Caroline Fong wears three hats in Manulife US REIT – she is the Chief Investor Relations and Capital Markets Officer as well as the Chief Sustainability Officer. A banking and finance graduate from SIM-University of London, Caroline has built up a wealth of experience in investor relations, capital markets and research. Prior to her current job, she has worked in companies such as Singapore Exchange, Temasek Holdings and CapitaLand Mall Asia.
Can you share what you do on a daily basis?
A day in the office during COVID-19 was answering tonnes of questions from analysts/investors/media on how the crisis will impact the financial performance of our REIT and why is share price plunging. On the ESG front, it will be ensuring that we are on track to meet our targets and how we are going to get to net zero by 2050.
What was the main challenge you faced climbing up the career ladder?
The long crazy hours that I was putting in and having little time for self-care and loved ones. Finding the balance was extremely tough when I was starting out.
Can you provide us with 1 to 2 success stories in your current job where you had to overcome a specific challenge?
I was brought in as employee number six to list the first US office REIT in Singapore and Asia in 2016. Nobody knew who we were and what we were doing here. Everyone was like ‘where’s Atlanta?’ So I had think to out of the box and ask myself, what can I do to get investors and analysts to believe in us? That started a series of initiatives that included launching our very own thought leadership initiative and being one of the first SREITs to engage the financial bloggers.
The question that I asked myself constantly was ‘what do I have to offer to my investors?’ Slowly but surely, we were able to diversify our investor base from 80% retail:20% institutional to 50:50 today. Nobody really believed we could have done that. Today, with a staff strength of 20, there are so much accolades to be grateful for as I take a walk down memory lane.
Is what you are doing currently something you envisioned doing back when you were taking your bachelor’s degree in SIM?
Nope. I have always lived with the mindset ‘why box myself up in a particular direction/career when I do not even know how the world will be in the next 3 years?!’
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The ability to make a real difference at the driver’s seat and the ability to chart the path ahead with some of the radical ideas. Life is too short to live it mediocrely.
Posted online 20 Jul 2022.
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