Sharon Leung-Pliner is the regional lead of the Global Consultants Relations business at Blackrock. In her 2021 Spotlight Series Interview, she discusses her journey to the financial sector, the role of mentors in her career, and much more.

1.   Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, I graduated from university with a degree in Medical Biotechnology in 2005, the same year I decided to move to Hong Kong. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, my parents moved to Australia to provide us with a better life. However, I also yearned  to learn more about our culture, familial history and reconnect with our extended family. I have since been married, adopted  a dog and had two children in this city we now call home. 

I joined BlackRock in 2012 as a business manager in the COO team for the ETF and Index Investments division. In 2019, I transitioned to my current role as the regional lead of the Global Consultants Relations business where I am responsible for the strategic development and management of consultant and investment advisor relationships, and building a team of RFP specialists. 

Competitive by nature, I represented Hong Kong in international field hockey and continue to play in the premier league. Through hockey, I have had the privilege of meeting women from diverse backgrounds and through our shared experiences, we have been pillars of support for one another. 

2.   What drew you to a career in finance? What has motivated you to stay? 

Moving to a major financial hub presented new pathways in an industry to which I had never been exposed. As an intellectually curious person, I was initially drawn to the dynamic environment and the opportunity to learn from the brightest minds. 

My initial goal was to learn the fundamentals and develop a technical skill set. I began my career in product sales, later moving into project management and business management roles at various sell-side institutions before joining BlackRock. 

BlackRock promotes career development and internal mobility. During my tenure at the firm, I have been challenged to stretch my capabilities and grow my responsibilities. I have had the opportunity to build and lead teams, launch key projects and work alongside some of the industry’s most respected leaders. 

3.   Mentors play an important role in the development of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person? 

Mentorships are powerful, they help advance careers and improve work-life satisfaction. A mentor is someone who not only imparts their knowledge and experience, but can also help you to optimise your strengths and promote your brand. Equally important, my mentors have been my toughest critics, providing opportunities for self reflection and growth. When considering my next career steps, there was a time where a mentor gave feedback that I was not stretching myself sufficiently. I was frustrated initially but valued their opinion, which prompted a re-evaluation of my options. This difficult conversation challenged me to realise my full potential.

4. How do you and your firm advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace? 

Leading by example, I hope to be an agent of change in the industry. I have held positions on committees to empower my peers, strengthen firm culture, and advocate for inclusivity. Having experienced the impact of mentorships and connections with inspirational people, I pay it forward through mentoring younger women who are embarking on careers in finance.