Finance & Banking

INTERVIEW WITH MS. ANITA MENON Chief Risk Officer Prudential BSN Takaful WOMANi ranking – 30

You have recently been named as one of the Top 50 Most
Influential Women in Islamic Business and Finance globally by
Cambridge IFA, UK. Congratulations on this achievement. What
do you think has led to your success in this traditionally male
dominated industry?

Thank you very much. I come from Malaysia where women have
been in leadership roles in the field of Islamic Finance for quite
a while and hence it is no longer the exception. Having said that
the percentage of women business leaders in this sector is still
relatively low. When I started my career at KPMG and eventually
became the Head of FRM and Head of Islamic Finance for KPMG
Consulting in Malaysia and part of KPMG’s Global Islamic Finance
and Investments Group, I never felt that there were any barriers to
my progression. I was passionate about my work and enjoyed the
opportunity to drive the development of the IF industry, resulting
in the licensing of Islamic financial institutions as well as towards
capacity building and thought leadership. Having a can-do spirit,
being passionate about what I do, challenging myself and stepping
out of my comfort zone as well as having good leaders whom I
emulated have all contributed to where I am today.

Can you share with our readers some of the milestones in your
leadership journey? What has shaped you?

One of my first major milestones in my working career was when
I started off in the port industry which was very male dominated
industry at that time. Being able to successfully manage one of
the largest shipping lines as an account manager and to earn
their respect was something, I am still proud of.

The next highlight was the time spent at KPMG where I joined as
Senior Consultant and become a partner in a fairly short time. I
had a good leader and the trust that was given to me shaped me
to take on more responsibilities. Managing clients professionally
allowed me to win their respect and taking their feedback in my
stride made me more resilient.
Taking on the role at Prudential BSN Takaful was the next
milestone which allowed me to work directly in the industry
and to contribute to the end customers whose lives we touch
through the work we do. I have realised that people and
teamwork are the keys to the success of any organisation. Being
resilient and professional, not being afraid to ask questions and having the ability to analyse information, paying attention to detail and challenging the status quo have all served me well
in the different phases of my career.

What was your support system like as your career
advanced? Did you have a particular role model?

I have been fortunate to have a support system although it
was a constant juggling act between delivering at work and
being a hands-on mother, as I wanted to be present for all
the significant moments in my children’s day.
My mother is my role model. She taught me and my siblings
about the values of working hard, and having integrity at
all times. She was fiercely independent and instilled in me
a sense of responsibility and the need to show up and be
counted. As such, I have never had qualms about rolling up
my sleeves whenever it was needed.

How do you make sure that you are always growing and
learning in your career?

I believe it is vital to consistently develop new skills and
knowledge to move forward. My move to Prudential BSN
Takaful, taking up this role after being a partner at KPMG
made me step out from my comfort zone, challenging
myself to a greater level. Last year, I signed up for a CIMA
CFO programme to enhance my professional qualification
in leadership, people and business. I read a lot and enjoy
speaking to people from different industries and backgrounds,
as you learn something by listening to their experiences.

What do women leaders bring that is unique?

There is enough research out there that reaffirms the fact
that diversity produces better results. Women are generally
able to take a balanced view, are adept at multi-tasking and
tend to take a more collaborative approach to leadership.
Women are also able to temper tough management
decisions with empathy and these qualities are useful to
have in any leader. There will be times when tough decisions
need to be made and a consultative approach will not work,
but ensuring that you constantly engage with your team
and maintain open and transparent communication helps in
managing expectations.

What advice would you give women looking to move into
positions of leadership?

Women should not be afraid to take charge and volunteer
to lead whenever opportunity arises. Constantly engage
with your teams; build relationships with them and practice
objectivity. At the same time, women should not see it as
their entitlement to be considered for roles because of their
gender; instead be proactive, assertive and professional.
Women should commit to mentoring and supporting other
women as well as men who are aspiring for leadership roles;
and be passionate about what you do. I firmly believe that
women can have a voice without having to thump tables or
behave with aggression. Ultimately, the aim is for women to
be promoted on merit and for their skills and experiences and
not to fulfil some quota. Lastly, I was recently inspired by the
Japanese term of Ikigai – be true to your personal values and
beliefs, stay grounded and that will take you far in your career
even though the road may seem long and winding at times.

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