Agnes Chew has more than 30 years of banking experience across global financial institutions in a range of capacities including Credit Manager, Relationship Manager, Private Banker, Global Transaction Banking Sales and Corporate Banking officer. Her initial start came with the Assistant Representative to the CEO role at the largest bank in Japan, Dai-Ichi Kangyo. At the time, this was deemed not just the largest bank in Japan but in the world. As a result of her ability to speak Japanese, she became responsible for government loan syndication origination.
This experience was further strengthened by 17 solid years at the Bank of America, where Agnes received the full gamut of training, exposure and experience dealing with risk management and relationship management. She then progressed to become the segment head for some of the world’s largest international banks namely Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.
Areas of focus
Business management with a focus on developing business relationships.
In the banking world, Agnes was involved primarily with client relationship management and business development and thrived in the world of finance by equipping herself with risk management skills.
A Chartered Banker, Agnes is a certified trainer and consultant in the banking industry, providing a selection of learning solutions. At this stage of her life, her priority is to do something meaningful, fulfilling yet different to what she knows, aided by her desire to continue learning and exploring new experiences.
A day in the life
On a typical workday, Agnes completes the usual eight hours but it is important to her to achieve what she set out to do. For her, planning and setting priorities are critical to any work day. As there are many competing objectives and tasks to be coordinated, priority setting is what helps her get things done in the order so desired.
As she points out, “I don’t believe in simply clocking in long hours. I would rather focus on achieving results and being productive throughout my day”.
Her weekends, on the other hand, are her respite.
Agnes tends to wake early to go on long hikes to stay healthy and get back to nature. She follows this up with a visit to the nearby market for weekly supplies and picks the choicest ingredients for her favourite hobby, cooking. Breakfast is usually taken at the market with her spouse and when she gets home, she spends the rest of her morning attending to the garden, soaking in the morning sun.
On Saturdays, Agnes usually prepares a hearty meal for lunch for the entire family and follows that up with a long afternoon nap to recharge. The late afternoons are spent in the garden, catching up on reading in, whether newspapers or books, accompanied by a specially brewed coffee. In the evenings, she would walk her dog and pluck red berries from the trees lining the road. Dinner is typically at a restaurant. Sundays are devoted to church activities which take up the greater part of the day and in the evenings, she would jog, cycle or relax at home, catching up on some television or movies.
Her life philosophy
You should always be positive in life and accept every challenge or failure as an opportunity to do more or go beyond expectations. Embrace things that have good inner value. Have a heart for others and move beyond self-interest.
Her proudest moment (career wise)
Agnes has experienced many ‘miracles’ in a number of major business deals. She sees that perseverance and remaining focused and sincere in driving business has helped her through her years. That coupled with a strong faith in God has enabled her to overcome the challenges that came her way. Over time, she has come through on these experiences to win the trust and loyalty of her clients and achieve things she did not think she was capable of.
Let me share an example or two.
There was once a client who hesitated for some time about opening a private banking account. Finally, one day, he gave Agnes a cash deposit. It was such a significant amount he decided to send his driver back with her so that Agnes could get back to the bank safely.
There was also a time when an institutional client finally entrusted more than USD$1 Billion to her employer bank for the placement of short term deposits – Agnes was finally able to win their trust.
She can also never forget this one episode – a high net worth client decided to deliver a few large buckets of Musang King durians to her bank premises, in appreciation of her services. Needless to say, this was quite the situation to deal with as they had to remove all the durians from the banking hall and have them placed in the basement carpark as the strong odour was affecting the customers in the bank. But memorable indeed was that episode.
“I am passionate about…”
- being able to deliver optimal outcomes in the best interest of my clients and friends in order to drive a mutually beneficial long-term relationship;
- maintaining a warm and comfortable home, with home-cooked meals for my family, nurturing them and fostering love, unity and good moral values in life;
- anything that is natural, aesthetically pleasing and a creation of God’s because it is important to me to be able to explore, admire and then preserve such beauty;
- keeping myself healthy by setting routines for exercise (climbing mountains weekly, jogging daily, gym workouts twice weekly, cycling weekly) and eating healthily. Just as important is mental health by focusing on the spiritual as well as continued learning for self-development;
- taking on new experiences, and within divine intervention, continuing to do God’s work.
- Master of Business Administration (with Distinction), University of Malaya;
- Bachelor of Social Science (with Honours), University of Science Malaysia;
- a “Competent Communicator” certified by KL Advanced Toast Masters;
- a Chartered Banker (AICB-CBI) with focus on risk management, corporate governance, ethics and business development.
- a FAA Certified Trainer.
My background in brief
I was born in Penang, Malaysia to a family of seven. As the eldest, I was largely carefree in nature but much of what happened in my childhood has groomed me to be the person I am, naturally. I have always been quite studious in nature. In many ways, if I had not been awarded a bank scholarship that financed my tertiary education, I don’t think I would have pursued the 30 year banking career I have been in. I am married with two adult children now, both of whom are married. My husband, happily retired now, is a former Company Secretary and Auditor.
I love travelling and exploring new places around the world. I’ve hiked up Mount Kinabalu and Hokkaido mountain, taken self-drive tours around Hokkaido cities and the Lake District, climbed up hills to catch the sunsets in Siam Reap, sipped great wines and savoured authentic cuisines across Spain and Italy. I’ve travelled from San Francisco to Fisherman Wharf. I’ve gone for warehouse sales, early morning jogs in Hyde Park, London, shopping excursions on Oxford Street and admired the cultural happenings across Edinburg, Toledo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Hong Kong and more.
How Agnes handles conflict and negotiation
I apply a combination of empathy, emotional intelligence, wisdom, fairness, integrity, focus, patience and trust. More than anything, I am result-oriented but I also understand and accept the importance of prayer through this process.
What do you believe has been key to your professional success?
I believe in making what is impossible, possible. I believe in pushing myself forward through self-development and continuous improvement. For me, it’s been key to maintain a professional mindset in all I undertake which means having a sense of responsibility, being accountable for my actions, striving for competence and maintaining high professional standards at all times.
What are two or three things women need to do to achieve career success?
When sitting among men in any business meeting, I forget about defining myself as a woman but more as a human being who contributes ideas and solutions in good faith for the best interest of the organisation. I think women should be confident about who they are, through the work they have done to build themselves up and through their experiences. Yet, women should also be humble enough to listen to others.
In what ways can we, as women, empower each other?
We can believe in our strengths which indeed are many. As women, we are meticulous, detail-oriented, sensitive and emotional (which has its strengths) and yet, are capable of multi-tasking. We should stand tall in our individual uniqueness to bring out cohesive outcomes that impact society positively.
Agnes Chew is a Chartered Banker (AICB-CBI) and certified Trainer and Consultant in the banking industry. Her 30+ years of financial industry experience has led to her current endeavours in supporting financiers and bankers with consulting and training services, helping to provide customised solutions.