KOREA - Park Hyun-nam, the first female branch head of a foreign investment bank in Korea, does not believe women should be confined to "gentle leadership."
In an interview with The Korea Herald, Park said she was given the job based on her superior work efficiency and also time management skills ― both essential for her as she juggles the multiple roles of a parent and businesswoman.
Park took on the job as the co-branch manager of Deutsche Bank Korea in September 2013.
She's the first woman to fill the role as well as the first Korean to be internally promoted to a branch manager.
Park's career in finance began in 1993 at the Seoul unit of French-based BNP Paribas, prior to joining Deutsche Bank in 1999 in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.
"More than 50 per cent of the workforce at most banks are women in their 20s. In comparison, only about 20 per cent of women in their 40s remain working there, with the number shrinking to less than 5 per cent for women in their 50s," Park noted, stressing that the glass ceiling is still thick.
Currently, around two-thirds of Deutsche Bank Korea employees are women.
To have a lasting career, the manager advised women to enlist nothing less than unconditional support from their families and the company.
Even with such support from her daughter, Park said, parenthood is still full of challenges such as the frequent visits requested by schools, assignments and, last but not least, preparing for her child's adolescence.
Back in the office, Park has to guide 200 employees, and her job includes demonstrating her leadership to help the bank make more profit. Facilitating communication between employees and also with the country's top financial regulators is just another part of the job.
"Before taking the post, success and failure were all exclusively private, but now I feel a bigger responsibility, especially in terms of female leadership," Park said, adding that becoming the first non-Korean to fill the post piled on more pressure.
She did predict that the glass ceiling for women in the financial sector would gradually dissipate over the next 10 years, as she is already finding many women outperforming their male colleagues in trading, sales, risk management and analysis.
When asked if the promotion war is more brutal between women, she denied it, saying, "They are both just as competitive."
Rather, she said it was more difficult for women to squeeze into a realm already preoccupied with men.
Men are often associated with their school ties ― which stretch to college, high school and even middle school ― in forming their business networks, whereas women, without many female mentors at the top are mostly judged on their specific achievements, Park suggested.
All this aside, the foremost challenge is that Park came to command in a difficult time for the foreign banks, because of the very tight margin resulting from the ample US dollar liquidity in Korea.
Further, the toughened global regulatory environment, as reflected in Basel III, the EMIR and the Dodd Frank Act, and the falling market volatility in the financial market added to her responsibility as a branch manager.
To counter such challenges, Park is betting big on Deutsche Bank's reform efforts based on the six values of integrity training, sustainable performance, client centricity, innovation, discipline and partnership.