With many successes under her belt, Zelda Anthony has been a female role model for many within the technology industry. Recently, she has moved to a new role as the Head of Blockchain ASEAN at IBM. In this TNS Interview series, we asked Zelda a number of burning questions on the latest ideas in the financial technology (FinTech) industry. Furthermore, Zelda also shared with us on how she improves herself and manages expectations as one of the top female leaders in her organisation.

The New Savvy: Hi Zelda! Can you tell us about yourself? How did you become a blockchain specialist?

Zelda: My whole career has been in software and technology sales, primarily in the financial services sector. My interest in this area first began with an internship at Reuters, where I had the opportunity to work closely with software sales account managers looking after banks in London and Paris. The people and the work left a great impression on me, which forged my path into first becoming an account manager and later, a sales manager/director in financial services software sales.

It is commonly said that if you want to be successful, you should do what you are interested in. Since I have always been interested in roles involving new technologies and products, I jumped at the opportunity to become Head of Blockchain for ASEAN with IBM. I saw its value in fundamentally transforming business processes within and across industries and I wanted to be a part of the magic.

The New Savvy: Which part of your job do you find most challenging?

Zelda: Because I believe that there is always so much more that I can do, my biggest challenge is getting everything that I would like to get done in the few hours we have every day.

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“I’ve come to terms that it’s not always possible to complete and achieve everything, therefore focus and priority are key. I still set out goals for myself and use to-do lists to keep me on track on a daily basis.”

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The New Savvy: How do you learn to become a better leader?

Zelda: I’ve been fortunate to have crossed paths with a number of talented, skilled and intelligent colleagues which have helped to shape me into who I am today. As one who believes in self-improvement, I am inspired and grateful to those who teach me different things and share with me their personal successes and failures.

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The New Savvy: As a leader, how did you convince people of your leadership in this relatively male-dominated field of new technology?

Zelda: I really don’t spend much time thinking about whether an industry or profession is male dominated or not.

I have always believed that results always speak for themselves.

However, I would say that in the twenty plus years I have been working in this space, there are certainly more women now than there used to be. I think this is both due to the many inspiring women who have demonstrated that they are capable of succeeding at their roles, and also managers who have given women more opportunities to step up. IBM for one, is a company which takes equality in the workplace seriously.

The New Savvy: What is your team’s business strategy?

Zelda Anthony, Head of Blockchain ASEAN at IBM, On Cultivating Female Leadership in the Fintech Industry

Zelda: The IBM Bluemix Garage for Blockchain operates like a global consultancy with the DNA of a startup that combines the best practices of Design Thinking, Agile Development and Lean Startup to accelerate application development and cloud innovation.

The IBM Bluemix Garage serves as a hub for developers, product managers and designers to come together to rapidly design and develop successful applications on Bluemix. With a total of eight Bluemix Garages globally, the Singapore Bluemix Garage is one of the latest to be added to the IBM global network, which includes locations in London, New York, Nice, Melbourne, San Francisco, Tokyo and Toronto.

We help our clients to formalise business ideas with their customers in mind coupled with startup ingenuity and enterprise experience.

Improvement in Work Processes: What is Blockchain Technology?

The New Savvy: What are some ways that distributed ledger technology (DLT) and/or blockchain can disrupt the current work processes?

Zelda: Blockchain technology provides a shared replicated immutable ledger. This enables a single source of truth and a secure, tamper-proof system of record. Industrial blockchains also offer verifiable identification and transactional privacy.

These qualities are potentially helpful to establishing identities and safeguarding personal information.

For example, users would be able to ensure user information are stored and transferred in a safe and secure manner. Users would also potentially have visibility on how and where their information is used. They could choose to grant or revoke access to their information accordingly. Meanwhile, service providers would have better assurance of the veracity of the shared information. They would also be better placed to improve the overall customer experience.

Potential advantages of blockchain technology

The New Savvy: Are there any industry that you think will benefit the most from IBM’s blockchain technology?

Zelda: Blockchain shows great promise across a wide range of business applications and industries.

For example:

In the financial industry, blockchain can help to streamline technology infrastructures among different intermediaries and reduce complexity in financial networks, which helps to bring about significant efficiency gains. It can also reduce duplicative recordkeeping, eliminate reconciliation, minimise error rates and facilitate faster settlement. This, in turn, means reduced risk and lower capital requirements for financial enterprises.

In the insurance industry, insurance companies can use blockchain in areas such as claims processing and insuring high-value assets.

In retail, manufacturers can track their products to reduce product recalls. Businesses of all types can more closely manage the flow of goods with greater speed, more transparency, less paper and reduced risk.

In the Government sector, agencies can leverage blockchain for initiatives such as corporate registries, vehicle registries, e-voting, tax processing and healthcare in areas such as medical records and reducing the risk of counterfeit medication.

The New Savvy: We understand that there are multiple DLT/blockchain platforms in the market today. How do you think IBM can differentiate its technology from others?

Zelda: IBM adopts an open, trusted and ready-for-business approach.

Open in a sense that we believe the foundations of blockchain technology and community need to be open: open source, open governance and open ecosystem.

Trusted in a sense that we need to establish trusted networks among known, permissioned participants. This is to protect and maintain consistency for the data and transactions.

Ready for business in a sense that the blockchain solution needs to be built in a robust technology environment providing security, confidentiality, auditability, reliability and scalability.

In addition to the technology aspects, IBM also differentiates itself from other market players by providing an end-to-end solution to customers from the decision of the right use case for blockchain to helping to build a minimum viable product, pilot it and host it on a secure platform as needed. We are also in a strong position to bring our extensive list of customers together to collaborate either within an industry or across different industries.

Women in Fintech

The New Savvy: Can you share some advice for women who wish to enter the blockchain space?

Zelda: I knew very little about the technology when I first took up the role and had to go through quite a steep learning curve to get up to speed. But because blockchain is such a new technology with many new potential applications and developments, learning about it was what made it so interesting.

Be curious and willing to learn.

There is a lot of information available on the internet. You can visit our IBM website at www.ibm.com/blockchain and Think Academy channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/ibmthinkacademy on YouTube which provide a good introduction to the blockchain.

Tips on Managing Money

The New Savvy: How do you decide what to do financially (such as making a big purchase)?

Zelda: If I was going to make a big purchase, I would spend a considerable amount of time researching for alternatives to help me decide if something so expensive was worth purchasing. I never make big purchases on impulse.

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The New Savvy: Can you share some advice on how women can manage their money better?

Zelda: While I’m certainly not an expert in personal financial management, my basic philosophy is not to spend money you do not have.

If you want something, save up for it.

I also received some good advice in the past that you should always try to have savings equivalent to three months of your salary for rainy days. In this era, we cannot expect guaranteed job security and it is especially important to have savings.

If you aren’t sure about how to plan your finances, it’s worthwhile approaching your family, friends and experts for advice.

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Founder @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is the Advisor (former CEO) of The New Savvy. She is currently the COO of ABZD Capital and the CMO of Gourmet Food Holdings, an investment firm focusing on opportunities in the global F&B industry. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna invests and sits on the board of a few startups. Anna is also part of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Career Women’s Group executive committee. Anna’s story is featured on Millionaire Minds on Channel NewsAsia. She hosts TV shows and events, namely for Channel NewsAsia’s “The Millennial Investor” and “Challenge Tomorrow”, a FinTech documentary. Anna was awarded “Her Times Youth Award” at the Rising50 Women Empowerment Gala, organised by the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore. The award was presented by His Excellency Ngurah Swajaya. She was also awarded Founder of the Year for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. She was also awarded the Women Empowerment Award by the Asian Business & Social Forum. Anna has been awarded LinkedIn Power Profiles for founders (2018, 2017), Tatler Gen T, The Peak’s Trailblazers under 40 and a nominee for the Women of The Future award by Aviva