Breaking barriers and building bridges to STEM: Annie’s story

We believe every moment is an opportunity to be inclusive. This International Women’s Day, we're celebrating some of the women who are making a difference to who we are, and the way we work. Annie’s 20 years with us has taken her on a whirlwind career adventure, but she’s been in the driver’s seat #EveryMoment. Read how Annie got into digital and how you could follow in her footsteps with a career in STEM.

Annie Chen, Head of Digital Banking & Personal Segment, Hong Kong 

"Let us choose for ourselves our path in life, and let us try to strew that path with flowers." - Emilie du Châtelet, mathematician, physicist and author.

I’ve always been a firm believer in choosing my own path in life and have never let self-limiting thoughts hold me back. Banking 20 years ago was predominantly run by men, but that didn’t stop me from taking a role here at Standard Chartered. I’ve always held a can-do attitude, meeting every challenge with a dose of pragmatism and an ample measure of learning. But did I expect such a full and eventful journey in my career here?...

A crash course in learning

…Yes! I knew from the minute I joined that I could go in practically any direction I wanted. I spent approximately 10 years in wealth management, taking on different roles from marketing and strategy to risk and process management. Then I decided to do a masters in Investment Management at Hong Kong University of Science which I felt would better enable me to take care of our clients’ wealth. Role-wise I decided to make the switch into investment products and became the Product Head, thus driving the business and platform development of equities, FX, funds, fixed income, structured products and retirement products. With a good footing in my role, I soon realised that to keep our competitive edge, we needed to get onboard with more digital backed services. Having taken an interest in the application of digital technologies to drive business growth and being intensely curious I taught myself all things digital.

The journey into digital

It’s an exciting time in banking. There are many ways to bring technology into our services if we want to deliver a client-centric experience. This became apparent on a trip to London and Amsterdam, where I met with some of the forerunners applying cutting edge tech to banking. I realised just how much the business model of financial services is changing.

With this knowledge, I joined every forum related to FinTech. I also enrolled on the Oxford FinTech Programme where industry experts from around the world talked about the future of money, marketplaces, and how the application of new technology and agile working are shaping their businesses. This helped me discover opportunities for innovation and develop a roadmap for transformation within my organisation.

I’m now Head of Digital Banking and Personal Segment, leading a team of 50 people, who are helping me to drive digital transformation and enhancing our clients’ servicing model.

How to break into STEM

If you’re wondering how to make the transition into digital or a career in STEM, here are my tips:

 

Be keenly curious - Be intensely curious. Find out about new trends and developments. Look for articles on the subject. Join forums, read, and join groups about it. Start thinking about their applications to business. 

 

Learn. Learn. And learn - Once you’ve eased yourself into this new field, get your hands on all the free learning resources you can find online. Then test and experiment with your ideas in practice.

 

Connect and network - Build connections with people who already work in the field. Go to Meetup events, trade shows - anywhere you’re likely to meet people who can help you understand the field, and give you insights on the mega trends. They’ll prove to be invaluable resources in the future. 

 

Have the confidence and you will succeed - The more you learn and understand your field, the greater your confidence will grow. Of course, there will always be things you don’t know, but don’t be discouraged. Forge ahead. 

I’m happy where I’ve reached in my career, and now help other women reach their career goals through mentoring.

I’m a firm believer that if you have the ambition to break into a new field, whether it’s in STEM, or something else - you just need to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself that bit extra. In time, and with a lot of perseverance, you will get to where you want to be. Take that step today!