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"We didn't have many luxuries growing up in Thailand. But my mum placed great value on education and was determined to send us to a private school."
"I regularly remind myself that the word 'trust' has two distinct meanings."
"I believe that in this industry, there is no glass ceiling for women."

In celebration of International Women's Day 2018 - an interview with Prapa Pearce

08 Mar 2018

With 21 years' experience in international financial services under her belt, today Prapa Pearce is one of Ocorian's most respected Executive Directors. When she's not busy handling the complex needs of a diverse portfolio of clients, including high net worth individuals and international companies, Prapa is busy juggling motherhood.

In celebration of International Women's Day (8 March 2018), we sat down with Prapa to discuss her upbringing in Thailand, career to date and her advice for women entering the industry.

 

What was life like growing up?

As one of five children growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, my mum was my biggest inspiration. While we didn't have many luxuries, my mum placed great value on education and was determined to send us to a private school - an opportunity that she never had. Seeing my mum work long hours, 7 days a week in our family shop to give us this education, taught me the importance of determination and a strong work ethic.

That said, I still remember experiencing prejudice as a young girl. I didn't necessarily understand it at the time, but I recall feeling frustrated that I had to do housework while my older brothers never had to.

At the age of 10 I was offered the opportunity to move to London and be adopted by my Aunt and Uncle. As a young girl, the thought of seeing Big Ben was enough to entice me and so a few years later I was officially adopted and moved to London at age 14. Once in the UK, I found my sense of gender inequality that had always frustrated me was no longer apparent. Rather, I was encouraged to pursue my goals and was told that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.

 

What attracted you to a career in financial services?

I was always good with numbers, but to be honest, I think the industry found me! However it's what has kept me here for so long that I cherish.

I regularly remind myself that the word 'trust' has two distinct meanings. Yes, there's the financial meaning of the word, but the trust that our clients place in us can never be underestimated.

As an Executive Director in the Private Client sector, my days are often varied. From implementing our growth strategy to staying abreast of regulatory and tax legislation changes, all while maintaining strong client relationships. And it is the people side of my role that I have really come to enjoy. I was even invited to the wedding of one of my client's relatives and was also invited to visit a foundation in Cambodia that was set up by another client.

 

What trends have you have seen since joining the industry?

The three key trends I've seen are:

  1. Consolidation. In the last 10 years or so, I've witnessed numerous takeovers and management buyouts. Even here at Ocorian, we have acquired four businesses in the last 12 months!
  2. Scale. I believe a large driver behind these acquisitions has been stricter industry regulations and international standards. The need to stay abreast of regulatory changes and reporting standards, e.g. CRS and FATCA, has meant businesses need to allocate more time and resources in order to remain compliant, which is not always feasible for smaller companies. For Ocorian, an added benefit of acquiring complimentary businesses in key jurisdictions is that we are now in an ideal position to provide greater choice and solutions to our global clients.
  3. Greater focus on asset protection and succession planning. With increasing political instability, individuals' concerns around family wealth and succession planning, and an international client base, we are now being approached more and more by clients looking to set up a structure with asset protection and succession planning as their main objectives, as opposed to tax planning being the primary driver.

 

What are your career aspirations?

At the moment, I am really enjoying my role as is!

I think being part of a growing, dynamic company like Ocorian brings its own set of opportunities through expanded service lines and jurisdictions, for clients as well as at a personal level.

 

What advice would you give young women entering the industry?

Set yourself up for success with a solid foundation. Get the necessary and relevant professional qualifications in your line of work, coupled with experience attained from on-the-job training. Accept that when starting out, you will most likely be required to perform some mundane and routine tasks. However, these are important and will often form part of a bigger transaction.

Next, find yourself a mentor or colleague who inspires and champions you. Throughout my career, I have really valued being able to bounce ideas off someone and being able to seek reassurance when necessary. For example, my first mentor in the financial industry was my line manager, Fiona. I didn't recognise the significance of this at the time, but in the mid-1990s, Fiona was a young mum and the only female Director working at the trust company I started at. I believe that in this industry, there is no glass ceiling for women and I know of many female friends, colleagues and peers who are operating at a very high level in their professions.

And my final advice to women: ask (smart) questions, learn to listen well (as you never know where you might learn something new) and don't be afraid to use your initiative.