Consultancy and mergers and acquisitions firm SI Partners has promoted Hong Kong-based Alyssiah Tsui to partner, in recognition of continued growth among the business globally, such as this year's MullenLowe and 101 deal.
The promotion came alongside the promotion of Joe Hine and Shaun Meadows in London, adding three more names to that of founders Alistair Angus and Charles Fallon, and Paul Allen who runs the firm’s European consultancy practice and Tristan Rice who leads the firm’s European M&A advisory business, who make up the other partners.
Tsui is now the only female partner, showing how she is carving a new path for women in a part of the industry that has been traditionally led by men. The Drum spoke to Tsui about the path to partnership and her experiences of working in both Europe and Asia.
On whether the industry is male-dominated, Tsui says that the businesses remit being wider than M&A helps create a wider remit for herself; “SI Partners is quite unique in the region because we provide a blend of human and financial capital advice but there are limited options for females in this region.”
However, the difference in how female leadership is treated in each market is much the same, she says. Tsui refers to the global issue around there being certain types of meetings and deals that take place outside the office, within a ‘boys club’ set up. Likewise, she says that in both markets she has found that “ when I go to a meeting with a junior male member of the team, they just assume he’s the boss”.
“I think we’re often faced with pressures men are unaware of, having a family, the traditional role of a woman. It is important to show that women can choose to have a different kind of success if they wanted to and that we can lead as women and not a woman who leads like a man. I think it’s good to have balance. Alistair and I make a good team, I couldn’t do my job without him,” she explains.
Despite the occasional issues, Tsui says she is among many inspiring female leaders in Hong Kong and sometimes age can be a bigger issue in consulting, versus gender.
“In Hong Kong, I have had the opportunity to meet amazing female entrepreneurs so I’m constantly being inspired, this was something I was missing in London. Catherine Feliciano-Chon, founder and managing director of CatchOn, Red Bridge founder Penny Burgess, Nicola Oldfield from GHC Asia; all amazing! I think age is sometimes more of an issue – advising entrepreneurs in their 50’s that you know better can be a challenge. I left London almost five years ago, I think things have changed since then,” she says.
Prior to SI Partners, Tsui worked at Iris in the UK, helping to overhaul the finance and commercial divisions within the group, eventually gaining a board-level role and overseeing the acquisition of Concise, which has seen Iris expand into consulting globally. “I moved here because I just wanted to be challenged and have the opportunity to do good work, so I’m pleased that SI has recognised my efforts to date. I hope that I can inspire my team to be the best they can be and provide insightful and impactful advice,” she adds.
In terms of inspiring for the future, she offers her own advice to businesses who want to elevate female talent into more leadership roles or create a better sense of balance.
“Be aware of the environment and culture being created in the business. If you are purposely only having ‘work chats’ at male dominated groups or events then you’re excluding most women. This should also be reflected on the board! How many women are receptionists, PA’s or office admin? We should be open to having men working in these roles too, these roles demand the same respect! I don't want ‘special treatment’ for women , just fair,” says Tsui.
With moves such as Ofcom's recent mandate for the BBC to have 50% women in leadership roles by 2020, Tsui's advice should be useful to many seeking to do the same.