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"When I was working in the regulatory authority, I usually asked the candidates, 'What kind of reading do you do over the weekend?'. A CV cannot show how the person occupies himself outside of his work." Laura Cha, the then Chairman of Financial Services Development Council, thinks that reading is important. Pursuit of knowledge helps both personal growth and work greatly.
Laura joined the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong in 1991 and became its Deputy Chairman in 1998. Three years later, she was appointed by the Central Government as the Vice Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and became the first person outside Mainland served at the vice-ministerial rank. She is familiar with the operation of the securities markets in both China and Hong Kong. She has high expectation on corporate governance and is stringent in handling regulatory affairs. She also has high expectation on young people.
“Show your interest and curiosity in world affairs”
"I used to ask these questions during job interview, 'What do you like reading over the weekend? What newspapers, periodicals or weekly do you read?' I think it tells a lot. If their weekend readings are the Economist, TIME magazine, Newsweek, it means that they are interested in world affairs, they have the curiosity of learning what’s happening in the world whereas if what they read are tabloids, then I will question how serious he or she may be. To a certain extent, it reflects that they could be quite narrow-minded."
Laura thinks that eagerness, enthusiasm and commitment show how eager a person is willing to learn, to know more than what the tasks give, and go one step beyond. She believes that intellectual curiosity is very important that it enables a person to enrich oneself and one's working experience so that he has more to offer to his job. That is what distinguishes them from others.
Mrs Laura Cha worked for the SFC in Hong Kong for ten years and became its Deputy Chairman in 1998. (Image Source: SFC Annual Report 1999/2000)
''Hong Kong students have good work ethics and they are diligent. When you give someone a task, you can expect at least 90% of it can be accomplished. That is our strength. What our students lack, as shown in various employer surveys, is global or macro views that they do not know enough about what is happening on the global scene, and they do not know enough about Mainland China either. In financial services, it is particularly important to keep learning what is going on in the world as it is a global market. In order to make yourself productive, you must keep abreast of world affairs, add value to yourself, and be hard-working.”
Laura thinks that Mainland students have a hunger to learn as they do not have the same kind of opportunities as Hong Kong students do when they are growing up. As a result, they value opportunities and are eager to and more aggressive in seeking opportunities. Hong Kong students, she believes, can be more compatible with Mainland students if they determine to do so.
As a lawyer, Laura was trained with critical thinking and analytical skills and she admits that these two skills have served her very well with her career. "But not everyone needs to be a lawyer if they are interested in financial services. Analytical skills lead to critical thinking and problem-solving. Problem-solving is when you are given any kind of situations, you have to identify and distinguish what issues are the important ones, prioritize what are urgent, and find a longer term solution.
Women can excel in the workplace
"I finished university, got married, had children, stayed home for 6 years, then I went back to graduate school. I pursued my law degree when my children were six and three years old. I felt that it was not easy but not impossible." Laura believes that she was able to have both a family and a career because she chose to build a family first and pursued her career afterwards.
She is grateful that she could pick up the books again as she was bringing up her children. "I encourage young people, especially young women, not to worry too much about choosing between family and career. I don't think it is an issue, rather I think it is about timing. For me, I had children first and then I started to go to law school, then I started working. It was different from other people in that way."
“Challenges make me stronger, more determined.”
When asked about the most difficult challenges encountered in her career, Laura said frankly that it was the discrimination she faced as a Chinese and as a female. She was the only woman and one of the only two Chinese in the top 50 senior management. She had to work harder to prove herself. "Challenges made me stronger, more determined to make myself do better. So, challenges, in the end, strengthened my character, personality and work attitude."