“I’ve seen the virtual environment push people outside their normal comfort zone and prompt them to ask more questions, and that’s a good thing … but, most important, be true to your own personality.”
- Vivian Hsu, Director, ETFs, Fidelity Investments Canada
Vivian Hsu, Director, ETFs, Fidelity Investments Canada, sees a silver lining in the work-from-home culture forced on the industry by the COVID-19 pandemic: virtual platforms are helping some women in finance feel more comfortable speaking up – and when women’s voices are heard, their diverse perspectives can strengthen teams and help shape decisions at every level of the organization.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in finance?
My interest in finance started back in school. By the time I graduated from the University of Toronto, where I studied commerce, I already knew I wanted to get into the field. But I didn’t know how to do it, so my first job was outside the industry, in internet advertising. Then I pursued my CFA, and that led me to where I am today. I like the analytical nature of finance. I like working with numbers – both the certainty and the flexibility. The more you look at different sets of numbers, the more you can see different interpretations. That keeps things very interesting, as does working in an ever-evolving industry.
What helped you succeed?
The people I’ve met along the way helped me succeed. I didn’t actively seek out mentors, but I had good luck in terms of having good people around me. Different managers through different roles have provided guidance in terms of what I needed to do and work on. Seeing how they approached work taught me a lot. I learned by immersing myself in the whole experience and, over time, I observed how people behave and react in different scenarios and rise to different challenges. That prompted me to continue my journey and broaden my network inside and outside Fidelity.
What is your approach to leadership?
My approach to leadership is really “practise what you preach.” I think leading by example is the best way of organizing a team. I aim to motivate people to achieve a shared goal and to have a core focus on what we need to achieve day to day and within the year, while still giving everyone the flexibility to pursue their own interests, find things they want to do and branch out.
How can engaging women in leadership roles have a positive impact on a company?
Cultivating different points of view and having diversity within your leadership circle means different opinions and life experiences can enhance how the group as a whole views challenges and plans to tackle issues. It goes beyond gender – having a diverse leadership team, having different voices and listening to those different voices can have such a positive impact.
We try different things and listen to different opinions from people all over the organization and incorporate that feedback. That’s worked well for us, especially during COVID.
How do you keep your work and your life in balance?
I work long hours but, once I log off, I try not to bring work home. I have a dog that brings me a lot of laughter. I also think it’s important to have good, solid relationships at work – that brings joy into the workplace. I’ve built a network of friends at work as well, and that helps balance out the stress that comes with any role.
How has the pandemic affected the way you work?
Initially, it was tough. But a few months into it, we’re getting to a new phase, a new normal, and work-life balance is coming back. Having to work through a virtual platform means there are certain things you have to do more deliberately. For example, it used to be easier for people to acquire new skill sets or talk to others to learn what other departments were working on. Now we’ve lost the environment where you can walk by other people’s desks and say hello or bump into someone in the kitchen. That means you have to make more of an effort to book meetings to catch up with people. That’s something new that I’m pushing myself and my team to do.
What can the industry do to better support women in finance?
I like the idea of conferences on different topics focused on women in finance, but over time, I hope this will no longer be an issue to tackle and that the industry will look at everyone equally and listen to everyone to learn how we can improve, how different businesses should work together and how the industry can grow together as a whole.
What advice do you have for women who are just starting out in finance?
The biggest advice I give to people is “be yourself.” A lot of people say you need to speak up, you need to ask a lot of questions, you need to be the one raising your hand. But I think if you’re not comfortable doing that, the people around you will see through it. So, try to be more comfortable asking questions – for example, set a goal of asking one question a day. Also, listen, read articles and talk to different people to open that door for yourself. I’ve seen the virtual environment push people outside their normal comfort zone and prompt them to ask more questions, and that’s a good thing. Speaking up helps build networks and experience and also makes people remember you. But, most important, be true to your own personality and don’t try to fake it.
October 20, 2020