ALB: Please describe your career journey. How did you come to specialise in financial regulatory law across both Singapore and HK?
Grace Chong: My career journey over the last 12 years is relatively unusual. I entered private practice in the later part of my career, having spent my formative years in MAS and HSBC HK, and have had the opportunity to be involved in high-profile market misconduct and sanctions cases and legislative reform projects.
Since then I have built my practice around advising banks, asset managers and fintech firms on complex regulatory matters. I also have a special interest in fintech, ESG and data privacy regulatory matters, and have been closely involved in leading regional regulatory reform initiatives with the MAS, SFC and HKMA.
ALB: What is the greatest change you have made to your practice?
Chong: Since launching S&S’ fintech and payments practice in Asia, I have continued to build the practice to expand the scope of support for clients globally. Our market-leading practice now supports some of the largest payments companies, exchanges, and other technology firms with regulatory and commercial work.
As a result of our commitment, our law practice was Highly Commended by Regulation Asia for the Regulatory Law Firm of the Year category, and our Singapore practice was ranked by Chambers for the first time in Fintech in 2021. I was also a finalist for the Innovative Lawyer category in the Financial Time APAC Awards 2021, and was listed in the 40 under 40 data lawyers category by Global Data Review.
ALB: What are some of the key regulatory initiatives you have been involved in?
Chong: I currently lead the ESG Working Group in AIMA, and led AIMA’s responses to ESG related consultations across both HK and SG. I advise banks and asset managers on the extra-territorial impact of SFDR, licensing and documentation requirements for the launch of ESG products and policy, governance and documentation amendments for climate change-related regulations.
I have been involved in drafting Best Practices for Fintech and other industry guidance papers in conjunction with ASIFMA. I also sit on the boards of Singapore’s blockchain association, ACCESS, and held the pen on several industry consultations to the MAS and FATF in relation to digital assets regulations, to advocate for fair regulatory policies that strike an appropriate balance between innovation and consumer protection.
ALB: What are the key challenges facing women in law, and how do you overcome them?
Chong: Many of the challenges women face are institutionally and culturally driven. It is important that we take the initiative to empower women, and to encourage further collaboration opportunities. I sit on several Boards and participate in various communities, including ACCESS, Women in Payments, IAPP Women Leading Privacy, and the Digital Law Association which aim to unite and advance women in these fields to expand their professional networks and promote their representation in the industry.
ALB: What do you predict to be the biggest change to the way you practice law over the next ten years?
Chong: I believe the practice of law today will no longer be able to function in discrete silos with clients increasingly calling upon us to listen more attentively, gain a clearer under-standing and deeper insight of their individual needs and devise new and innovative solutions that addresses their increasingly complex legal and commercial issues.
ALB: What advice would you give to young lawyers?
Chong: In an age of noise and speed, it is important to step away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly, and adapt and pivot as necessary. As Leonard Cohen said, “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday!”