Taking the Lead in Banking

Jenny Xu Zanjun

Deputy Chief Executive of Bank of China

“I do not want to disappoint those who placed their trust in me so I will always look to the future and do my best to earn and deserve their trust.”

The year 2011 is a turning point in Jenny Xu Zanjun’s career in banking, after having worked in the industry for more than 14 years. That was the year that she was thrust into a position most in the industry coveted, that is, to lead the Bank of China in Malaysia as its Deputy Chief Executive. Being chosen to lead the bank in a foreign land far from home is no easy task, especially when very few others get this chance, particularly women. However, for this determined 43-year-old, being given this position is a challenge that she took in her stride.

Xu admits that though the banking industry is not exactly male-dominated as compared to other more masculine-inclined industries, it is no walk in the park for women to climb the corporate ladder within the industry. The fact that very few women of high ranking positions are posted overseas in the Bank of China is proof that it takes sheer determination to make it to the top. “If a woman wants to climb to the top in the banking industry, she must perform exceptionally and she must also put in a lot of effort, hard work and determination, even more than her male counterpart,” she shares.

Naturally, for most women, many would have to divide their time between their family, marriage and their career which makes it even more challenging for them to succeed in the career. Sometimes, sacrifices are required for one to succeed and unfornately for Xu, it meant losing out on marriage and family life as she is now single. Nonetheless, the career woman did not regret choosing to concentrate more on her career. Instead of dwelling on what she doesn’t have, this strong-willed woman always looks towards the future. “I do not want to disappoint those who placed their trust in me so I will always look to the future, do my best to earn and deserve their trust and in turn, this gave me the strength to push on for the bank and for my career,” she said.

Bank of China opened its very first branch in Malaysia back in 1939 but it ceased operations about 20 years later. However, that is not the last of the Chinese bank in Malaysia as it reopened as a full-fledged commercial bank here in 2001. In all these years, the Bank of China has always emphasized on a customer-centric approach so when Xu took over the helm more than 4 years ago, she was faced with the challenge of ensuring that the bank is able to meet the expectations of its loyal clientele. “Many of our loyal clients look towards our bank as a symbol of China so they have very high expectations of first-class service and utmost professionalism,” she said.

Today, the challenges the bank faced is much more diverse than merely meeting customer expectations. Xu said leading a bank back in China where its services and systems have been perfected over the years is vastly different from leading the very same bank far away from China, in a land where banking systems are different and its services have to be changed to suit the locality. “The banking system in Malaysia are different from what is practised in China,” she explained. This is a challenge that she has to overcome when she first arrived here and even now, her focus has always been improving the bank’s system to provide exemplary services to its clients.

“We need to continuously improve our systems, the quality of our products and services because we are not only looking at the end profit but also working towards our goal of becoming a first-class sustainable international bank,”she said. The Bank of China has indeed left its mark in Malaysia as it played a pivotal role in promoting stronger bilateral trade between China and Malaysia. The bank has also spread its presence here with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Muar, Penang, Klang, Johor Bahru and Puchong. Furthermore, Bank of China was also the authorised bank to offer real-time gross settlement services in Renminbi through the Real-time Electronic Transfer of Funds and Settlement System (RENTAS).

Xu said the banking industry in Malaysia is a mature one now, which is why Bank of China has the confidence in setting up roots here while encouraging bilateral trades between China and Malaysia. She believed that through constant communication with the Malaysian government, it could play an important role to continue building closer trade connections between both countries. “The financial prospects in Malaysia is still bright because despite the devaluation of the ringgit in recent times, I think it is strong enough to overcome and rise above it,” she said. She noted that with Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz leading Bank Negara Malaysia as its governor, she is certain that Malaysia’s banking industry will stay stable and strong in years to come.

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