Category Archives: EZ 39

Creative Mind with Heart

Melisa Wong

Octagon Creative Founder & Managing Director

“As a student, I found that the way of the heart mattered; one follows the heart when taking decisions and action.”


Perhaps, it was a wildly vivid imagination which dared her to dream or an insatiable artistic streak bubbling on the inside that challenged her to innovate, but in having kept an unwavering eye on the prize, the notable entrepreneur lives to tell her tale, now that the fat lady has sung. That which countless others would have dubbed a wearisome plot, she has braved and overcome with absolute poise.

Raising a self-made business from the ground up, conceptualising cutting-edge client solutions, and leading the charge on ingenuity combined, is no walk in the park. Nonetheless, at her hands, these milestones speak to a celestial path upon which work has often felt like play. A design virtuoso with a remarkable background in advertising, the former Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) apprentice has been a loyal visitor of creativity’s lair.


Retracing her steps up the corporate ladder, Wong’s recollections instantly return to the start of the trail. “In the 80s, upon graduating from art school in the UK, I completed a one-and-a-half-year spell in the US whereupon I worked first at a summer camp teaching art and photography in Maine (North America), and later moved on to a ceramics and design company in San Francisco,” she shares with Essenze.

The aforementioned professional engagements were followed up with a five-year stint at Johan Advertising (1983) and subsequently two years at international creative house, O&M (1988). Finally in 1990, in rising as the captain of her own ship, she unveiled a promising start-up which the industry recognises to this day as Octagon Creative Group. Since its launch into the open waters, the brand has steered Wong across the seven seas and back.


Speaking of going the distance, her journey has taken the award-winning team to multiple international exhibitions, key locations among them, Korea and Paris, with prominent works displayed at several major expos such as the Malaysia Pavilion and Venice Biennale both in 2012 and 2014. Essentially, Octagon’s success is rooted in a philosophy which insists that design be used as a vehicle to preserve heritage and build a healthy creative economy.

The past Graphic Design Association Malaysia president further elucidates: “As a student, I found that the way of the heart mattered; one follows the heart when taking decisions and action. After some experience has been gained, the head takes over, allowing one to visualise things and put matters into context. It is a time when one begins to understand that form follows function; the functional aspect is when forming client solutions becomes essential.”

“After some experience has been gained, the head takes over, allowing one to visualise things and put matters into context. It is a time when one begins to understand that form follows function; the functional aspect is when forming client solutions becomes essential.”


A subscriber of unity, love, and divinity, the mother of three, with the ultimate companion and business partner for a husband as well as truly nurturing parents for support, attributes a key portion of her personal and professional conquests to her loved ones. “When my children were growing up, my parents were instrumental in their progress and provided each with a healthy, happy environment.”

Leisure-wise, Wong finds solace in the embrace of photography, reading, writing, drawing, and even a bit of cooking. But her obsession with adventure doesn’t end there; she also enjoys architectural trips with the family. “For the next five years, I see myself at the forefront of graphic design, producing corporate branding, publication, visiting interesting installations, and moving into more digital and interactive media,” Wong enlightens.

Taking the Lead in Banking

Jenny Xu Zanjun

Deputy Chief Executive of Bank of China

“I do not want to disappoint those who placed their trust in me so I will always look to the future and do my best to earn and deserve their trust.”

The year 2011 is a turning point in Jenny Xu Zanjun’s career in banking, after having worked in the industry for more than 14 years. That was the year that she was thrust into a position most in the industry coveted, that is, to lead the Bank of China in Malaysia as its Deputy Chief Executive. Being chosen to lead the bank in a foreign land far from home is no easy task, especially when very few others get this chance, particularly women. However, for this determined 43-year-old, being given this position is a challenge that she took in her stride.

Xu admits that though the banking industry is not exactly male-dominated as compared to other more masculine-inclined industries, it is no walk in the park for women to climb the corporate ladder within the industry. The fact that very few women of high ranking positions are posted overseas in the Bank of China is proof that it takes sheer determination to make it to the top. “If a woman wants to climb to the top in the banking industry, she must perform exceptionally and she must also put in a lot of effort, hard work and determination, even more than her male counterpart,” she shares.

Naturally, for most women, many would have to divide their time between their family, marriage and their career which makes it even more challenging for them to succeed in the career. Sometimes, sacrifices are required for one to succeed and unfornately for Xu, it meant losing out on marriage and family life as she is now single. Nonetheless, the career woman did not regret choosing to concentrate more on her career. Instead of dwelling on what she doesn’t have, this strong-willed woman always looks towards the future. “I do not want to disappoint those who placed their trust in me so I will always look to the future, do my best to earn and deserve their trust and in turn, this gave me the strength to push on for the bank and for my career,” she said.

Bank of China opened its very first branch in Malaysia back in 1939 but it ceased operations about 20 years later. However, that is not the last of the Chinese bank in Malaysia as it reopened as a full-fledged commercial bank here in 2001. In all these years, the Bank of China has always emphasized on a customer-centric approach so when Xu took over the helm more than 4 years ago, she was faced with the challenge of ensuring that the bank is able to meet the expectations of its loyal clientele. “Many of our loyal clients look towards our bank as a symbol of China so they have very high expectations of first-class service and utmost professionalism,” she said.

Today, the challenges the bank faced is much more diverse than merely meeting customer expectations. Xu said leading a bank back in China where its services and systems have been perfected over the years is vastly different from leading the very same bank far away from China, in a land where banking systems are different and its services have to be changed to suit the locality. “The banking system in Malaysia are different from what is practised in China,” she explained. This is a challenge that she has to overcome when she first arrived here and even now, her focus has always been improving the bank’s system to provide exemplary services to its clients.

“We need to continuously improve our systems, the quality of our products and services because we are not only looking at the end profit but also working towards our goal of becoming a first-class sustainable international bank,”she said. The Bank of China has indeed left its mark in Malaysia as it played a pivotal role in promoting stronger bilateral trade between China and Malaysia. The bank has also spread its presence here with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Muar, Penang, Klang, Johor Bahru and Puchong. Furthermore, Bank of China was also the authorised bank to offer real-time gross settlement services in Renminbi through the Real-time Electronic Transfer of Funds and Settlement System (RENTAS).

Xu said the banking industry in Malaysia is a mature one now, which is why Bank of China has the confidence in setting up roots here while encouraging bilateral trades between China and Malaysia. She believed that through constant communication with the Malaysian government, it could play an important role to continue building closer trade connections between both countries. “The financial prospects in Malaysia is still bright because despite the devaluation of the ringgit in recent times, I think it is strong enough to overcome and rise above it,” she said. She noted that with Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz leading Bank Negara Malaysia as its governor, she is certain that Malaysia’s banking industry will stay stable and strong in years to come.