Executive Exchange: 12 questions with Junjie Watkins

In this monthly Q&A, we asked Pictet Asset Management's first female CEO for Asia ex-Japan to share her unfiltered perspectives on markets, leadership and life.
Executive Exchange: 12 questions with Junjie Watkins

NAME: Junjie Watkins

TITLE: Asia ex-Japan CEO 

COMPANY: Pictet Asset Management

Junjie Watkins
Pictet Asset Management

Junjie Watkins is the first female Asia ex-Japan CEO at Pictet Asset Management.

With roots in China and the UK, she weathered the financial crisis while at Lehman Brothers in London, pivoting to Asia business development roles at Neuberger Berman and TCW.

In this week’s Executive Exchange, Watkins offers candid insights on markets, leadership, and life.

What personal quality, beyond quantitative skills, do you believe has contributed most to your success?

Being genuine and understanding.

I found authenticity and empathy encourage open communication and more active participation from my team members.

They feel free to share their ideas, opinions and concerns with me anytime. It certainly helps our collaboration and enhances work efficiency. 

If you had to equate your business strategy to a sport, which would it be and why?

Sailing in the ocean. It’s crucial to stay focused and stick to the chosen direction. Progressing steadily at our own pace, while being agile to navigate changing conditions in the waters.

What advice would you give to a woman just starting their career in asset management/finance?

Stay curious, embrace change and your uniqueness, and aim to become the best version of yourself.

Stay authentic, don't be afraid to show your vulnerability, and you will be surprised by how much understanding and support you will get.

Stay focused, find your strengths, and have your own definition of success.

If a movie was made about your life as a management executive, who would you want to play you and why?

I would say Kate Winslet. She is authentic, down-to-earth and courageous for being who she is. Also, her versatility mirrors the multifaceted and diverse world of finance.

Which emerging market in Asia do you see as the most promising for investment and why?

China continues to hold immense promise with the depth and breadth of the market, and a large and booming skilled talent pool.

The country’s green manufacturing and environmental sectors along with its strength in technological innovation make it a beacon for forward-thinking investors.

Southeast Asia and India are also markets with interesting opportunities and great potential. 

If the stock market had a theme song, what would it be?

“One Moment in Time”, a powerful and uplifting song by Dana Winner -- it reminds us to seize opportunities when they arise and be ready to take action when the right moment presents itself.

Just as in the stock market, there are ups and downs, standing with your conviction will guide you towards the light at the end of the tunnel.  

What is the next big trend in asset management?

Sustainable investing will continue to gain traction and become even more widely accepted among various investor segments.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also increasingly becoming a transformative force for many industries, and I believe asset management is no exception.

The evolution of technology and the ecosystem around it are likely to go beyond our imagination, bringing vast investment opportunities.

While asset management is a people’s business and will remain so, AI will support asset managers to enhance operational efficiency and even facilitate investment decisions.

What is the most important leadership lesson you've learned while leading your organisation?

Support and empower others. I believe one of the responsibilities of a leader is to uplift their team. Trust, empathy, and shared vision drive excellence.

How do you balance investor demands with sustainable investment practices?

Asset managers play a crucial role in continuing to educate investors about the long-term benefits of sustainable investing, overcoming the misconception that it requires compromising returns.

While institutional investors have made notable progress in embracing this concept, we observe a growing awareness among private bank and retail investors, as they too begin to recognise the value of integrating sustainability into their investment strategies.

Which investment figure has been most influential to you throughout your career?

Compared to inspirational public figures, people around me and those I met during my career have a greater influence on me.

All my bosses (former and current) play a part in shaping my leadership style today.

What is one decision you made that you would change if you could go back in time?

Frankly, I have no regret about any decision I made in the past, as each step holds value in shaping who I am today. I believe every experience has contributed to my growth and development.

The path I have traversed has been well-lived, as it provided me with invaluable lessons and resilience. Embracing the entirety of my journey allows me to approach the present with gratitude and motivation.  

What innovation in asset management/finance are you most excited about right now?

Machine learning and AI  -- both will be increasingly applied to empower investment decisions.

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