Shawn Lim
Apr 5, 2024

Deloitte's Dorothy Peng on why she left adland for consultancy work

In her first interview since joining Deloitte, the former regional MD for RGA speaks to Campaign about her journey into consultancy, what innovation looks like outside of adland, and inspiring women around her as a veteran.

Dorothy Peng
Dorothy Peng

To fulfill her desire of working with industry experts on product design, Dorothy Peng departed Interpublic Group’s RGA in September 2023 after more than eight years to join Deloitte Consulting in January 2024. 

In her first public interview since joining DeloitteCampaign speaks to Peng to find out if her work philosophy has changed since she joined moved to a consultancy, the various client challenges in a consultancy environment, and the importance of uplifting other women as a veteran.

Innovating in a different environment

Previously, as the senior vice president and managing director of Asia at RGA, Peng worked on experience design for brands like Nike, McCormick and Nikon, but was seeking a different challenge. She says she enjoyed her time at RGA, crediting the experience with significantly shaping her professional development.  

In particular, she highlights the diverse projects, collaborative efforts with colleagues, interactions with clients, and the management of office operations as rewarding. Establishing and expanding RGA’s offices across Asia also provided her the chance to evaluate her capabilities in a varied environment. 

Anyone who joins a consultancy from an agency inevitably brings up the debate around how management consultants like Accenture Song are increasingly competing with creative agencies and have started acquiring boutique design firms.

Peng does not shy away from this, pointing out that even though consultancies and agencies draw from the same talent pools, the notable difference is that consultancies sometimes engage in conversations with clients earlier in the process. 

“The philosophy leans more upstream. For instance, when you consider management consulting alongside digital, the beauty lies in my ability to bridge business and strategy. It's this bridging aspect that's particularly interesting,” explains Peng. 

“I can collaborate with industry professionals to integrate management consulting strategy with design strategy, which is quite distinctive. Something must be said about bringing a bit of magic to the logic. I believe that's the beauty of design—the ability to crystallise and highlight the exciting aspects of a product in a way that resonates with what customers need or to define the product-market fit clearly.” 

Peng explains Deloitte’s approach encompasses a complete end-to-end service, which intrigues her greatly. While she is unable to share specific examples of projects because of non-disclosure agreements, Peng explains clients often discuss their crucial business strategies with Deloitte, so integrating them with customer perspectives and ensuring the product resonates with them is vital. She points out this connection is where there is a need for more investment in understanding and effort. 

“This philosophy extends beyond strategy and conceptual thinking to include execution and operational support, covering the full spectrum of work. It's about applying a touch of magic to the logical aspects of business and ensuring end-to-end implementation,” says Peng. 

“Moreover, it's not solely about crafting campaigns; there's a significant emphasis on utility. The utility aspect is crucial to ensure that there's a compelling reason for customers to engage with a product, and this applies broadly, not just in B2C contexts but also in B2B relationships.” 

Peng adds that what she values most in a consultancy is noting her work’s impact on business at a strategic level. “Discussions with clients often revolve around understanding their goals, whether business or digital transformation and how we can support those objectives,” she says.

The importance of design

Brands are increasingly acknowledging the critical role of speed-to-market and the necessity of outstanding design for achieving success. They aim for high-quality, exceptional designs to swiftly attract customer attention.  

However, merely having a plethora of products or innovative ideas is insufficient if these offerings do not align with customer needs and desires, leading to a lack of resonance and success in the market. 

The focus of Deloitte’s approach is not merely on the attractiveness of innovative ideas but on assessing the desirability, viability, and feasibility of a product, with the goal of creating something that customers genuinely desire. This strategic differentiation is deemed essential. Additionally, the success of these endeavours hinges on the people in Deloitte.

“It involves a holistic approach, considering various company dimensions, such as workforce or process transformation, making our conversations and solutions multidimensional,” explains Peng. “The discussions I engage in often revolve around the business case for a product, emphasising the necessity of ROI for any new product creation or venture pursued.” 

She adds: “This ROI is anticipated based on customer spending or the potential market opportunity size. While these conversations are crucial, it's important to note that other divisions within Deloitte handle specific aspects of bringing a product to market, such as achieving certain sign-up rates or other market entry metrics.” 

Ultimately, Peng says her primary aspiration is to deliver work significantly benefiting her clients. Success is measured for her in several ways, including the adoption rates of products the company implements, the net promoter scores (NPS) indicating customer satisfaction, and feedback on customer experience.  

“The growth and retention of my team, which I am focusing on expanding aggressively, are critical [also] indicators of success,” she adds. 

Leading the way forward

In Singapore, where the presence of women on boards has increased across listed companies, statutory boards, and institutions of public character (IPCs), the top 100 listed companies still show a lag in female representation.  

As of June 2023, women's participation in these companies' boards rose to 22.7% from 15.2% in December 2018, approaching a voluntary target of 25% by 2025 set by the Council for Board Diversity.  

However, 13 of these companies still operate with all-male boards. Statutory boards have reached 32% female board representation, meeting CBD's target of 30% in 2022. The largest IPCs are close to their 30% goal, with 29.5% of board seats held by women. Upcoming regulatory guidance aims to further promote diversity in board succession planning.   

The slow progress towards equal representation in boardrooms can be attributed to various factors. Traditional corporate cultures and societal norms often perpetuate gender biases, hindering women's advancement to leadership roles. Additionally, a lack of female mentors and role models in top positions may prevent women from aspiring to these roles or receiving the support needed to attain them. 

The gap in representation also reflects broader issues of gender equality in the workforce, including disparities in opportunities for advancement and challenges in balancing professional and personal responsibilities.  

Peng acknowledges that in consulting, as in many fields traditionally dominated by men, the most straightforward approach to success is to do her work well. Quality is paramount; and without it, she warns that women might get caught in a cycle of repetition. The work must stand on its merit first and foremost. 

“I also recognise the importance of my role as a model for younger women who see me as a representation of their future possibilities,” explains Peng. “I advise women to understand their worth and excel in their work. Additionally, women must advocate for themselves, as many tend to under-protect their interests.” 

Being a member of the Pass Her The Mic initiative, a Women Leading Change Program winner at Campaign Women Leading Change 2023, has been advantageous for Peng.  

She explains it is essential to have a community where women can support one another, as not everyone is comfortable taking the spotlight.  

“Knowing others are ready to share the responsibility makes the journey less isolating. The initiative, including training and sessions, has been highly beneficial and empowering,” explains Peng. 

Campaign Asia

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