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Behind the strategies, numbers, and plans, Jean Fernandes, the resident financial maestro at GXS, is incredibly passionate about soft targets. She speaks with us about the importance of having a mission and paying it forward.

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While at work, Jean Fernandes, the resident financial maestro at GXS, is focussed on devising and implementing strategies that propel our company to new heights of success. But behind the strategies, numbers, and plans is someone who is incredibly passionate about soft targets. We speak with Jean about the importance of having a mission and paying it forward.

We’re not sure where she finds the time, but outside of CFO-ing this digital bank through the startup maze and making sure we deliver on our mission, Jean also spends a lot of time mentoring and coaching and sitting on board committees of charitable institutions. 

So we ask her - 

How do you find the time? 

I’m incredibly passionate about bringing more underrepresented groups into the workforce, in particular women who have had to take a step back in their career to meet family commitments; people with physical or mental disabilities; or young people who due to their circumstances, have not had the opportunities to seek advice around their professional or career choices.

Why is this important to me? A lot of my career is due to hard work but a lot of it is also thanks to the mentoring and coaching  I received from wonderful leaders during my career. Mentoring and coaching people - some of whom reach out to me directly or indirectly through associations I am connected to - and sitting on the board committees of charitable institutions where I can help shape and influence policies and strategies - is my way of paying it forward. 

What has mentoring taught you?

Imposter syndrome is real and affects even the most seasoned professionals. You’ve probably experienced some form of it. Ever look at your successes and attribute it to either good luck or being at the right place at the right time instead of all the hard work you’ve put in? I see this all the time in the conversations I have with people I’m mentoring and coaching. This comes up especially when you’re about to change a job or just been promoted. 

If this sounds familiar, here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

  • You have done a lot more than you realise

Very often, I find that people think about your accomplishments as an afterthought just before appraisal season. People should write down their success and failures for themselves throughout the year and reflect on them. If you do this consistently, at the end of the year, 18 months, you’ll look back and realise the person you were at the start of the journey and the person you are today is very different. See how you’ve grown so beautifully over that course - that should give you super confidence!

  • Build your own narrative

It’s so important to strengthen your communication skills. Focus your communication on your strengths, your abilities and what you’ve achieved rather than your challenges. This will give you incredible power when you are having a conversation with a senior leader or a peer because you are shaping the story and not having the story shaped for you.

  • Do you know where you’re going? 

It’s very important in life to have a road map. That road map should show you what you want to get in the next 5, 10, and 15 years. This can be a professional roadmap or it can be your personal roadmap. As you look at that roadmap and measure how far you’ve come against that roadmap, you can be proud of what you’ve achieved. 

Does this passion for underrepresented groups also explain why you decided to take a leap of faith with GXS?

Our mission here at GXS is to ensure that people have access to the right financial services. If you look at Singapore, everybody has a bank account but not everybody is eligible to get credit and not everybody is eligible for high-ceiling deposit products. Either there is a barrier in terms of ticket size or a barrier in terms of your past credit history. At GXS we are focused on making banking inclusive. So, for instance, we use alternative data to underwrite credit and because of that, we’ve been able to provide credit to 30 per cent more people than compared with other companies who use traditional data. We also offer interest rates on deposits that are fixed irrespective of your ticket size and that allows everybody - regardless of how much you save - enjoy the same returns.