Maintaining a comfortable balance between work and family life has always been a priority for Yang Ping Choong, chief operating officer for technology and operations at DBS Bank (Hong Kong). In fact, it is one of several reasons she has been with the bank for more than three decades.
“I am still in my first job and still enjoying it,” says the mother of three sons and wife of a lawyer. “I joined DBS because it was the most reputable bank in Singapore with a reputation of caring for its employees. And It still does,” adds Choong, who has played a key role in DBS’s transition from a local bank to a regional player.
Although she keeps her smartphone close by when she is away from her office, Choong points out that working in an environment where work-life balance and Asian family values are recognised is another reason she has been loyal to DBS.
“I believe that striking a comfortable balance between work and quality time spent with my family is key to maintaining a positive attitude and healthy mindset,” says Choong, whose range of responsibilities include being head of a team that implements technology initiatives to meet customers’ increasingly sophisticated expectations.
While she may still be with her first employer, Choong credits her remarkable progress up the career ladder to the diverse professional development opportunities that DBS offers.
“At every stage of my career, I have been able to move to the next level because of excellent training and company support,” she says.
For instance, from an entry-level trainee officer in remittance operations, she was able to move into trade finance and global transaction services and other roles involving increasingly higher levels of competence.
Before moving into her current COO position in 2002, Choong was asked to make the move from Singapore to Hong Kong, where DBS was expanding its operations and had made several strategic business finance acquisitions.
Initially, she was tasked with integrating various business lines, including global transaction services, institutional banking and emerging market operations, where she oversaw cash operations and general management.
“The move to Hong Kong from Singapore with my husband and two sons was quite challenging because we had to leave our eldest son behind to complete his national service,” says Choong. “It was a difficult decision, but it was made a lot easier because of the support I received from my family,” she adds.
Relishing the challenges her work has to offer, Choong says there are always new things to learn. She uses technology as an example.
“I have seen how technology has helped revolutionise the way banking is perceived and conducted. Technology has become like an engine that drives a car,” Choong says, pointing out that technology has grown from being a business enabler to becoming a part of the business process itself.
“I enjoy working with colleagues and being involved in developing solutions that provide customers with new services and multiple banking options,” she says.
Putting work and family balance into perspective, Choong says that at different stages, she has juggled career goals with family commitments. “When my children were very young, I focused more on their education and family needs while ensuring my career still progressed at a steady pace,” she says. “I believe this is a common practice for many Asian families.”
Keen to share her knowledge and experience, Choong advises colleagues to look at their careers over the long term. “This approach has worked for me and I think this is a good way to avoid burn out and still achieve satisfaction.”
Choong also supports the DBS initiative that allows children of staff to visit their parents in the workplace.
A strong believer in education, Choong and her husband have been working in recent years with a charity that provides financial tertiary education support to mainland orphans and young people from less well-off families.
“Seeing the way education makes a difference in young people’s lives has become very meaningful to us as a family,” says Choong.
With one of her sons working in the United States, another in Singapore and her youngest in Hong Kong, Choong arranges meetings – whenever their schedules allow it – with the young mainland people the family sponsors.
Away from the workplace, Choong also enjoys making pottery and serving different types of tea to family and friends. “I developed a fondness for afternoon tea and for teapots while I studied at Warwick University in the UK,” she explains.
Along with her family members, Choong also enjoys combining photography, travel and exploring different cuisines – activities that were most recently put into practice during a family holiday in the French Dordogne region.
“Whether it is through work or spending time with my family, there is always something new to learn or enjoy, so there is no time to be bored,” says Choong.