2018 LeaderLuncheon profile: Catherine Ngo

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Catherine Ngo serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Central Pacific Bank. She joined the bank in 2010, and previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer. 

Prior to her time at Central Pacific Bank, Ngo was a founding general partner of Startup Capital Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm established in 2005, with investments in Silicon Valley and Hawai‘i, as well as in China.

In addition to managing a portfolio of several technology companies, she assisted other firm portfolio companies with operational issues, generally in the legal and finance areas. Ngo also had primary oversight for the venture capital firm’s investor relations activities and had a significant role in managing the firm’s China-based portfolio.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, School of Law, Ngo started her career in private law practice, focused on banking and securities law.

In 1993 she joined Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a financial services company focused on serving the needs of venture capital-backed technology companies, as well as venture capital firms. As Executive Vice President and General Counsel, she was part of the executive team credited for the bank's turnaround. In 2002, Ngo served as Chief Operating Officer of Alliant Partners, an investment banking subsidiary of SVB.

Ngo is venture partner of Startup Capital Ventures, L.P., Chair of the Board of Trustee of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, Advisory Director of Catholic Charities Hawai‘i; and serves on the Board of Hawai‘i Gas.

Get to know Catherine Ngo: LeaderLuncheon Q & A

Q: What types of qualities make a good leader?

Catherine Ngo: I believe leadership is largely defined by one’s ability to inspire others.  To be inspirational, a leader must have a clear vision, communicate through actions over words, empower others with accountability, be fair and trustworthy, and above all, lead others by example.

Q: What has helped you become a more effective leadeR? Name a woman leader who inspires you and explain why?

CN: I believe that by always pushing myself outside of my comfort zone allowed me to become a more effective leader.  Embracing challenges goes hand-in-hand with leadership. I also believe in the power of mentorship to sustain the momentum and inspiration to continually improve. A mentor that comes to mind is Ann Wells, who in the early '90s owned one of the largest temporary agency firms that supported most of the major tech companies based in Silicon Valley that were generally led by men.  In my very early days in banking, and as I was presented with every-increasing opportunities outside of my legal and risk management core competencies, Ann always encouraged me to “go for it”.

Recently, a woman leader who has inspired me is Christine Camp, a successful real estate developer, community leader, and the CEO of Avalon Group LLC, who also serves on our company’s board of directors.  As I was considering stepping up to become CEO of CPB, I remember her standing in my office, looking me straight in the eye, and saying "just do it".  And, she has not stopped with that advice and continues to provide me with guidance and support.

For both Ann Wells and Christine Camp, those words of encouragement were exactly the nudge I needed to overcome that bit of reluctance and insecurity lurking in me - that nudge to step outside the very comfortable zone I was in.

Q: What was your dream job growing up?

CN: As a young girl, I wanted to be a doctor.  I was drawn to helping others and making a difference in people’s lives.  However, that dream was dashed when I worked in the University of Virginia hospital during my first year of college and found that seeing pain, suffering, and blood made me physically weak, and I could not overcome this.  While I certainly am not healing sick people today, I'd like to think that in my role, I am helping people and making a positive difference in their lives.

Q: What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

CN: I received a lot of great advice throughout my professional career and one of which was from a successful CEO and owner of a significant business.  His advice was, “As a professional, you will make mistakes. There will be challenging times.  Managers, or even the company CEO, may make mistakes.  All of this is okay as long as the focus then is on the fix and the road ahead, AND that you learn from those mistakes.”   

Q: As a woman leader, what can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

CN: We all should remember the support and guidance we have received from our mentors to get to where we are today.  And so, let's provide similar guidance and support, in turn, to our next generation of women leaders.  Not only will this benefit these women, but  I will say that playing a role in the development of this next generation may end up being one of the most gratifying parts of your professional life (as it is for me today).

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Join YWCA O'ahu in honoring four extraordinary local women whose commitment, grace and spirit have made a tremendous impact in their communities. Guests from all fields of work are invited to attend the YWCA O'ahu LeaderLuncheon to support the advancement of women leaders in Hawai'i and the YWCA mission of "Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women."

Table sponsorships are available starting at $3,000. Individual tickets cost $150. Click HERE to make your LeaderLuncheon reservation today.