Vivaciously charming and full of smiles, Chaleeya “Cherry” Pasawongse is a woman of many facets. On the one hand you’ve got a convivial banker and high-flying businesswoman, on the other you see a hilarious friend, a loving wife, and a doting mother. In all cases, a true joy to be around. Hailing from a family rooted in selling medical equipment and ambulances, Cherry made a name for herself as a banking professional before marrying into the illustrious Hua Seng Heng family. In an exclusive interview with Prestige, Cherry shares her view on family, watch collecting, and her investment strategies during these pandemic-rocked times.
Her childhood dream was to be a beauty queen.
“When I was young, I wanted to be a beauty queen,” Cherry confesses with a laugh. Though she jokes about the silliness of it all, her elegant poise and stunner-looks make the idea not quite so far-fetched. As dreams come and go, she tells us that her goals today are quite different from the ones she had as a child.
Cherry now spends her days juggling between family, her role as senior VP at Hua Seng Heng Gold Futures, and tending to her additional businesses — Korean restaurant Jukkumi, and Mind and More, an upcoming hair brand she created with a fellow celebrity.
She once held a job at Siam City Bank — which operated from 1941 to 2010.
Cherry admits that she followed a rather conventional upbringing, growing up in Bangkok and studying in Mater Dei throughout her school years, before pursuing commerce and accounting at Chulalongkorn University — a path she describes as “quite general, but also a choice you can’t really go wrong with.” She explains that back in her day, there wasn’t so much guidance available. “Students these days are much more clear-sighted about their future and what to study,” she tells us, “thanks to better counseling and guidance at schools. But one of the things I really appreciate from all my schooling years are the friendships that I’ve formed, and those I still retain to this day.”
As for her first job, Cherry giggles at how working at Siam City Bank let’s on which era she hails from. Now at 37, she muses on how being an investment banker back then was extremely tough. “Again, from the lack of guidance, I thought it’d be cool to be accessing a company’s valuation. The account I got was an oil company though, so it was a really rough job. I’d be climbing oil rigs in the blazing sun and digging through boxes and boxes of documents looking for certain figures. I really went the wrong way there!”
She met her husband at Sasin, and helped build Thailand’s first gold futures market.
Cherry tells us that she’d gotten accepted to grad school in the UK, but changed her mind at the very last minute and decided to study at Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration. “I guess it was really meant to be, because Sasin was where I met Vee, and it led the way to where my life is currently.”
This much is true. Cherry had met her future-husband Yosavee “Vee” Pasawongse — third-gen scion of the Hua Seng Heng family — during their Sasin years, and they both started dating in 2007. After tying the knot in 2011, she left her banking role at Kasikorn Bank to help Vee build his upcoming business — Hua Seng Heng Gold Futures. Leveraging her previous experiences and customer-centric attitude, she helped to find customers and hosted joint seminars with the Stock Exchange of Thailand, helping to usher in the first gold futures market in Thailand. Though they had to force close after prices dropped drastically overnight a few years ago, Cherry foresees the indispensable role a gold futures market will likely play in the future, when investment becomes more globalised.
Her investment tip: “do a lot of research before you get into anything.”
Having begun investing right out of university, Cherry is now a seasoned investor, with a portfolio of stocks, gold bars, and some gold futures. Her advice on investing during these unpredictable, pandemic-rocked times? Extreme caution.
“We don’t know if the second wave [of infections] will hit around the world, so it’s best to be careful and always have cash on hand,” she explains. “Assess how much risk you can take and do a lot of research before you get into anything. There’s always waves of emotions that will surround you, where you’re feeling impulsive and ready to take chances. I think Thai people tend to bite off more than they can chew sometimes. It all looks great, and you just want to dive in, but that emotion is something you need to curtail. I used to be like that too, but after a while I paced myself and became more careful.”
Her only exception? Watches.
“”Let’s make an exception for emotions when it comes to watches,” Cherry says with a laugh, showing us the latest addition to her timepiece collection — an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked. A rose-gold beauty, she explains that the timepiece stands out for its skeletal designs, which reveals the complex mechanisms inside. “It’s hard to answer why I love watches, but it’s the same feeling you get when meeting someone and you feel like you’re meant to be together,” she muses, telling us that she’s been into watches since middle school, when her parents would reward her with Casios or G-Shocks for good marks.
“I choose my timepieces based on that ‘love at first sight’ reaction. Each brand offers a variety of timepieces but it’s impossible to buy them all, so you go for the one that strikes a chord with you most.” She goes on to explain that, while she doesn’t intend for her watches to be investments, they are undoubtedly assets to hold on to, and often increase in value with time.
Investment pro aside, she’s also a happy mother of two.
While her high-flying career is one thing, another side of Cherry is that of a happy mum. Much of her time during this new normal is spent coming up with activities for her three-year-old son Yosapat “Tham” and one-year-old daughter Chermavee “Leah”. Going beyond brownie baking, or drawing solar systems, she’s recently taken to turning the pandemic itself into a positive learning experience, by getting her kids to help pack relief packages for the underprivileged. “I want my kids to learn and understand that people are living through rough times. What can we do? Now more than ever it’s a time where we need to get up to help our fellow countrymen.”
Though she’s rather busy, Cherry has happily settled into this phase of her life. “Whenever I’m tired or discouraged, I remind myself that I’m just a tiny speck in this world and there are other people much more troubled than I am,” she tells us. “I think the reason I am happy is because I recognise that there are so many things to be grateful for. My kids are cute, there’s good food, and my in-laws and family are lovely et cetera.” As for how she approaches child-raising, Cherry doesn’t want to pin them with expectations, but rather continues to welcome change. As an example, she tells us that her son does not like football, despite her own passion for the sport as a kid. “I wanted him to play but he doesn’t like it at all. I don’t think it’s something I should stress out over though. If he doesn’t like it, then so be it. I’d rather he just grow up to be happy, and a good person towards himself, his family, and society. I believe that children who are happy will grow up to return something to society. Who knows, maybe he’ll like football in the future. Things change all the time. It’s much like how today I no longer want to be a beauty queen at all.”
Find out more about Chaleeya “Cherry” Pasawongse in our June 2020 issue, available in all leading bookstores nationwide.
Photographer: Virunan Chiddaycha
Stylist: Ammara Yavilas
Makeup: Nontalee Wongpeng
Hair: Narongsak Yiamlaengamkool
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul
Watch: Audemars Piguet
Location: Khun by Yoo