Junjie Watkins

Our first female CEO of Asia ex-Japan finds inspiration in the saying '和而不同 ' - achieving harmony in diversity.

How does it feel to be the first CEO for Asia ex-Japan?

I have been very excited about the challenge of leading an existing business with three offices, setting up a new office in Shanghai and constructing a long-term strategy plan, which has required a new skill set. The trust that senior management has placed in me has been an important source of motivation.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I grew up in China and studied in the UK. I joined the Deutsche Bank then Lehman Brothers in London, transferring to Hong Kong in March 2008. Surviving the financial crisis taught me a lot. When Lehman’s investment management division spun out to become Neuberger Berman, my career path changed from investment to business development in Greater China. I then led the Asia business for TCW, a Los Angeles based asset manager. In July 2019, I joined Pictet Asset Management as CEO for Asia ex-Japan.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

On my first day at Pictet, I received congratulation emails from young female colleagues. I realised that my role had an impact and that I should support them and encourage them to think big. But D&I is certainly not just about gender. Starting work in London was culturally challenging for me, and I remember my boss telling me that we all like working with ourselves but that we have to learn to work with others. We only grow when we leave our comfort zone. Throughout my career, I have worked with people from various backgrounds. There is no doubt that I've benefited significantly from these experiences. Seeing things from different perspectives enriches your life. Working in global corporate environment for the past 20 years, I've learnt that we are not so different. Make an effort to get to know others and you will start to understand and embrace the differences. Be curious and kind.

Who has inspired you?

One female portfolio manager I worked with early in my career was over 70 years old and still passionate about investment. You could see sparks in her eyes when she talked about markets. She travelled with me across Asia, from Beijing to Jakarta. That kind of passion and dedication truly inspired me. I too want to have sparks in my eyes when I reach 70. I want to maintain that curiosity.

Why is Asia an exciting growth market for you?

Anything's possible here. When I worked in London, things became stable and predictable. Asia has experienced a lot of changes, and life is fast paced here. People are driven by the same goal and aspire for success. Everyone wants to achieve something. Being surrounded by people like that gives you positive energy.

What are some of the hardest parts of your job?

Asset management is a people's business. Our employees are our most important asset. I spend a lot of time making sure we hire the right people and keeping them motivated. Here at Pictet Asset Management Asia, we strive to foster an inclusive work environment where colleagues feel respected and valued for who they are. In Chinese, there is a saying “和而不同”, which means achieving harmony in diversity. I want to create a working environment like that where all can thrive. Leading a regional business also means that I need to be a bridge between headquarters and our local staff and clients. Communication is the key.

What are some of your personal interests?

Outside of work, I like travelling, hiking and watching films and drama. My colleagues were surprised I know some of the characters in Korean or Thai drama series, but I learn about regional cultures which helps with my work. I also allocate some time for reading and Chinese calligraphy to reflect. We talked about being kind to others, but it is equally important to be kind to ourselves.

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