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Woman of substance

Published on Friday, 08 Mar 2013
Rosemarie Kriesel
Photo: Berton Chang

Rosemarie Kriesel believes women thrive by finding what really excites them

Whenever things get a little out of balance for Rosemarie Kriesel, country executive and general manager – Hong Kong at BNY Mellon, an article from a 2001 issue of the Harvard Business Review, kept in her desk, never fails to lift her competitive spirit. Entitled “The Making of a Corporate Athlete”, the article suggests that “if executives are to perform at high levels over the long haul … they need to train in the same systemic, multilevel way that world-class athletes do”.

Besides her family and the investment management business, staying fit is one of Kriesel’s major passions. She runs 20 kilometres and spends at least three hours in the gym every week. She ardently believes that without good physical strength and stamina, it is impossible to sustain the energy levels needed for both succeeding at work and enjoying life.

“On the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people recover energy as on how they manage their life and work,” she says. “If you’re strong and resilient physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, then you’ll be able to perform better and have a more enjoyable existence.”

Finding time to fit in her exercise regime, however, is not always easy. She considers a lack of time to be one of the biggest challenges in her profession, especially as she also sets herself strong family commitments, such as dining with her three teenage children at least four times a week.

She believes she’s able to achieve a decent work-life balance through the help of supportive colleagues, enthusiastic and energetic staff, and a strong home network, but it could always be better. “I don’t think there’s ever a perfect balance,” she says. “There are simply times when more energy has to be devoted to one area of your life than another.”

Another of her favourite readings – an article from a 2009 issue of The McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Centered leadership: How talented women thrive” – advocates the importance of women balancing their energy flows, basing their priorities on the activities that energise them both at work and at home, and actively managing resources to avoid suffering a burnout. “Finding out what really excites them – what they enjoy doing – that’s where their energy needs to go,” she says.

In addition to family and fitness, Kriesel acknowledges that it would be almost impossible for her to successfully manage her multiple roles at home and in the office without strong community support.

“Here in Hong Kong, whatever community you’re in, you have all these circles of people that you interact with. All these circles come closer together and there are more connections between people you work with, friends and the community. I consider many of my close friends as family and they help me balance that work-life perspective.”

A Canadian chartered accountant, Kriesel’s professional journey began at university when trying to decide what career to pursue. She had two uncles – one a lawyer, the other a chartered accountant – who tried to sway her choice. She eventually decided that she was more interested in accounting.

“I’ve always wanted to know exactly how companies work, how they operate and what brings it all together, so I pursued the accounting profession from that perspective,” she says.

Her career took her to Bermuda and Luxembourg before she came to Hong Kong in 1993.

Drawing on over 25 years of experience, she says that it is important for people in financial services to be actively involved in all aspects of their company, as well as related functions within the industry.

“It’s not just about coming to work and leaving, but of giving yourself, getting involved, and trying to learn as much as you can. It’s really about approaching every task with the objective of making a difference,” she says.

With the financial sector being a very broad industry, she also urges newcomers to quickly determine what it is that drives them. “Whether that’s marketing, client-servicing or the technical side, pursue it and learn as much as you can. Then look for opportunities and the right mentors who can give you the best advice to help you achieve your goals.”

She adds that as those goals are achieved and the career ladder climbed, it is important to be able to relate to other people. “Be able to put yourself in their position, be it a client, a fellow employee or anyone else. If you can bring that human aspect to the workplace, and make things more fun and interesting, you’ll be able to achieve better results because you’ll know where people are coming from.”

Besides her high-level management responsibilities, Kriesel is actively involved in BNY Mellon’s employee-engagement and mentoring programmes.

“Our company’s Employee Engagement Committee enables an open channel of communication. We have representatives from each area of the bank. We meet on a monthly basis and focus on the work environment, work pressures, networking opportunities, and generally any issues that might cause employees to feel disengaged,” she says.

“We really want our employees to enjoy coming to work and feel valued. Part of that involves understanding and addressing concerns they might have and ensuring we maintain equality across the company.”

Kriesel is also an Asia-Pacific co-chair of BNY Mellon’s Women’s Initiative Network, one of the company’s employee-resource groups.

“Last year we hosted 13 events around the region to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year, we expect to have even more participation. In Hong Kong later this month, we’re hosting a client event on the topic of transformation. We have found some very interesting speakers who will talk about how they’re using their professional skills to help transform other people’s lives,” she says.

She sees a continuing need to support initiatives for women to progress in their careers and for barriers to entry into the top levels of any profession to be eliminated. “I’m encouraged by the recent government proposals to introduce paternity leave. I think it’s a useful first step as it recognises the importance of parenthood and the role of fathers,” she says.

She adds that some of her senior colleagues in the UK have been very involved in the 30% Club, which encourages companies to have at least 30 per cent of their board of directors to be women. This is an initiative she intends to see launched in Hong Kong. “BNY Mellon will be one of the founding members of the 30% Club in Hong Kong,” she says.

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