Career success is subjective and means different things to different people. Many measure their success by income, employer or feeling happy to go to work every day.
For Michelle Ho, Global Head of Financial Institutions Credit at ANZ, success is about ‘helping other people to succeed’.
She emphasizes that her accomplishments have never been a solo endeavour. “My success is a collection of other people’s successes. I really enjoy working with people and helping them grow and thrive.”
Ho should know, as she has become a global leader at the bank in just ten years. Since starting at ANZ as a Senior Manager within Financial Institutions, she has held four other roles across the bank’s Asia offices leading to her current role as Head of Counterparty Credit Risk and Hong Kong Market Risk.
Along the way, Ho has had several people leaders to whom she says she owes much.
“The support of senior leaders is very important. My managers each demonstrated trust and confidence in me. The reason I have been able to progress is their willingness to invest in my development and to take a risk on me. Each time I have progressed there is risk involved.”
Growing people selflessly is an ANZ leadership behaviour encouraged and practiced at the bank. “I’ve found I get more satisfaction from seeing other people achieve their goals. As a leader, I find this more motivating than excelling in the technical parts of the role. I’m also asking my people leaders to do the same.”
That’s not to say Ho has never experienced self-doubt.
In 2017, Ho was feeling constrained after long operating in the niche area of Financial Institutions Credit in Asia. She felt confident about her specialty and regional knowledge, but was conscious she was possibly overdue for a change. She sought advice from a senior executive and was offered a role to lead a new technical area in a global capacity in Markets Risk. She was worried the team may see her lacking specific credentials to become their boss.
“I felt I was late to learn new technical skills. Members in my new team had been performing specialist work for a very long time,” Ho says. “But the senior executive encouraged me to take up the challenge. He acknowledged I didn't have advanced quantitative skills and encouraged me not to emphasize it too much as a weakness. He put me there to further develop my leadership skills and management style. On reflection, it was the right time for some humbling learning experiences”. Now Ho describes that career move as an excellent step in her career.
Women in leadership
ANZ has a strong reputation for supporting women in leadership roles. Ho’s first two managers were women and they encouraged and inspired her. Her two subsequent male managers continued to be strong supporters giving her a great deal of autonomy.
“I’ve worked with female CEOs for the last 10 years in Hong Kong. They role modelled how women (and specifically Asian women) can thrive professionally and have a fulfilling personal life.” ANZ is committed to increasing the representation of women in leadership in its business and has a public target to do so. “We regularly discuss how we can support female colleagues progress in their careers,” says Ho.
Ho thinks women generally worry more than men and experience greater self-doubt. It has been well reported in outlets such as Forbes and Harvard Business Review that men will apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications but women apply only if they meet 100 percent. “Or, 120 percent!” said Ho.
“It is important to have different dynamics in the team. Not just gender but cultural background and age. It helps you open up and see how people perceive and consider things from different perspectives. I have had very diverse teams at ANZ.”
“The future of banking is not boring. A lot of our work is about breaking the mould and innovating in an industry that is hundreds of years old,” says Ho. “Young people with bright and highly adaptive minds are always in demand. They will excel if they demonstrate the versatility and new ways of thinking to disrupt and transform.”
And with leaders like Ho at the helm to guide colleagues on their career path, success is a path best shared.