Growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lina Lim never imagined a career in technology. Instead her initial dreams were all about becoming a teacher.
But today as Lim sits in the head of technology chair at the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX), she said her journey has already taken her on exciting twists and turns in the financial and technology sectors - and she doesn’t regret a thing.
And it’s exciting times. Lim said NSX is riding a wave of transformation as it looks to compete with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and provide an alternative for listed equities. Currently, there are approximately 82 securities listed on the NSX, compared to 2,200 companies listed on the ASX.
‘I feel blessed and fortunate that I’m in this space. There are times when I wonder if I’m in the right field, but then I realise I am,” she said, explaining she’s able to make a real difference at the organisation and in people’s lives.
Lim - who made the “Ones to Watch’ list in last year’s CIO50 program - has been working towards helping NSX use technology to eliminate its fragmented distribution infrastructure. No doubt, she is on a mission to implement major business transformation across the organisation in order to support the growing business and uncover new opportunities.
CIO Australia checked in with Lim to get her take on what it’s like to be a woman at the top of a traditionally male dominated arena, some of her lessons learned and top priorities for 2018.
Asked what it’s like to be a top female executive in a male dominated sector, Lim said she feels “privileged to be in this role” and to be given the opportunity to lead such a big profile organisation - particularly at a time of growing female empowerment.
“We are entering into the time when women are playing a key role. It is really an exciting time and I’m very enthusiastic and passionate about promoting women to come into this type of role and in this sector. There are a lot of opportunities that we can actually do as women in this space - and with emerging technology especially.”
Indeed, Lim is no stranger to the financial space either, having worked in the financial tech market for over 20 years. “I spent 13 years at Nasdaq working with a number of major exchanges across the world, predominantly in Asia Pacific and Europe."
She has also worked at Macquarie Bank, and done consulting work for financial system service providers.
Today, as head of technology at NSX, Lim is involved in all aspects of strategic planning, working to weave the IT ‘vision and view’ into the entire fabric of the organisation in a bid to enable new business initiatives and drive emerging market opportunities.
“My role has been working to determine strategically how we utilise and explore any new developments in the technology space,” she said.
“Technology is never boring. You are always learning new things and then you can actually see how all of these new technologies, will be applied, within the role that I’m in. That gives me a great opportunity to become more of an agent for change, thinking more into what can be done, instead of what should be done.”
Key lessons learned involve ‘people and culture’, she explained. “In delivering the technology platforms to a number of organisations across the world, what I learned is it’s important to enhance relationships with people. Even though you work with technology and systems, the main component is really people.
“It is about managing and building the relationship, and then fostering and maintaining them. Managing expectations, and stakeholder engagement are other important aspects with any business technology transformation project. And obviously communication is important. You have to be on top of what’s going on with the project, and then making sure you articulate it.”
Asked her top priorities this year, Lim said she wants to improve the infrastructure in cyberspace, utilise new technologies, bolster compliance and boost digital in an effort to improve the overall customer experience and market engagement.
“There are a number of opportunities we’re currently looking at to support a new business initiative. This will involve utilising emerging technologies. We’re continuing to look at and explore technologies like blockchain and other technologies like big data.”
Additionally, she’s got her eye on blockchain. “I am very passionate about the potential use of blockchain technology, and how it can actually be used in many different sectors and industries.”
In particular, she’s keen on exploring a combination of blockchain mixed with artificial intelligence. “To me, that is the perfect combination especially when you work with data. And in the financial market, data is key.
“I also have my eye on quantum computing since last year. I know it’s very early, but I’m keen to see the progression. In the next three to five years, we can see more of quantum computing that is becoming topical.”
Looking back over the past 18 months, she said she’s proud of a trio of tech projects that are changing the face of the NSX and paving the way for future development and innovation.
“In the last 18 months we’ve done quite a lot, and time has moved so quickly. We’ve rolled out the IRESS platform, which enables us to have better distribution for our market, and our customers.” The IRESS platform provides distribution to a significant portion of the market, removing inefficiencies and providing better access.
According to Lim, the technology transforms the way the business engages its customers’ experience through seamless access and integrated networks for the trading community.
Prior to the platform, brokers had to go to a separate terminal, login and place an order when a customer wanted to trade an NSX security. But now thanks to the IRESS connectivity, NSX securities can be traded through the IRESS platform in the same way as ASX securities.
Additionally, the relocation of data centres was a big move, Lim noted, calling it a fundamental program for the business to enable and support the key business strategy under the new board and leadership team.
As such, the team relocated the entire exchange key infrastructure framework from the previous office location in Newcastle to two new locations: the co-location facility of the Australian Liquidity Centre (ALC) and new office, both in Sydney.
Certainly, collaboration was a key part of the project as multiple parties and stakeholders, including two telecommunication providers, two data centre location projects, the professional services team, software vendors, internal team and the exchange clients/customers were all involved.
Lastly, the launch of a new website including a redesign and development, and a rebranding of the exchange were some of her other top highlights. “The new website is one of our key drivers of engagement to our clients to access information.”
Looking ahead, Lim said she’s working on enhancing and strengthening security, as well as implementing disaster recovery.
Asked her top challenges in the role, she said the fact the organisation runs very lean - with a staff of 12 - can present some pressures. The IT department partners with six technology partners, and heavily relies on outsourcing.
“In terms of the number of people that are working at the exchange, we are running in a lean environment. So we don’t have hundreds of employees in the company. But we are running very effectively and very efficiently with a number of key people in executive roles, including myself, who are actually driving the business engagement and also delivering outcomes for our customers,” she said.
“We are a lean organisation and we have a business that we run day-to-day, and we are also doing a number of initiatives. So one of the challenges that I find is trying to find a balance, having to focus and having to prioritise.”
Advice to others
And while Lim said her role is challenging and presents with a number of pressures, there’s a lot of opportunity. Women looking to get into a similar role shouldn’t be put off by the lack of women in any given industry - just take her situation as an example.
“Be brave; have your voice,” she said. “This is quite a male dominated sector, but be brave and have your voice. One of my mottos is ‘everything is about learning.’ As long as you learn, then you will actually be able to grow. And you will grow. You will come across mistakes. That’s fine. Learn from your mistakes. Just be more confident in the way that you want to do things.”
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