Telum caught up with Mae Loon, Managing Director and Head of Communications, Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse to get a snap-shot of life in communications inside an international bank and her tips for anyone looking to break into the sector.
You have worked at some of the biggest names in financial services - what attracted you into this sector in the first place?
I love stock market gyrations - from reporting live from the open outcry pit at the Singapore Exchange (which no longer exists) to observing the fortunes of companies and individuals go up and down over the various crises. Business journalism got me hooked on the financial sector, then working on M&A in my first comms job made me realise that there was so much more to it than what was reported. After that, I was given the opportunity to shadow legendary investor Mark Mobius and his emerging markets investment team at company meetings when they were making decisions about which companies to invest in. And there was no going back.
Tell us more about Credit Suisse, how big is the team currently and how do you manage communications in APAC?
At Credit Suisse, I oversee both APAC communications as well as global group social media - so our team has a great combination of skills. Being able to blend all aspects of comms across paid, earned and owned is a daily experience on the team across Zurich and APAC, which I encourage and thoroughly enjoy.
What are the big themes that you are focused on at the moment?
- this is a Credit Suisse Theme.
100 year life - this is both a personal topic for me and one that spills over from Swiss Re (in their Life & Health business) to Credit Suisse (as evidenced in our Silver Economy Supertrend). The book Being Mortal brought this to life for me.
Diversity is a numbers game, inclusion is a mindset - it’s easy to put quotas in place to ensure diversity, but it can only come to life when inclusion comes first. Two non-profits that I’ve been working with, for those who want to learn more, are Nineby9
What does a typical day look like?
Every day is different - I could be interviewing a candidate for a new role, participating in a Strategy Day discussion, speaking with media, working through CEO transition, talking to my team to engage Meta or LinkedIn to remove fake accounts, figuring out which different Supertrends make sense in different Asian markets, having a bit of fun at a virtual team building to “Escape the Mob” with my team. That’s what’s fun about communications, we’re the central point for information and also the newsroom of the bank.
What skills are you looking to bring into your team?
A love of story-telling, a digitally savvy mindset, solid writing skills, an understanding that thought leadership is not a quote that is tossed to the media or an opinion. It is actually a piece of well-researched content that sparks conversations and gives rise to action in the market, resulting from long term trend spotting. Plus strong relationships with the media and a keenness to grow your business acumen.
Humility - because money is personal and you are managing someone’s hard-earned cash, and because you can always learn about how to manage money from successful people as well as those in need of financial support. This trait will lead you towards constant self-reflection and a growth mindset when receiving feedback to assess how things can be done better next time.
Eternal positivity, because that’s someone we all want on our teams. Do make sure that’s tempered by common sense because that will give you the impetus to speak up and raise your voice when something doesn’t make sense.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about financial services - what might surprise people who are looking for a career in the sector?
I always remind anyone I work with that money is personal. When working in re/insurance, I told vendors, colleagues and family that there was moral purpose, because it was really our own friends, grandparents or even cousins who were paying our salaries through the premiums of the products they bought, so there is a moral imperative to do our job well to be responsible to our truest paymasters.
Today, we all think of a bank as an app on our phone, but it’s important to remember that banking is one of the most basic innovations of all time. Otherwise, you would be giving me a jug of water in exchange for a basket of eggs. Banking has created the opportunity for a store of money that is convenient, practical and relevant for just about everyone and anyone who wants to participate in the global economy and support their lifestyle.
Any top tips for anyone looking to break into finance?
Curiosity, humility and eternal positivity balanced with common sense. This is the same for every industry or job you consider working in. I’ve talked about the last two already, and curiosity because banking is an innovation that evolves daily, so go out and meet everyone you know involved in all aspects of finance from trading, to operations, crypto to family offices, investment banking to asset management, to get a sense of how diverse the roles in this industry can be. There are lots of friendly people who would be happy to give you that first step into finance. Good luck!