Discover why the future of finance is female!
By Ashima Sethi
There are several big-money industries that we’ve always viewed as male-dominated. These include businesses like tech, film, and of course, finance. According to Deloitte, as of a few years ago only six of the United States’ largest 107 financial institutions were run by female CEOs. A statistic that can be attributed to the fact that for the better part of the last four decades, opportunities for women in the world of fi nance were scarce.
The first female bankers on Wall Street had to scour for positions in newspaper ads and were forced to cope with hierarchies that were inherently sexist, making it close to impossible to climb the ranks as quickly as their male counterparts. Moreover, for the most part, men were seen as the financial decision makers of a household, a belief that trickled over into the industry of wealth management, as men wanted to work with financial advisers who were other men.
However, this has changed immensely and continues to change in the present time. According to a recent report by McKinsey, ‘women are the new face of wealth’ as we move into the next decade, with a change in demographics and responsibility leading to many women being in control of various assets and being actively involved in financial decisions. As a result, the world of wealth management has had to change to keep up with this evolving consumer base, and now more than ever, attracting female customers is critical to growth.
As our society continues to shift and the industry continues to grow, opportunities for women in these fields continue to increase due in part to the fact that many women prefer advisers who can commit to understanding their specific needs, but also because of the simple fact that women are more than capable of doing the same jobs as men.
Of course, it is by no means easy to break a glass ceiling that’s been moulded so thick for years, but progress is progress no matter how small the steps. In celebration of our Women’s Issue, it is important to recognise that we are living in an age where we have talented women leading some of the world’s top companies and forging their own paths in traditionally male-oriented businesses. One such individual is Krittaya Keerat Kumar who works as an Executive Director at the largest global bank and asset management group owned by a single family with several international offices.
Born in Bangkok, Keerat studied at Ruamrudee International School (RIS) before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Accounting and Management and a Masters with Merit in Finance and Investment at The University of Nottingham. Now married with two young children, Keerat tells me, “I am fortunate to have such a supportive family. Both my husband and I stand side by side to work to take care of our children, and we encourage each other to be the best versions of ourselves to set a good example for our kids.”
As a trailblazer in the world of finance and a doting wife and mum, Keerat’s day-to-day responsibilities are diverse but she embraces them wholeheartedly. She shares her journey and valuable insight into the industry with Masala.
Was working in the finance industry always something of interest to you? If yes, why so? If not, what inspired you to pick this field?
Looking back at when I started, I cannot say that I was certain I would be working in finance. However, I always noticed that the world of banking had a sophistication about it, and it interested me that finance was constantly changing and that things like technology impacted it greatly.
When I was pursuing a degree, I was not 100 percent sure about what I wanted to do but I believed that studying business, accounting, and finance could help me pursue a career in any industry. A fundamental of any business’ success is being able to understand its finances. For my first two internships, I applied to international banks based in Bangkok. These experiences were really advantageous to my journey as they gave me the opportunity to learn which departments in a bank I was interested in.
This allowed me to learn about the role of a relationship manager and what I needed to study to be qualified to pursue this career. I found that the role of a relationship manager combined the things I was, and am, passionate about, including problem solving, networking, and finance. I enjoy meeting people, learning about their success, and understanding how I can help them better manage their personal finances.
Working in personal finance is a lot like solving a new case or problem daily. Sometimes you can plan well for a meeting because you are familiar with a client, while other times you are meeting them for the first time and you need to ensure you are updated on the latest trends, are sensitive to their personal requirements, possess business acumen on how to reply, and generally just have the ability to think on your feet. After years of experience and practice, I am now at a place in my career where I have the confidence to position my client portfolios better.
Can you share your professional journey and how it has brought you to this specific role?
After completing my Master’s degree, I was offered a job at a leading International Bank based in Bangkok to start as AVP Relationships Manager.
In Thailand, you need to be licensed, and when I first started, we had to take the exam in Thai for the Single License Exam. I hold the ‘Investment Consultant Complex 1’ license which covers the following applicable products: non-complex capital products market products, mutual funds and debt securities with high risk or complex features, and derivatives.
After a few months of working with said bank, I received a recognition award and had to travel to Singapore to receive it. I then joined a notable American International Bank in 2012 as a Relationship Manager, after which I was promoted to Senior Relationship Manager and then Team Leader. While here, I was grateful to have travelled to destinations like Singapore, the US, and China as these places offered a lot of learning experiences and training. One that stood out was the Wharton Program.
After almost eight years, I decided I wanted to expand into private banking. I was given various opportunities to work in Singapore and Hong Kong but because my young family was based in Thailand, it was a great opportunity when I managed to secure my current role based in the city.
As an Executive Director, what exactly does your role entail?
As a private banker, you handle all of your client’s fi nancial requirements, fostering a relationship built on strong mutual trust. At the bank I am now working for, not only do we offer in-house products and solutions, but we identify the most suitable solution on the market and together, outline an appropriate strategy.
As a private banker, we aim to build, preserve, and transfer wealth for generations using long-term thinking practices in order to provide attractive returns and ensure you achieve your nancial goals. We assist with all wealth, investment, and private banking related matters by giving our clients access to our investment specialist team, which is specially tailored to an individual’s needs, goals, and risk tolerances.
For our readers who may have a limited understanding of the world of wealth management, can you briefly explain what the industry is centered on? Are there comparable differences between asset management, wealth management, and private banking?
Yes, there are differences. Asset management focuses on growing your portfolio, whereas wealth management and private banking refers to overseeing all the financial aspects of a client and understanding how to protect and grow their portfolio. This may include management of assets, estates, and so forth.
My role is to understand my client’s requirements, protect their assets, and grow their wealth. However, at its core, my role is to build a relationship on trust and mutual vision that gives my client the confi dence they need to navigate the ever-changing financial world. It is important to understand that having money is not enough, you must be good at managing your wealth and protecting it. If money was enough, every rich person in history would still be wealthy, and every family would become wealthier with every generation.
Beyond growing and preserving one’s assets to secure your future and your family’s future, what are some of the other advantages of working with a firm like yours?
Preserving and passing on your wealth to the next generation is vital but so is teaching them how to do the same and starting this understanding from an early age. This offers the right education, practice, and decision-making skills required for them to also pass on the same legacy to their family. This is very valuable. Moreover, at our firm we prioritise and value team work and attention to detail. Our team have years of experience collectively, and we have a strong understanding of local and foreign markets.
What are some things people should consider when looking into working with a wealth manager?
Most financial institutions can provide similar investment products, but private banking has a lot to do with rapport, chemistry and finding the most personalised solution to suit your goals and specific situation. You need to consider the following: can you trust the person you are working with to manage your wealth? How experienced are they? How dedicated are they? How much time can they offer you?
Speaking from experience, I believe the main factors are time and values. You can have a banker who continues to outperform the market, but you might not like their investment style or there is no personal connection. You need trust and aligned values to create a unified vision. Beyond that, you need to look into a company’s history, financial standings and experiences, and their ability to work as a team, to name a few.
For someone like me who can’t make heads or tails of what to invest in currently because there is so much choice, can you provide any insight on how to navigate getting started?
I always say if you are going to invest in anything, make sure it is something that will allow you to sleep soundly at night. Do not invest in anything that will make you stressed or lose sleep as your health and peace of mind are important. Remember, your investments should enhance your wealth. There are plenty of options available to invest in, so make sure to diversify your investments to manage your risk and expectations.
Have a portfolio that can withstand all market conditions. Have a plan, a financial objective, and an understanding of when is ‘enough’ for you. Think about the target you want to achieve and different returns for different investment strategies. For example, if you plan to gain 10 percent and once you reach that level you exit, or whether it is long-term and you prefer compound investing and accumulating.
I start with these basic questions when I speak to clients. This offers an understanding of financial objectives, risk and reward, time horizon and so forth. Everyone has very different goals depending on their age, education, family life, and other factors, so as a private banker it is our job to fi nd the best possible solutions and to present the ideas. Sometimes clients agree and other times they do not, but your client should hear it from you first. Communication is key, whether it is good news or bad news.
Can you recommend any resources someone can look into to make more advised choices with their investments?
I would recommend speaking to a professional in the field. Speak to your banker or your investment consultant. Different financial institutions offer investment seminars you can attend for unbiased views, but with this I would say to be a bit cautious. Do not just blindly follow what you read and hear as the person presenting may not be familiar with their audience. Thailand’s financial institutions have a lot of resources you can tap into to keep learning, and if you are constantly learning, you will make better decisions.
The finance industry is notoriously male dominated, what does it mean to you as a Thai-Indian woman to have progressed so far in your career?
I was raised to strive for my goals and I want to be an inspiration for my children, a reminder that they should strive for theirs as well, no matter what career they choose. The finance industry, like many other industries, might have been much more male dominated in the past, but I am proud to say I work alongside many women who are in leadership positions. I believe Thailand is a beacon for equal opportunity as the world continues to strive towards levelling the playing field for all genders.
Thailand is among some of the top countries for women working in high corporate positions (CEOs, senior managers, etc.) do you believe the future is bright for women in finance?
Women are as career-oriented as men are so I believe the future is bright for anyone who wants to take on opportunity. From my experience, it is less about gender and more about experience, dedication, hard work, the ability to be a team player, and of course, the ability to deliver results. Nowadays, corporations are more encouraging of family life and maternity and paternity benefits are more reasonable. There is definitely more awareness growing about fostering a work/life balance and creating a better work environment for families, which in turn creates better employees.
What advice can you give other young women who are considering jobs in the finance industry?
Be confident and be you. Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Never give up and ask for advice! Do not allow gender roles to define who you are, nor limit what you can achieve. Always give time to a new job, be patient, and take the time to reevaluate as you go.