 2 per cent were women,” recalls Lo. “But my character is such that it strengthened my determination to stand up for women and Asians: I need to make a difference here.”

Diversity and inclusion are topics close to Lo’s heart. She has since started a range of initiatives, including mentorship programmes with secondary and university students and motivational talks with secondary students through UBS community affairs, and cofounded an informal network of more than 20 women CEOs in finance in Hong Kong. Together, they launched mentorship programmes and hosted inspirational talks with students in Hong Kong. The network aims to empower junior colleagues and less privileged women with financial skills.

“During sharing sessions, I say, ‘Go out of your comfort zone and don’t set any glass ceiling’; a lot of times it’s only the ceiling we set for ourselves,” says Lo. She knows first-hand what it feels like to push yourself. She was doing well looking after the Greater China wealth management business when she was offered the opportunity to be Apac head for ultra-high-net-worth families and global family offices. Initially she said no, but mentors encouraged Lo, saying she was the best candidate.

See also: 4 Female Investors Who Are Using Their Capital To Drive Positive Social Change

“The pandemic is one of the catalysts to building flexible and family-friendly work environments for the future”
Amy Lo

Beyond fostering support networks, Lo is an advocate for flexible hours and wellbeing programmes. In response to Covid-19, she and her management team organised a series of health and wellness seminars and hired a consultant to train volunteering colleagues to be mental health champions at work. “The pandemic is one of the catalysts to building flexible and family-friendly work environments for the future.”

“In good times, it’s much easier to lead; it’s in tough times that you really need to lead in front,” says Lo. “I will never abandon my team; we are in this together.” She encourages colleagues to stay agile and strike a work-life balance, which for her means making time for cooking, golf, and family.

A wife and mother of two, Lo knows that women tend to take everything on their shoulders. “It is not easy to find that balance and there may be some sacrifices that you have to make, but you have to set priorities and have efficient time management.” She cites potential breaking points, such as when a woman has a baby, and the value of supporting colleagues through such challenges.

There’s a role for men to play here too. “We need male allies to be with us in the journey, to transform, and realise that diversity will bring commercial benefits,” says Lo. “We have to be sensitive that they don’t feel they are the less preferred group, which is not true, because at the end of the day it is meritocracy that I totally believe in.”

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