by Patty Mah
Waterloo alum, Carmen Chung (MAcc ’10, CPA – Hong Kong, Illinois, Ontario) leveraged the international exposure she’s gained from having worked in Toronto, New York and Hong Kong to build a career that has led to an exciting and unique career in investments, accounting, finance, and beyond. The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) caught up with Chung to learn more about her career vision and how she’s navigated a dynamic global journey.
Chung is one of the youngest female Managing Directors in the asset management industry in Asia. In her current role as the Head of Finance and Business Advisory for the Asia General Account Investments at Manulife, Chung leads a team responsible for the establishment and management of several new asset management companies across Asia & Europe, a function which focuses on investments of on-balance sheet assets. Her mandate also includes overseeing the finance, strategy, and expansion of investment capabilities for the business regionally.
Chung’s leadership in this unique role encompassing business oversight and entrepreneurial business development for investments aligns well with her career vision of being on the forefront of growth for the business and contributing value in the ever-expanding financial industry. Expansion opportunities within Asia are what drives Chung and her team at Manulife to navigate complex structures, enabling her team to make an impact across the region by leveraging technology to grow and adapt to the new parameters driven by the markets, regulations and the macro environment.
“It is very rewarding to see us developing new investment capabilities and moving boundaries in the industry for our clients. Looking back, I’ve come to the realization that the well-rounded business training gained from SAF and mindset developed from the assurance practice provides us with an invaluable foundation.” – Chung.
PIVOTING FOR THE BUSINESSES
Having transitioned from more traditional finance roles within Manulife to where she is now, Chung highlights that each opportunity had a cumulative effect enabling her to utilize the unique combination of her past experiences to deliver value for the business.
In her current role, Chung built a team to expertly navigate the complex combination of regulatory, accounting, tax, and business constraints to set up new operating asset management companies. The key to success for the team has been its ability to adapt and stay resilient. “Investing for an insurance company requires contemplation of solutions and there are many external unpredictable factors that have implications on how we operate; whether it is from the market movement, regulation change or new product, we have to reprioritize and pivot quickly to stay ahead,” explains Chung. “When COVID-19 hit, we took it as an opportunity to enhance our investment portfolio review and expedite technology adoption. The continuous developments across the many countries in the region is also what keeps it most exciting in Asia.”
Propelled by her highly transferrable accounting and finance skillset, Chung embarked on a career that had her traversing financial centres of the world before landing in Hong Kong. Chung’s first work-related travel outside Ontario as an accounting co-op student was to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in -40°C weather during the middle of winter. The experience motivated Chung to continue exploring international opportunities after graduation. Building from her experience in Toronto working on US hedge funds, Chung moved to New York City to expand into the private equity sector. From there, Chung moved across the globe to Hong Kong to work for Manulife covering Asia. Her foundation in accounting as well as experiences gained in both the public and private asset sectors proved highly valuable for pivoting into her current role where she is responsible for a range of investment disciplines across the region.
“You never know what expertise may become useful for the future with the globalized world as it is today. If you are open to working in different cities or countries the opportunities can be endless.” – Chung
On her perspectives for SAF graduates contemplating next career options, Chung believes it’s beneficial to stay open minded to opportunities that come along. “Having the SAF training means having a strong foundation to make endless choices and take calculated risks to follow your passions. The post-COVID-19 world is unpredictable; so stay nimble, curious and enjoy the ride.”