The WFE's Women Leaders 2023 - Glenda So, Group Head of Emerging Business and FIC, HKEX Group
Name: Glenda So
Organization: HKEX Group
Job Title: Group Head of Emerging Business and FIC
1. Brief description of nominee’s role/job
Glenda joined HKEX in February 2020 and was appointed as group head of emerging business and FIC in February 2023. Her new role is an expansion of her previous remit as co-head of markets, whereby she now oversees market policy and development, in addition to her other responsibilities in leading fixed income and currency markets, data and connectivity, digital assets and carbon/ESG markets for HKEX.
Glenda is a member of the HKEX management committee and reports directly to Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Aguzin. She is also a board member at the International Securities Services Association and a member of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s Financial Services Advisory Group.
2. Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):
Before joining HKEX, Glenda spent four years as COO of a macro hedge fund in Singapore. Prior to this, she had a 23-year career with Goldman Sachs where she was a managing director responsible for overseeing a sizable operations teams, including global listed derivatives and OTC clear operations, Asia securities and clearing operations and Asia Ex-Japan operations.
As Glenda continued to progress in her career, she reached a stage where she wished to leverage the expertise and skillset she had acquired over the years to make an impact to capital markets. That landed her where she is now – a leading global operator located in an international financial centre that she calls home: Hong Kong.
Glenda holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Baruch College, The City University of New York, U.S.
Glenda loves hiking and regularly volunteers at local animal shelters.
3. What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2022?
2022 was a year in which I was mostly on the ‘offense’ – building a new team and business while also driving several existing initiatives despite a challenging macro market environment – geopolitical tensions, the Ukraine War and pandemic-related disruptions. On the back of HKEX’s vision of building the Marketplace of the Future, announced in early 2022, my team and I set out to realise several components of our group strategy, in particular those pertaining to ESG, reflecting our commitment to promoting sustainability across our markets.
* Enhancing our Connect programmes
Leveraging our unique position as a superconnector between East and West and under our strategic imperative of Connecting China and the World, we took the breath and scope of our Connect programmes to a whole new level this year. This included launching four new initiatives to widen the investment and trading opportunities available to market participants, further facilitating the two-way flows of capital between China and the world.
Among these new initiatives, my team and I led on the development of Swap Connect together with our Mainland China partners – establishing the framework for a new Connect channel that will, for the first time, allow international investors to trade and clear onshore RMB interest rate swaps in Mainland China without changing their existing trading and settlement practices.
This will be a game-changer for our derivatives market; expanding our risk management ecosystem and helping progress several macro-level objectives, such as the internationalisation of the RMB. Bringing Swap Connect to this point required a lot of hard work, with my team liaising with multiple parties, internal and external, over a long period of time. We are now preparing for its implementation in 2023, and I’m looking forward to seeing the value it will bring to our markets.
* Expanding the sustainable finance ecosystem
As a market operator, we actively seek to facilitate the growth of the global sustainable and green finance ecosystem, promoting sustainability across our markets and supporting the region’s low carbon transition. As part of the work we are doing to deliver on our strategic pillar of Connecting Capital with Opportunities, this year we took a number of significant steps that enabled us to “walk the talk” on sustainability. The biggest of which was our launch of Core Climate on October 28 – a new platform that enables corporates and investors to source, purchase, settle and retire voluntary carbon credits. Over time, its scope will be expanded to cover other products and services along the carbon value chain.
Launching a new business is no easy feat: we put together a stellar team of ESG and carbon experts within HKEX over a very short period of time. Working as a team, and with the market, we were very proud to deliver this platform in a short period of time to a very enthusiastic response.
We also formed the Hong Kong International Carbon Market Council (ICMC) in the months leading up to Core Climate’s launch, bringing corporates, intermediaries and banks from Hong Kong, Mainland China and Europe together to create a very dedicated network focused on carbon. One of the core functions of an exchange is to build a vibrant participant ecosystem, hence it was important that we created this network prior to launching the trading platform. It also enabled us to remain client-centric and solidify our plan and vision for Core Climate with insights and guidance from the council members.
As a result of our efforts, we were able to successfully launch the new carbon marketplace in 2022. This milestone provides Hong Kong and the region a platform to trade carbon credits – something that the market has been asking for. It also opens the door for Hong Kong to be more active and visible in the fast-developing, global carbon trading market landscape. The platform was very well received by the market, with more than 40 trades completed by over 20 Core Climate participants in first four weeks of its launch, representing around 400,000 tonnes of carbon credits.
So overall, 2022 was an incredibly rewarding year for me professionally. A year in which, with the support of my team, I took bold steps and launched a range of impactful initiatives to move our markets forward, supporting our vision of building the Marketplace of the Future. I’m entering 2023 with a broader remit. I am looking forward to continuing our journey of exploring new emerging business opportunities we are seeing, especially in ESG, digital assets and data – and perhaps will repeat the success we had with Core Climate.
4. What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success?
My team inspires and motivates me to do more and succeed in the workplace. Having an energising team that can bounce ideas off each other, support one another and go the extra mile was and continues to be incredibly motivating.
I would also say that when you view your job as just ‘work’ you might see your tasks and goals in a more rigid and uninspiring way. But if you view your work as your own ‘business’ – meaning it’s yours to develop, nurture and grow, then you’ll automatically become more entrepreneurial in your thinking, and be inspired to try new things and achieve more success. With the support of our CEO, this is how I approach my job – and have always approached my roles: and it has brought me the additional benefit of enjoying what I do, in addition to executing my deliverables and pushing the envelope.
5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions?
First, I would repeat what I said last year, because it really is very true, especially given my experience from 2022. I often feel that glass ceilings are self-imposed, and would encourage women to not limit themselves in the way they view their abilities. Meaning, you are a lot more capable than you think you are, so don’t be afraid to try new things. And it’s only when you try new things that you continuously learn and grow, putting yourself in a better position to take on new and additional responsibilities.
Second, remember that everything you do and learn at your job stays in your ‘pocket.’ It’s your superpower toolkit! So try to do more because you’ll end up learning more and building up your professional ‘arsenal.’ And whether you stay at a firm or not, you will always take your learnings with you and they will be helpful in your next step.
Third, one of the things I’ve been told is that my ability to flex is good, and so if I realise something isn’t working or if a colleague wants me to do something differently, I will quickly adapt. I believe this has been instrumental to my ongoing development and progression. So ty to be open minded and push yourself to do beyond what you’re most comfortable in.
The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.