Why Do Business Women in Asia Out-Shine Their Male Counterparts?


I thought I was one for multitasking. My breather from consulting during the day is to write articles for various on-line publications. I build websites for local businesses on my lunch hour and listen to German podcasts on my afternoon runs when I train for 10ks. Saw that I checked your Facebook message at 2:15 a.m.?  I’m taking a sleep break to see how the European market opened. When it comes to being an impressive multitasker, I believe that I am a unicorn.

Then again, I’ve never set up a foreign exchange operation — laptop and cell phone in hand- while lying flat on my back with nitrous oxide flowing into my veins to ease the pain of giving birth.

That’s right. To put it plainly, I am no Tan Su Shan.

Tan Su Shan is part of a distinctive set of women who control 29% of Asia’s wealth. Who are they? Asia’s premiere leading private bankers. And these women are the dominant, majority in Asia’s private banking sector.

The reason for a femme fatal success? Private banking entails a different set of slopes to navigate. It's more than just an investment; it's a relationship and a trust built between the investor and the family. And many players in the banking industry are stating plainly that women are better and building that relationship than men.

“Because women often come across as sensitive and empathetic, even many men would rather speak to a woman about personal wealth matters than to another man,” Malkani said.

The underlying belief is that private banking entails an entirely different set of job skills that build on the foundations of corporate or investment. It entails interpersonal skills, listening skills, patience, and the ability to build personal relationship. It’s a set of skills that many say attracts women to the industry and catapult them to the front of the line.

More so, private banking entails doing all those multitasking "little things" that are "socially akin" to the female role. Private banking is not just investment, it’s educating younger family members in investing in their own futures. It's understanding that family power dynamics may mean that the wife of the household is letting her husband speak, but she’s the one calling the financial shots, (and that a conversation needs to be delivered respectfully to both the husband and wife). It’s sending a care package to the son of an investor while you’re on vacation because the father mentioned that his son is a new college student who is away from home for the first time. After all, building a relationship with investors in private banking means the next generation of private investors stems directly from your clientele.

So where are western women in the private banking numbers? In the Royal Bank of Canada’s Asia wealth-management unit, about 60% of relationship managers are women, according to the bank. In Canada, the figure is about 16%. It’s 12% in the U.S. and 37% in the U.K.

Chief of human resources Zabeen Hirji of the Royal Bank of Canada said that in many Western countries, men outnumber women in private banking because culture norms pressure women to stay at home and raise children.

“It's not culturally negative thing for Asian women to be working,” she said.

What do you think? Is it a culturally negative things for Western women to be working in banking? And does the frequency of Asian women in private banking socially enforce gender roles, or advance women in a normally male dominated workforce?