This year’s Most Influential Female Leader in Asia at the Global Private Banking Innovation Awards is Kam Shing Kwang, Chief Executive Officer of J.P. Morgan Asia Private Bank. In this fascinating interview, Kam Shing shared her most remarkable career achievements thus far, the technologies transforming JP Morgan and the new investment trends that have emerged in the aftermath of the pandemic. Here are the excerpts of our interview.
TDB: A sincere congratulations on being named Most Influential Female Leader in Asia at this year’s Global Private Banking Innovation Awards. What is your most memorable achievement in your career thus far?
KS: Thanks for the honour. I am very humbled by the award, this is obviously due to the work from my entire team, who have worked very hard over the past few years. As for my achievements, it’s less about the actual achievements, and more about the journey of working hard and getting something done – this to me is the most memorable and the most rewarding. If there is one particular turning point I can think of, it would be at a very significant stage of my career. When I first joined JP Morgan, I was a portfolio manager focusing on investments for clients. I thought that was going to be my career path, but this job took me from being a portfolio manager to running the investment team and then in 2004, this led me to Singapore to run the investment team for Southeast Asia. Shortly after that, the head of the Singapore office had to relocate, and the opportunities opened up for me to become the head of Singapore office. This was in 2005, and was a very significant milestone and also a turning point in my career, as it opened up all the opportunities for me to broaden my scope beyond investments into business development and strategising for the markets across the region. That was a very significant moment in my career in JP Morgan.
TDB: You seem to be somewhat of a tech enthusiast, which must certainly be helpful given the $11 billion a year JPM spends on technology. Can you talk a bit about specific technologies that are transforming your business and why?
KS: In this current environment, technology facilitates our ability to work anywhere, anytime. It is absolutely remarkable. Mobile devices and different kinds of hardware allow us to access information wherever we are. But, I think it only just dawned on me during this pandemic where, at any one time, we have 97% of JP Morgan staff working from home. So, we’re talking about over two hundred thousand employees completely working from home and processing transactions seamlessly and effectively. This has all been made possible by cloud technology, etc, and I think that is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.
In this current environment, technology facilitates our ability to work anywhere, anytime. It is absolutely remarkable.
TDB: How has JPM countered the adverse economic impacts of COVID-19, and what advice would you give to businesses navigating these unpredictable waters?
KS: It’s very heartening to hear from our employees and also from our clients. Clearly, our technology and platform have been critical in helping us serve our clients seamlessly and allowing our colleagues to work effectively. The commitment and devotion are simply unparalleled during this period.
One thing that has been extremely helpful and will continue to be particularly important in what we do for our people and our clients is the effort everyone is putting in. So, having empathy is very important for our employees. To think about how they are being impacted by the pandemic, they need to feel safe and secure – this is one of our top priorities. If we prioritise this, we will get there and will allow the entire workforce to work from home. We put ourselves in our client’s shoes and understand what they need. They need information and require us to truly understand what their needs are. Our ability to listen, and understand this, already goes a very long way. We have a series of digital engagements and as a result, the digital adoption rate has increased a lot and we are now servicing our clients this way.
TDB: What new investment trends would you say have emerged as result of this pandemic?
KS: We see a significant disparity between the winners and the losers during this time. To define that, customers that are able to respond quickly during this period of time have fared well. Technology and healthcare are two sectors that have performed really well. And we’ve been recommending these sectors for a while. More broadly, what we’re sharing with our clients is that innovation is really important. And honestly, the technology that facilitates that. Innovation in this area should look at the way you process and service your clients and any business that is always responsive to new environments will eventually win.
So, we look for companies that have these attributes. We have a strategy about innovation, and it has been doing very well for the majority of our customers in the tech sector. Of course, this goes beyond technology.
Technology and healthcare are two sectors that have performed really well. And we’ve been recommending these sectors for a while. More broadly, what we’re sharing with our clients is that innovation is really important. And honestly, the technology that facilitates that.
TDB: How has business been since the launch of JPMs Trust Company in Singapore?
KS: It has gone well; everything is on track. Especially on the new business side of things. We have started better than we expected, which is great. We’ve been setting up new trusts for many company founders – seeing their companies to IPO. They want to start structuring and planning, so we have set up a significant number of such trusts for founders ahead of their IPOs.
TDB: Which products or services help differentiate your firm and what is truly unique to JPM’s Private Wealth offering?
KS: Obviously, it’s easy to talk about product. I’d like to talk about all the products we have – from investment to wealth advisory to credit, and all products that other parts of the bank offer. However, I think the most important thing at the end of the day is advice. And that advice has to be personalised depending on the client needs. I talk about being empathetic. If you have empathy, you can see from the clients’ standpoint on what their needs are. You can give them the right advice and that hopefully comes with the right solutions. So, I’d say, advice is what differentiates JP Morgan and the way we ensure that we give our clients the best advice. Obviously, having the right advisors who are given the right amount of tools is just as crucial too. Most importantly, our global consensus and the innovation mindset will mean that all the advice we give is always timely and holistic.
In the future I think clients will want to pay for advice rather than just products. The force of competitive pressure will drive down prices. So, I think the advice-based services model will be far more valuable.
TDB: What do you think the Private Bank of the future will look like?
KS: I think there are two parts to this, and I’ve probably touched upon both parts. People are going to value advice more and more. What we have seen, especially in Asia, is that certainly, products do play an important role. In the past, clients look at what products you can offer to determine whether you are the right provider. Increasingly, clients are going to see that product can be modified so what differentiates, really, is advice. So, in the future I think clients will want to pay for advice rather than just products. Also, we can see products are being commoditised and being manufactured more efficiently. The force of competitive pressure will drive down prices. So, I think the advice-based services model will be far more valuable.
The other thing is getting digital. Having the most efficient digital platform will be crucial in giving solutions and advice.
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