Onn Yee Wong, an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley’s Finance division in Asia Pacific, shares with WiFA her motivation to stay in finance, what motivates her to succeed, and much more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I lead finance teams located in ten cities across  Asia Pacific. I handle the financial and regulatory reporting of onshore entities, and work closely with local regulators and auditors.  I started my career as an auditor with the Big Four, before joining the finance division of a US investment bank and eventually Morgan Stanley. I spent most of my career in Singapore and moved to Hong Kong recently after expanding my portfolio to oversee more regional responsibilities.

I keep my weekends free for family and me-time. I enjoy cooking and baking as well as reading fiction – these are all ways I re-energise myself after a week in the office.

What drew you to a career in Finance? What has motivated you to stay?

If I were to tell you that I knew finance is my calling from day one after leaving school, nobody would believe me – including myself. In fact, I was very fortunate to land my first job as an auditor, as that provided me the exposure to a broad range of industries, which then enabled me to realise that finance was indeed the right choice for me. Being an auditor taught me the values of personal integrity, clarity of thought, being curious and how important influencing skills are to get your point across.

Over time I learnt more about myself. What I enjoy became my strength, while what I am good at became my interest. This formed the building blocks of my competencies and over time my career path became clearer.

I decided to specialise in financial markets and institutions to deepen my knowledge. Working in the Finance Division of a US bank made me appreciate how critical my role is within the firm. The information we provide enables business lines to make informed decisions, and the reports we submit to the regulators on a timely basis enhance the Firm’s reputation.

I find teamwork and cross-divisional collaborations that achieve the firm’s goals a rewarding experience. As my responsibilities expanded, nurturing members of my team to become successful professionals and future leaders, also gave me immeasurable satisfaction. I am also grateful to have supportive managers who gave me flexibility on how far and how fast my responsibilities grow. I became more confident in shaping my professional development – as I took more control of my career.

What is one characteristic you would say that all women in finance share?

There are many characteristics which women in finance shares, including integrity and empathy. In my opinion, the most important characteristic is the ability to uphold integrity and empathy consistently in work and in personal life, and that is what makes women great leaders and team players in the financial services sector. 

What has kept you motivated to succeed this past year?

Firstly, our career is a marathon and not a sprint. We should pace ourselves. There will be times we need to sprint, times we slow down, but it is important we keep looking forward. We also need to stay aware of our surroundings and challenges, be nimble as well as flexible in our responses.

Secondly, it is important to maintain a strong support network both at work, and at home – with family and friends. We draw strength and inspiration from people we care about and those who care about us. We also keep each other going in tough times and cheer each other on in good times.

Lastly, always stay positive.