As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech, we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in Asia. One of them is Ngee Hua LIM, who is originally from Singapore but lives in many countries including India, China and Japan for more than 10 years and now back to home country Singapore and is an expert in fintech and specifically in InvestTech which is commonly known as WealthTech in the banking sector.
Ngee Hua graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Building (1st Class Honours). She was a founding member of Far East Organization Venture Capital arm where she does strategic investments in data management start-up with Microsoft and Intel and runs an incubation centre. Previously, she worked for SembCorp where she acquired its 1st environmental project in India. She relocated for over 10 years to Australia, Japan, and China under Ascott REIT and its Private Equity Fund where she asset managed accumulated a portfolio of an estimated $2 billion regionally.
Today based in Singapore, she advises on expansion strategy for technology and alternative investments as an intermediary under NH Expansion. NH Expansion founded the 11-part Niche and Hot (NH) InvestTech Talk Series, which gathers market incumbent Bank CEO/C-Suites and Tech founders. Ngee Hua is the Secretary and Executive Committee Member of Singapore Fintech Association where she is the Co-Lead for Women-in-Fintech Subcommittee, the Lead for Fintech Fundraising Subcommittee, and one of the Judges for Singapore Fintech Awards 2019.
Ngee Hua, describe your career journey:
My career has involved frequent overseas trips and several relocations, making market entry to India (Acquisition & Representative Office) and Japan (Asset Management Team) and pioneering new business segment in Beijing under Singapore Government’s Temasek-Linked group of companies and to establish distribution channels in Jakarta and Vietnam, for Merger & Acquisition opportunities and/or new revenue opportunities.
So far, I have been involved only with the best in my corporate career, from investing for the largest global serviced apartment, being in the senior management team of a European resort group to being a foundling investment staff of the most affluent Asian family business and also investing for a leading conglomerate.
Today, I continue to work through NH Expansion which I founded, to only those that are or inspired to be in the same league which I call the Underdogs. The latter inspired me to originate the Niche and Hot (NH) InvestTech (11-part) Talk Series.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
I have faced difficulties from appearing too young in a prominent, male-dominated regional role.
Societal expectations vary according to gender. A leader who boldly speaks what she thinks as strident instead of decisive. I also have a shorter time to establish credibility and build in tangible results.
My tri-culture business mindset brings forward-looking yet practical ideas, but ‘too advance’ for local operations and therefore need lots of persuasions for buy-in.
Being consistently on the road or living overseas takes away bonding time from colleagues in the corporate services department whose support is important.
Someone described me as an ‘egg’ which is hard on the outside and soft in the inside. I consciously work on a persona to ‘ward off’ potential perpetrators while travelling solo in the ‘Incredible India’ and ‘Limitless China’ as early as Year 2003 for market entry in these developing countries. It seems ‘effective’ then because I only encountered minor road accidents in India whereas in China, I managed to escape in time from an old and smoky Mercedes-Benz car before it exploded and caused a massive traffic jam!
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investing and related courses are going to feature in the investment and InvestTech arena.
Citing an example of a B2C fintech aggregator platform of outbound home mortgages, I believe ESG considerations is not simply to minimise the use of plastics in working offices as what the founder initially believes. The imminent reality is it is going to be more deliberate, such as setting a minimum quota on assets mortgaged through their fintech platform that is built with green features such as solar photovoltaic roof and solar glass windows whose performance are tested by credible certification bodies. Other externalities possibly generated are akin to carbon credits trading.
Separately, I have also come across banking professionals using the terms ESG Investing and Impact Investing interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between the two. I, therefore, urge you to follow and tune in to the Niche and Hot InvestTech (11-part) Talk Series for educational insights on InvestTech.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in Asia?
Female entrepreneurs and thought leaders should dare to dream and when you are young and ‘hungry’, seize opportunities or spurt of serendipity that come along your way to venture in rapidly growing Asia. What is difficult and departure from the norm will most likely be the most interesting stories you gather for yourself.
You need friendships along your career to keep you on the toes and most important to be your cheerleader.
Another thing is to get involved in the SME market of your home country as early as possible if your ultimate intention is to return to your home country as an entrepreneur after residing overseas.
Lastly, be a fair but kind critique of yourself. Amplify your strengths and kindly accept your weaknesses.