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Up the ranks: Joanne Chin appointed Airwallex's SVP Global Head of People and Talent

Up the ranks: Joanne Chin appointed Airwallex's SVP Global Head of People and Talent


Based in Melbourne, Australia, Chin is responsible for leading Airwallex's global HR team to help strengthen the company’s culture and values and build a strong employer brand to attract, retain, and develop its growing workforce.

Fintech platform Airwallex has appointed Joanne Chin as its SVP Global Head of People and Talent, effective 29 September 2021.

In this role, she is responsible for leading the organisation's global HR team to help strengthen the company’s culture and values and build a strong employer brand to attract, retain, and develop its growing workforce.

Chin continues to be based in Melbourne, Australia, as with her previous role as Chief People Officer at Kraft Heinz Asia Pacific. She brings with her more than a decade of experience and expertise in the HR space to the fore, after plying her trade at global companies such as Google and Waymo in London and San Francisco. Prior to HR, Joanne was a corporate lawyer for five years at Allens Linklaters.

Her appointment was announced in tandem with the appointment of David Bicknell as Global SVP for Finance, who, based in Australia after a period in the United States, is tasked as the driving force for Airwallex’s global finance division, overseeing the organisation's financial planning, and provide strategic and financial advice to the executive team.

Commenting on the appointments, Jack Zhang, Co-founder and CEO, Airwallex, said: "I am delighted to welcome Joanne and David to our global executive team. Both bring invaluable experience and expertise to support Airwallex’s accelerated growth and innovation across the entire business.

"With our rapid global expansion, investing in our people and culture as well as driving business efficiencies is important to our continued success. These are exciting times for us at Airwallex, and I am confident our new senior hires will create an immediate and lasting impact in our business and for our people."

On this exciting development, Human Resources Online caught up with Chin for an exclusive insight into her career journey. Excerpts below:

Q Congratulations on your new role, Joanne. You’ve been with Airwallex for about two months now, what has been your most cherished moment with your former team and company (Kraft Heinz)?

I am most proud of the team we built. More importantly, the team culture that was created, allowing everyone a safe space to debate and disagree, whilst also having each other’s back. We pushed each other to do better and learnt from each other. No egos, just an overarching desire to do what was best for the business and our people. I really enjoyed working with the executive team in turning around the business, including a pivotal shift in culture.

The cultural change centred around trust and transparency — everything from helping people understand what high performance means, to communicating clear OKRs and implementing a rewards philosophy. Ultimately, this led to higher engagement and formed a critical part of their commercial turnaround story in over last two years.

Q What are you most looking forward to at Airwallex? How does your dream of tomorrow look like, especially for the HR department?

I am most looking forward to working with the incredible people at Airwallex. I love working with people, especially those who embody curiosity and have limitless imagination when it comes to what tomorrow might look like.

For me, it is important to be around people who with whom I am inspired by, and of course who I can inspire, and an environment that fosters ongoing learning and grow.

People will be critical to where we want to go and it is important that we bring out the best in our people — it will help us navigate and embrace the complexity and ambiguity of the future. A strong leadership team and high performing psychologically safe teams is how we will achieve our vision.

It will assist us to build on an already successful business and grow enduring relationships with our customers that is based on trust.

Q As a Global Head of People and Talent, what are the core responsibilities in your new role? How is it different from what you were working on previously?

We are scaling a global business and doing it quickly. So of course, a top priority is to attract amazing talent to join our team and build this future with us. It is also crucial that we ensure that we are intentional about the culture we are building at Airwallex.

When you are growing rapidly, across many countries, it can be difficult to stay true to what you are at the core. Everything we do must always come back to our values - customers first, intellectual honesty, obsessive curiosity, craftsmanship, inspire and be inspired, and make impact.

Q You’ve been in HR for the majority of your career. What do you love about it?

Actually I started my career as a corporate lawyer. I spent the first five years of my working like at a large law firm in Australia - mainly in commercial litigation.

I love HR because I enjoy helping business and leaders succeed. A core part of my success has been the knowledge and understanding that people and organisations are complex – and getting best out people.

I really enjoy navigating these complexities and helping business leaders balance differing and sometimes competing needs and priorities. Leadership is all about balancing different aspects of team, while also staying true to core values and leadership style - there is no “one size fits all” leader afterall.

Q In this role, what is your number one priority for this coming year? Could you also share with us some of your personal professional goals?

My number one priority this coming year is to help build and grow the culture we are building at Airwallex, in a very intentional approach. When you are growing as fast as Airwallex, it can be easy to lose what you stand for. Everything we do now needs to scale with the business - we need to be intentional in decisions we make and its impact on our culture as we do.

Q You started your career in Australia, then moved to the UK with Google, after which you headed back to Melbourne for your previous role. Give us a flavour of how the HR function varies in its maturity and challenges faced across these markets.

To be honest, I find that there is a lot more in common across the geographies than there are differences. Humans have a lot of similarities – particularly what motivates and drives us. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen this common connection come to light. The data shows us that people across various countries and cultures are reflecting on what work means to them and what they get out of it.

While HR may play differing roles depending on where the business is operating in, it is still all about people and the challenges are much the same.

Q Let’s end with a fun question – what’s the one thing you’re keen to start doing more of, and another that you’re keen to stop doing?

At the risk of sounding like a line from a Julie Roberts movie… I am focusing on doing more of the simple things, like laughing more, getting more sleep and being more active – I am a very keen skier, so more time on the slopes would be great.

Stop doing? Reducing time in lockdown would be number one.

ALSO READUp the ranks: Philip Morris Malaysia appoints Swati Chawla as Director of People and Culture

If you’ve been promoted or if you’ve moved to a new company, send us your profile and photo and we will announce your news here – just email lestert@humanresourcesonline.net.

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