Getting Ahead

How Staying True to Herself Helped This VP Succeed as a Woman in Finance

person with long brown hair and a white sleeveless shirt standing in a courtyard
Alex Chong, a vice president at Deutsche Bank.
| Courtesy of Deutsche Bank

Choosing a college major is no easy task—but Alexandria (Alex) Chong is proof that changing your mind before graduation won’t derail your education or your career. “During my undergraduate studies, I switched my focus halfway through because finance thrilled me,” she says. “The industry is unpredictable and seemed like the perfect place to challenge me and allow me to learn every day.”

Chong went on to work in internal audit at an insurance company and then Deutsche Bank, where she learned about risks, controls, and senior stakeholder management. After completing an MBA at NYU Stern School of Business in 2019, with specializations in corporate finance and strategy, Chong transitioned into a new role at Deutsche Bank. Today, she is a vice president within the Corporate Bank, balancing a dual role leading strategy and governance as well as transformation for the Americas.

According to Chong, Deutsche Bank is an exciting place to be right now. Employees will begin working out of a brand-new Manhattan office this fall, and the bank has unveiled a new hybrid work model. “This will allow employees more freedom over their work-life balance, which will improve job satisfaction, employee well-being, and retention,” she says.

Here, Chong shares highlights of the new office (which includes a health center), how the company supports internal mobility, and the keys to her success as a woman in finance.

What led to your job at Deutsche Bank, and how did you know the company would be a good fit for you?

I came to Deutsche Bank just as I started my part-time MBA because I wanted to work at an investment bank with a global reach and a core focus of serving clients. I also wanted to be able to immediately apply my MBA learnings and share my work experiences in the classroom. I knew the company would be a great fit for me because of the individuals I interviewed with and the feeling I got in the building. Our people are our most important asset—they are collaborative, innovative, and fun!

What are you responsible for in your role?

I am responsible for driving my division’s strategic initiatives and managing projects for the region, as well as delivering proper governance. Additionally, I am responsible for executing cross-product and cross-divisional transformational initiatives.

You’ve been promoted several times since joining Deutsche Bank. How does the company encourage growth from within?

Deutsche Bank provides the opportunity and space for talent to raise their hands and pursue growth at their own pace. Responsibility is given to those who ask for it and prove they are ready to take on more or complete stretch assignments. Internal mobility is also strongly supported at the firm, which allows employees to not only become more skilled cross-functionally, but also lets them try new challenges and become more well-rounded. The firm also offers formal mentoring programs through its employee resources groups, as well as informal development programs such as soft skills workshops, senior roundtables, feedback sessions, and lunch-and-learns.

Tell us about the new office opening at New York’s Columbus Circle. What are some building highlights and amenities?

The new office has many highlights, but my favorite is the terrace overlooking Central Park and Columbus Circle. It really allows for a moment of serenity during busy work days and is so quintessential New York City with its insanely gorgeous view. The building will have state-of-the-art technology, amazing collaborative spaces, great lighting, and live plant walls. The office was designed with our employees and clients in mind.

As a New York City native, I love that the rooms are named after the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, as well as the integration of sustainability and diversity and inclusion in many amenity decisions. These include an enhanced mothers' suite, a multi-faith room with ablution stations, gender-neutral washrooms, a wellness pod for moments of respite, and a health center. The cafe and coffee bar feature local and sustainably sourced food and beverages, a "Fair Food" purchasing program, and a pop-up of local, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. Even the art program is focused on promoting Deutsche Bank's values through partnerships with key New York institutions such as the Queens Museum and The Africa Center.

How is Deutsche Bank approaching the future of work with regards to remote work and in-office work?

Deutsche Bank's approach champions flexibility and is rooted in the understanding that there have been dramatic shifts in ways of working—and employees are embracing those changes. We are in the process of implementing a hybrid work model where eligible employees will have the opportunity to work remotely for part of the week and leverage the benefits of in-person collaboration in the office on other days.

A hybrid approach is crucial in differentiating us among other banks because the world has proven over the last year and a half that productivity does not falter while working remotely and has demonstrated the importance of flexibility and adaptability. A hybrid model provides the best of both worlds: increased flexibility while still ensuring opportunities for personal connection in order to enrich our distinct culture.

What skills and traits have helped you succeed?

My intellectual curiosity, emotional intelligence (EQ), and authenticity have helped me succeed. Intellectual curiosity has driven me to take educated risks and push myself in the various roles I’ve had, as well as to take on impactful roles at the organization. Doing so led me to develop a valuable network across the firm that I rely on in good and bad times, for advice and for sponsorship.

Using EQ, I can communicate effectively, relieve stress for others, defuse conflict, and, most crucially, empathize with others. These traits have allowed me to build trust and cultivate respected relationships.

Lastly, what you see is what you get with me. I am an outgoing and forthright Asian woman and I don’t give people the chance to put me in the model minority box. My authenticity is one of my most valuable assets.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in finance, and how have you overcome them?

Being a woman in finance is challenging, but I choose to look at it as an opportunity and use it as a competitive advantage. When I am the only woman in the room, people remember me. And not only because of my gender: I am known for being open and honest in the way I communicate, and that I work with integrity, so I will always do right by my colleagues. That has helped me stand out.

I spent the earlier years of my career striving for perfection, which led to insecurity and overthinking things that were not in my control. Over the years, I have learned to take educated risks, be bold, and find my authentic voice, which has allowed me to carve out space for myself in a historically male-dominated industry—and celebrate my successes. When I occasionally experience self-doubt, I remind myself of my accomplishments and lean on my empowering network to lift me up.

Sponsors and mentors have been helpful in guiding me back to what is really important, providing much-needed advice and inspiration at all steps of my career. I have also used my personality to my benefit. I am always approachable and genuine, and that has helped me to maneuver a lot of different relationships.

You are the co-chair of the Women on Wall Street® (WOWS®) employee resource group. Why are groups like this so important for women at the company?

These groups focus on the recruitment, retention, promotion, and the visibility of women at the organization, as well as creating networking opportunities and raising awareness around the importance of gender equality.

These groups play a significant role in enhancing a woman’s experience during her time at our firm. Our programs help women find mentors to guide their career and provide them with networking and internal mobility opportunities. They also work with senior leadership to spotlight strong female talent, allowing women to have successful careers at Deutsche Bank.

What advice do you have for women who want to pursue a career in finance?

Know what you bring to the table. Make your accomplishments known and build your brand. Be unapologetic in fighting for what you deserve. This will allow you a seat at the table and to push down barriers.

Be yourself and be confident, which will allow you to be bold, take risks, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Don’t sweat the small stuff. For example, I got a C+ in calculus, but I still graduated magna cum laude and work in finance! By challenging yourself, you allow others—and yourself—to see your potential.

Build a career anchored in a strong network of sponsors, mentors, peers, and friends who will keep you on your path, support and advocate for you, and push you to be better. They will ensure you keep learning and growing.

Finally, stay hungry and humble, and treat every person with respect. You want to be remembered as ambitious with a resilient work ethic, but also as someone everyone enjoys interacting with.

Updated 8/20/2021