An Interview with Bonnie Cheuk, Global Head of Digital, Knowledge & Collaboration at Euroclear
MAY 30, 2017
"The whole technology field is evolving; people of various backgrounds with different skill sets enter the industry. I think this trend will continue into the future, as user-centric technologies and consumer-like user experience becomes increasingly important"
What do Euroclear do?
Euroclear provides the financial services industry post trade services. So essentially, we provide settlement, safe-keeping and servicing of domestic and cross-border securities, from bonds, equities and derivatives to investment funds. We connect over 2,000 financial market participants across the globe and ensure securities transactions are processed safely and efficiently. As an open and resilient infrastructure, we help clients cut through complexity, lower costs and mitigate risks.
How would you describe your role as Head of Digital to someone who does not work in the technology industry?
My role is to transform the way of we work at Euroclear using digital technologies. I ask myself everyday: What are the opportunities to improve the experience of employees at work? What are the opportunities to improve how we communicate and engage with our clients and external stakeholders? As the Head of Digital, I do not just think about tools and technologies; I focus on business strategy and I partner with business stakeholders to ensure digital support their business goals. I ask what does the business want to achieve? Where are the opportunities to introduce digital technologies to create more value for our employees, our clients, our external stakeholders? There is no end to digital transformation, which is why I am always learning and experimenting and I love it!
Have you always worked in tech? If not, where were you before? Please briefly describe your career path.
Surprisingly, I have never worked in a technology organisation. However, I have always worked to understand business requirements, the needs of users and how best to meet and exceed their expectation with new information technologies.
My doctorate research in Information Seeking and User Behavior in the Workplace contributed to my knowledge of understanding how people naturally look for information and experts in the workplace, which in turn has led me on a journey to find ways to bridge the gap between business and IT to give users what they want. I am forever indebted to Dr Brenda Dervin for her Sense-Making Methodology which has influenced all my work.
After completing my PhD, I joined Arthur Andersen Business Consulting focusing on knowledge management practice. Eventually, I worked my way up to be a senior executive (aka "intrapreneur") in various multinational companies (British Council, Scottish Government, ERM, Citigroup, IBM, Euroclear), working alongside the C-Suite, helping them to design programs and roll out technologies which improve the flow of ideas, information and knowledge.
The buzzwords referring to what I do have changed throughout my career, ranging from e-commerce, data warehouse, knowledge management, communities of practice, social business, enterprise 2.0, digital transformation, agile, responsive organisation, future of work. To me, the principles are the same - a focus on business strategy, understanding users' needs, empowering them with tools that fit their hands.
In 2013, I published a book titled 'Social Strategies in Action: Driving Business Transformation' which is made up of a dozen case studies that explain how we are able to use social and collaborative technologies to change the way we work inside a company.
What were the top three factors that contributed to you working in technology?
The top 3 factors are:
1. My passion and interest in people and how they interact with information (and not just technologies). I am fortunate enough to be able to apply what I have learnt from my university days to my day-to-day work.
2. Provides an opportunity to play a key role in creating, designing and introducing information services and tools which serve people's needs
3. Technology is always evolving which means I am always learning. Not many fields force you to learn as quickly as I have been.
What was your favourite subject at school and what did you want to be when you grew up?
Humanities subjects. I grew up in Hong Kong. When I was at school, students were divided into two streams at 14 years old. I had to choose between humanities and science. I did not have a particular favourite subject nor did I have a career in mind. I knew that I was a 'people person' and enjoyed humanities subjects more.
What were your top three chosen subjects at GCSE, not including the compulsory Maths, English and Science?
I was the top student in the humanities group. I think my top 3 subjects were Humanities (History/Geography), Economics and Public Affair and English Literature.
If you went onto Higher Education, what did you study?
I achieved a Bachelor of Social Science in Economics from the Chinese University in Hong Kong. I then went on to Aberystwyth University to study for a Masters in Library and Information Studies and finally a doctorate in Information Seeking and User Behaviour in the Work Place. During that time, I also spent the time researching information literacy in the workplace.
What was your first job out of education?
My first job can be described as a 'baby step' to getting into the field of online information/ knowledge management. I worked as a cataloguer at the Hong Kong Hospital Authority Library. My role consisted of indexing and cataloguing books to become easily retrievable online for library customers. The real perk was that I had access to a lot of new (management) books, which I read before they went on the shelves.
What do you think the perception of the technology industry is to people outside of the industry? Do you think it's accurate? If not, what would you do to change this?
Generally, people assume those in the tech industry are techies and geeks, with engineering degrees. Some perceive us to have poor social and communication skills, and only write in code and speak to computers.
In reality, the whole technology field is evolving; people of various backgrounds with different skill sets enter the industry. I think this trend will continue into the future, as user-centric technologies and consumer-like user experience becomes increasingly important.
What do you think businesses can do to help with the gender imbalance in tech?
I am aware that there has always been a gender divide in the technology industry. Recently, I attended a mobile technology event and I was alarmed that in a crowd of more than 100 participants, only 2 were female (myself included). If we want to continue to transform the technology field, it is important to promote challenge, have the correct skills and a diverse pool of talent, whether the candidate is male or female. One reason why it is difficult to attract women into technology is because there are less female candidates choosing to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. To overcome this, businesses should adapt their recruiting practices to focus on attracting and recruiting women, perhaps by ensuring there are at least two women in their list of potential candidates to show that the business is serious about encouraging diversity.
Secondly, it is important for a company to have a focus on ensuring that there are both male and female representatives of their company, more specifically when recruiting for technology. For example, a diverse interview panel or a diverse panel of speakers at careers fairs shows that diversity and equality in gender is at the fore-front of a company.
Does your company have any formal initiatives in place to encourage more Women into Technology?
Yes - one initiative Euroclear support is STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) to encourage girls to study these subjects and increase the number of women in technology in the long term. Euroclear are proud partners with two non-profit organisations: CoderDojo and Greenlight for Girls. In partnership with CoderDojo Belgium, Euroclear hosted a dedicated event for girls at our company premises in Belgium to provide an insight into the world of technology at Euroclear. Alongside Greenlight for Girls, a few Euroclear employees volunteered at an event at the International School of Brussels to show young girls in a fun and interactive way what we do at Euroclear. Both events played part in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and also highlight the exciting opportunities for women in technology at Euroclear.
One does not have to look any further than the top of our management structure to see our diversity, which includes our recently appointed CEO Lieve Mostrey and Euroclear's ESES CSD's (Euroclear Belgium, Euroclear France, Euroclear Nederland CEO, Brigitte Daurelle.
Overall, Euroclear supports a company culture where both men and women can balance work and life commitments, providing all our employees with equal opportunities to advance their careers.
What do you think keeps people happy and productive at work?
I believe in 3 principles:
1. A friendly and motivating work environment makes a happy workplace, which in turn encourages staff productivity and engagement
2. Knowing that my tasks are purposeful and can add value to business and to people
3. Ensure staff continue to be exposed to new ideas and continue to have learning opportunity at work
What are your favourite things about working in the tech industry?
I have the opportunity to learn something new each day. In the digital world, technology is constantly evolving and there are always new opportunities to transform the way we work. In the past 5 years, a new wave of social intranet, networking and collaboration technologies have surged in popularity and most companies do not realise the extent of just how much these platforms create value for their employees, and how they can redefine what is work and what the future of work looks like. I am glad I play a part in shaping the future of digital in the workplace. In the space of marketing and communication, digital has transformed consumer experience, giving a voice and choice to customers. In turn, this fundamentally challenges existing business models, provides new opportunities but also threats. The World Economic Forum calls this period the '4th industrial revolution'.
What has been your biggest achievement in your career in tech so far?
My biggest achievement has been throughout my careers. It is my ability to work with individuals across hierarchal and geographical boundaries and to help them see how emerging technologies can change the way they work. At ERM, Citibank and Euroclear, I led the introduction of a new internal social intranet, social networking and collaborative platform. The interactive intranet encourages our employees across all time zones to seamlessly communicate and exchange ideas and information with one another. Users are able to draw on each other's suggestions in order to work better, learn and grow together in a way that makes them feel empowered. I have brought a dynamic ecosystem to these companies with the needs of the people in mind. Naturally, there is always resistance to technological change, therefore it is important to encourage change one step at a time. I constantly tell myself "I am not here to tell and dictate people what to do. I am here to create an environment, empower people with tools to get their work done. I am here to enable and to serve."
What one thing would you say to every 11-13 year old in the country to encourage them to consider technology as a career choice?
Try to create something you or your friends enjoy using technologies available to you, and don't just be a passive consumer of technology. See if you enjoy it. For example, design a game or a simple app, take pictures/video and create an album with a special theme, or create an animation that is meaningful to you, your family or friends. Talk to people, get their feedback, see what they like, see what you need to improve. This will provide an early insight into deciding whether technology is a career choice for you. Having said that, technology is going to be so ubiquitous in our daily lives. I doubt the future "technology" career will be similar to what we see today. Names of careers and job titles will emerge - so the most important thing is to find a career that you enjoy!
Interview conducted in 2016 for our Women in Technology Survey, 2016 campaign.