Outspoken and entrepreneurial even as a student, Elaine Heng was a member of the Literary Drama and Debating Society and, with a few friends, even set up a shop selling handicrafts at Harbourfront Centre. A Marketing major, she “never wanted to be a banker” after graduation, but found herself turning down a position with a consumer goods firm and landing up instead at a local bank. “The rest, as they say, is history,” says the now 37-year-old Standard Chartered regional head of integrated distribution (Singapore and Southeast Asia).
Known for her analytical mind and trained to speak up, she caught the attention of Standard Chartered Group CEO Peter Sands at a diversity and inclusion forum in 2007, and later at a presentation, and was asked to London to head up his office as chief of staff. That same year she won The Asian Banker Promising Young Banker award.
Reflecting on her London stint, she says: “It broadened my horizons and challenged me to think broader on a strategic level, honing my skill sets to be both ‘on the balcony and on the dance floor’ — if we want to affect what is happening, we must be ‘on the dance floor’, but the only way to gain a clearer view of reality and perspective is to be distancing ourselves from the fray ‘on the balcony’.”
Now regional head of integrated distribution, she is responsible for Standard Chartered’s distribution structure to deliver a consistent customer experience and for sales management across all distribution touch points. This includes the management of Priority and International Banking relationship managers, branches, contact centre, online-banking and mobile-banking.
According to Heng, the future is bright for the financial services sector. “It is a dynamic industry and I do expect it to continue to grow as a proxy to the Singapore economy. This will also be in line with the government’s focus on growing higher value-added industries.”