Get to Know: Denise Mak

June 07, 2023
  • Investor Services
If Denise Mak, BBH’s Head of Service Delivery, Greater China, could go back to her first day at BBH, 13 years ago, she would tell herself to focus less on perceptions and more on embracing new opportunities.

It didn’t take Denise long to adopt her own advice as she took on new roles and quickly moved into leadership positions. Today, her adventurous spirit and glass-half-full approach help her in every aspect of her work, from fostering BBH talent to building and nurturing client relationships.

Tell us about your history at BBH. How have your expertise and focus evolved in that time?

I joined BBH in 2010 as a relationship manager in Hong Kong, supporting global asset manager and financial institution clients in the region. BBH’s commitment to knowing its clients is not just a concept. It’s the north star that guides the team every day.

About five years in, I had the opportunity to transition into a leadership role as Head of Transfer Agency (TA) Hong Kong, which exposed me to a different aspect of client management. I was initially hesitant about the role, but by being honest about my roadblocks and opening myself up to the support available from leadership, I was able to conquer this new challenge. Asking for help and accepting support have been vital to my growth.

How do you cultivate client relationships?

It starts with trust, which is hard to earn and easy to lose. Trust is threaded through not only our client connections, but our internal connections. It takes trust for a team to collaborate and come to the right solutions that create confidence with our clients.

Agility is another vital element. We must adjust quickly to client needs – even anticipate their needs – in a constantly fluctuating landscape.

As a leader, I am also passionate about talent development and the benefits that strong employees bring both internally, and to our clients and their investors. It’s important that we’re thorough and intentional in how we engage our teams.  

How do you navigate the global nature of BBH’s business as you work with clients across regions and cultures?

We act as the bridge between internal teams and external clients and investors, navigating different ethnicities, beliefs, languages, cultures, and even work ethics.

For instance, the business environment in some countries is faster paced than others. Some client cultures place more emphasis on personal relationships while others focus primarily on the work product. This is where we prove how deeply we know our clients – from their business to their cultural preferences – and how we navigate those nuances to earn and maintain their trust.

There’s always room for alignment if we understand the other side.

What aspects of your role as a parent do you bring to your professional role?

Kids are amazing teachers! My two boys are 8 and 13. They have taught me valuable lessons in patience, tolerance, and valuing different perspectives. Parenting is all about the push and pull: knowing when to provide encouragement and support, but also knowing when to stand firm and provide feedback. This translates perfectly into my interactions with my teams, clients and their investors.

Being a parent has also helped me embrace my glass-half-full mentality. Often in your interactions with kids, you need to laugh it off to stay positive for their benefit. This positive mindset has been vital to my ability to step into new roles that stretched what I thought I was capable of. Of course, I maintain a glass-half-empty philosophy when it comes to risk management!

If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself on your first day at BBH?

I was nervous. I didn’t know the culture or the people – usual first day fears. I leaned into that fear and shyness at first and waited for people and opportunities to come to me. If I could go back in time, I would be more proactive and engage with more people and with more functions. I came in thinking that I had to maintain an image and didn’t want to ask too many questions. But the only question was: what is there to lose? By opening dialogues you’ll learn faster and build relationships along the way. That is how I evolved.

Changing my attitude towards embracing opportunities opened doors to transfer across functions, take on leadership roles, and develop my career.

David Weibe
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