Navigating Life as Chief Compliance Officer and a Mother with Anu Phanse
Anu Phanse is a Chief Compliance Officer at a leading crypto company in Singapore. With over 17 years of experience in compliance and governance, Anu has worked on many complex projects dealing with compliance and regulatory challenges in the ever-evolving financial services regulatory landscape.
As an expert in her domain of work, Anu is often invited as a panel speaker to notable events such as Singapore Fintech Association events, Industry seminars and roundtables, Regtech summits and more recently at the Digital Assets Asia conference 2023 to share her views on all things Compliance, Technology, Risk management and the intersection of these areas. Outside of work, Anu is a proud mother to two daughters, 5 and 12 years old, and loves travelling, reading and listening to music.
Anu shares with us how not losing sight of the bigger picture allowed her to overcome the initial biases she faced about a woman’s role in society. A strong personal drive along with spousal support and family-friendly company policies encouraged her to not only do what she loves professionally, but also find a healthy work-life balance to commit to her family.
Balancing work and personal life has been the main focus for me in the past 5 years. As a professional, I have always been drawn to the world of technology and agile companies that consistently bring innovations to the marketplace. The last few years have been incredibly exciting for me as I have been leading compliance functions in world class Fintech (financial technology) companies. These companies are not only creating impact in Singapore but across the world; bringing access to technology, efficiency and supporting financial inclusion for sectors of the society that I feel deeply connected with.
Some of the memorable lessons for me as a professional is that we take so many things (such as basic banking services) for granted but the fact is that there are over 1 billion unbanked individuals in this world who need access to basic banking services at reasonable rates. Fintech companies aim to provide these opportunities for financial inclusion to these individuals.
I wish there were more women in the Fintech sector. Unfortunately, the percentage of women who make this shift from traditional financial services to the fintech sector remains low. My advice for anyone who wants to take the plunge is not to overthink it. There is a lot of value that you can bring from your experience as long as you are willing to learn continuously and keep up with the pace of change.
On the personal front, I have been engrossed in the space of being a role model for my tween daughter and also being a playful mother to a very energetic and enthusiastic 5 year old. It has been a fulfilling experience raising the kids and seeing them develop their own unique personalities but it comes with its own challenges when you are doing this while pursuing a very meaningful but demanding career. It is a constant juggling act and can get challenging at times. Although, I would say it helps to have a very supporting spouse. My husband always encourages me to pursue my dreams while his ‘zen’ attitude complements my restless personality.
I have also been very fortunate to work in some really family-friendly companies which support work life balance by offering remote work options and employee-friendly family support programmes. It means a lot for a working mother to have all this emotional and moral support to continue excelling in all areas of her life.
Three main takeaways as a mother of two, striving to keep the balance between career and giving my children love and care are these:
- Don’t try to be perfect
- Let it go at times
- Do your best and leave the rest
I have to confess that being a first time working mother was really tough for me. I had a travelling job then and had to be away for days together. My parents would take turns to look after my daughter while I was away. During those times, I learnt that I really need to choose my battles else I am not going to get through this.
As a result, I did not make it to every parent teacher meeting/kids performance over the years nor did I make it to every work networking drinks/dinner. I have tried to find the balance that feels right to me. Sometimes work takes priority and at other times it is the other way around.
The current era is that of equality and eliminating gender bias. There is so much awareness nowadays. I'm also fortunate to live and work in a country like Singapore where women are treated as equals and with great respect. There are no stereotypes here and you can be anything you want irrespective of your gender.
However, we all know it wasn’t long ago when there were multiple biases and misconceptions that placed women in a certain category and limited them to only certain roles in the society. My experiences were no exception and these situations have impacted me. In those times, it was very important for me to not lose sight of the big picture. I was hopeful that all acts - small and big, will eventually create more awareness and steer us one step closer in the right direction.
- Stand up for yourself – nobody else will if you don’t
- Call out the inequality – it may not be so obvious to others
- Work hard and don’t compromise for less (pay or recognition)
- Believe in yourself
- Own your success
In my initial years as a professional, there were times when I felt sidelined but I just kept quiet, thinking that was normal. I regretted not speaking up or calling out the inequality. I let good opportunities pass by if I did not feel 100% ready. I gave too much credit to other people for achievements which I should have proudly owned.
As a working mother, at times I also felt inadequate compared to other women who chose not to work after their kids were born and it made me feel that I wasn’t doing enough for the family.
Eventually what changed my perspective in life was reading about some very successful women who have faced similar biases and challenges. I needed to have my own coping mechanism to thrive and that is why I started looking for role models who constantly inspire me to carry on.
My role models in life are Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi and Maya Angelou
Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ has given so many insights into ambition gap, inequality, the power of mentoring and most importantly, the partnership with your spouse at home to raise healthy and happy kids while pursuing careers.
Indra Nooyi’s book - ‘My Life in Full' has a detailed and authentic account of all challenges she faced as a working mother and that too as an immigrant woman of colour in corporate America in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This book is very inspiring and aligns with a lot of lessons that I have learnt the hard way.
I have always admired Maya Angelou’s poems and her natural talent to further civil activism in a light hearted way (at times). My favourite quote from Maya Angelou would be, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
Be yourself and don’t let others tell you what you cannot do. Be fearless when taking charge of your life, and never forget to Dream big.
I have been able to balance my career and personal life thanks to time management, self discipline and prioritisation. My mom was a working mother as well and I watched her in awe while she seamlessly carried through her day, working outside as well as inside the home. She worked relentlessly and she was and still is an excellent planner who manages her time well.
My dad is a very disciplined person and once he commits to something such as an exercise schedule, he really goes a long way to make it happen. I admired these qualities in my parents and perhaps unknowingly I picked them up as well.
My go-to style would be something elegant and stylish but also comfortable. I don’t mind a little splash of colour too and my closet which was mostly formal until a few years ago, now has more smart casuals.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Augustine Yuen