Winnie Zhang – Why I stayed with Standard Chartered for 18 years and counting

Staying and growing with the Bank for 18 years is a testimony of the opportunities available for employees, says Shanghai-based Winnie Zhang.

Print

I joined the Bank as part of the International Graduate programme in 2004 and never looked back. In today’s age, it is probably quite rare for someone to stay with an employer for the entirety of their career, but I truly feel that this is a place full of opportunities where I can grow.

Today, I am the Head of Commercial Banking East China, part of CCIB (Corporate, Commercial and Institutional Banking) China, managing over 2,000 China corporate clients in the East China region. I also double-hat as Deputy General Manager of the Shanghai branch.

I’m also a member of the CCIB China Management Team where we execute strategic priorities such as the Yangtze River Delta integration, China opening and more.

There are many reasons why I love working here and have remained with the Bank all this while. Firstly, it is clear that Standard Chartered is committed to the China market.

Secondly, it also encourages employees to move across functions and countries for their career development. This is something that I benefited from over the years.

I’ve worked in not just mainland China, but Hong Kong, London and Singapore. One of the best experiences I had was when I relocated to Singapore in 2015 to take on a new challenge as Head of China Corridor ASEAN to build up the business from the ground-up, as part of the One Belt One Road initiative.

As the pioneer batch of China Corridor bankers, I spent four years cultivating a fast-growing business and also developed a competent Corridor banker team in ASEAN. It was challenging work but there’s a lot of pride as the Bank became the most popular “go to” bank in the region for our China clients and we received several international awards.

When the China Corridor ASEAN business became more mature in 2019, I made the decision to move back to my hometown Shanghai and take up my current role.

Since then, one event that has impacted us all is the pandemic.

It’s been quite a challenge for colleagues here as we grapple with lockdowns and the inability to travel abroad. As a people leader looking after almost 40 employees, I need to be watchful for their mental health and stress.

With the lockdowns in Shanghai since April, the Bank has been helping to provide a lot of assistance to staff. For example, some of our staff and their families had difficulty securing groceries, but the Bank and people managers have been doing our best to find suppliers to provide them with what they need.

As people work from home, efficiency has become higher. But luckily, this has resulted in less working hours. I always tell my team that they need to take care of themselves. Just because they can work from 9am to 9pm at home doesn’t mean they should. They need time for family, physical exercise and relaxation too, otherwise they will feel overwhelmed.

In my career here, I’ve personally grown and learnt so much from taking on challenges. The biggest challenge I ever faced at work here was due to an extreme market movement that resulted in huge losses to a client and the Bank overnight. There was one week that I slept for less than 10 hours, working under great pressure to deal with the problem.

In the end, we managed to bring back a functional market with significantly reduced risks, leaving the Bank better protected and a better outcome achieved for the client.

Some of my key learnings are as follows: 1) do not panic and keep your head during a crisis, 2) dedicate yourself to quick action, 3) reduce ambiguity by collaborating, and 4) always remember our company’s mantra to “do the right thing” when it comes to decision-making.

Ultimately, this episode has taught me that overcoming difficulties can be your source of strength – in other words, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!