Women in Charge: Alice Tan, Maybank Head of Wealth Management Singapore

by Portfolio Magazine
Photo courtesy of Maybank
06 Mar 2024

This month, we celebrate female visionaries who are at the forefront of their respective industries. From finance and skincare to architecture and design, these industry gamechangers open up about their individual journeys towards success.

For Alice Tan, Maybank Head of Wealth Management Singapore, it’s all about humanizing financial services. Leading by example, she makes sure her team is able to build close-knit banking relationships, and at the same time, understand every client’s background and investment objectives.

Can you paint us a picture of your journey in the field of private wealth and how you eventually landed the role at Maybank as Head of Wealth Management Singapore?
I started my Private Banking journey in 2007 at Coutts & Co and was given the opportunity to lead a team of Investment Consultants within a year of joining.  After spending five and a half years there, I joined Credit Suisse in a front-line role doing Discretionary Mandate Sales.

In 2014, I joined Maybank Singapore as the Head of Investment Consultants in Maybank Private Wealth and assumed the role of Head of Products and Investment Solutions in 2016 before double-hatting as Head of Private Wealth in 2017.

I am thankful that I have had a fulfilling career in private wealth and was recognized as the “Female Private Banker of the Year” at the Global Private Banking Innovation Awards in 2022, which is a great encouragement to me.

What were some challenges you’ve encountered in your career, particularly when it comes to being a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry? How did you tackle these challenges and how do you hope to inspire the next generation of female professionals?
I am a working mother with multiple roles – a mother, wife, daughter, and employee, and I have to juggle my time between work and family. It was especially tougher when my children were in their growing up years as I had to care for their needs and spend quality time with them. Looking back, I am grateful to have had strong support from my family, and hence, I was able to focus on building my career.

Being in a male-dominated industry, it is not uncommon at times to be the only female in a meeting room and find myself in situations where I am unable to fully participate in conversations relating to sports, for example.

Despite it being a male-dominated industry, I did not experience differential treatment from my male bosses, who have always been very supportive of my career aspirations. 

I was very fortunate to have a very good female boss and mentor when I started my private banking career. She inspired and guided a diverse team to achieve the company’s goals, and we had great camaraderie. We are friends till today and frequently meet up.

As I have been inspired by her leadership and the impact she made on the team, I have taken on the mantle of leading the next generation of female leaders as the Chairperson of the Women’s Council in Maybank Singapore.

I mentor four younger female Maybankers, and this is a space for me to inspire, encourage and advise them on their career development paths, as well as guide them to be effective leaders. 

(Related: Eurokars' Charmain Kwee on driving the family legacy)

How do you challenge, encourage, and nurture those working with you? How do you think your leadership style has contributed to your team’s customer-centric service approach? 
My leadership style has evolved over the years. I used to be more prescriptive, but now I define the objectives and “end-state” and guide my team to provide the solutions.

To me, the role of a leader is to inspire and motivate my team to realize their potential. I am a relatively hands-on person, and I take time to listen to the aspirations of my team members. This is important to me as I want to help them succeed, and at the same time, I will present challenges and opportunities for my team to learn and grow and showcase their individual talents/expertise.

Similarly, I encourage my team to constantly listen to our customers’ needs and inculcate a “never say No” mindset in them as we need to actively seek to provide solutions to our customers. This is all part of being customer-centric, and I am heartened that my team is doing that very well.

Following the celebration of Maybank Private Wealth’s 10th anniversary, what is the next milestone you are looking forward to?
The next milestone for me would be for Maybank to be one of the top 20 Private Banks in Asia Pacific, and we are confident of achieving this as we continue to expand our wealth management footprint and offerings within ASEAN, committed to serving with excellence and personalized service.

(Related: A woman's journey in design and leadership)

What were some highlights during your time at Maybank that made an impression on you?
The pandemic period was a period for us to quickly adapt and pivot to remote advisory, which was a drastic switch from the face-to-face meetings we have been used to. It left a deep impression that Private Banking is all about building relationships. Looking back, we were agile to adapt to this totally new modus operandi very swiftly. This was made possible as we tapped into multiple virtual touchpoints to connect with our clients seamlessly and with excellent service delivery. It was a collective effort by everyone, and I am proud of that.

On the personal front, I am a certified TCM practitioner. During the pandemic, I wanted to continue my weekly consultations at the clinic and needed to overcome my fear of being potentially infected. I am glad I did what I needed to do, as I know I have helped many. 

“Humanising financial services” is a mission that Maybank is currently championing. Can you tell us why this is important?
Humanising Financial Services has always been in our DNA. It is our mission to embed it in everything we do, including enhancing the customer experience.

Banking is a “people business”, and in Private Banking, our relationships with clients are paramount – and transcend beyond transactions.” Humanising Financial Services” is demonstrated from the top management to the front-liners who greet our customers daily, and every Maybank staff embeds this at work and in our interactions with colleagues and clients.

Many of our Relationship Managers have been working with us for many years, and they have progressed in their career and life stages together with the same group of customers. What makes a difference for our clients is this personal touch, sense of continuity, and the keen knowledge that our Relationship Managers offer.

What can clients and potential clients look forward to when working with you and the team?
Even as the banking industry evolves towards greater digitization, our commitment remains to providing the personal touch with clients while seamlessly integrating the use of new technology and Artificial Intelligence into our services.

We continuously explore emerging trends and technologies to provide clients with the most relevant solutions, ensuring they stay ahead in an ever-evolving financial landscape.

Our priority is to understand our clients’ unique needs and aspirations and craft bespoke solutions that will empower them to achieve their goals.