Junie Foo’s story typifies the C-suite dream. Two decades in the banking sector saw her in management roles at international institutions like Citibank and Standard Chartered. In 2010, when she joined the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (now MUFG Bank) to lead its Global Corporates, MNCs and Corporate Banking (Asia Oceania), she also became the first non-Japanese and female in its management team.
Yet Foo felt unfulfilled. “I didn’t just want to hit a target — I wanted to do something that would impact people for good,” she confides.
So she quit banking in 2018. Fatefully, on that very day, a personal contact suggested she join Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), which was looking for a group executive director. Foo would go on to become CEO at the 40-year-old charity organisation.
The move is something she’s “never looked back” from, despite the difficulties that come with managing a charity during a pandemic. MWS not only saw more families who lost their livelihoods, but also noticed a greater sense of isolation among elderly citizens who used to attend programmes at its senior activity centres but stopped when Covid-19 struck.
The organisation found itself stretched thin as it tried to extend as much help as it could. Foo and her team continue to care for more than 8,400 beneficiaries through 20 centres and programmes even as operational costs increased and donations “didn’t rise in tandem”.
But Foo never wavered in her mission.
“In the course of my work, I’ve learnt that people under financial duress make poor decisions — I saw how poverty impacts their everyday lives, causing them much anxiety and affecting their ability to think clearly. And there is no formula to help them as each family is unique and requires holistic as well as individualised care.”
That’s why MWS decided to step up digital fundraising efforts. Its latest campaign, Donate to Bless, has raised over $1.5 million for low-income families to help meet their basic needs. Future campaigns will evolve into what Foo terms a “hybrid model”, where both online and offline interactions — like digital events and in-person outreach programmes — are used to engage donors.
This story first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of A Magazine.