Hepsen Uzcan: A Driving Force for Inspiration and Innovation

Top 10 Empowering Women Leaders of the Year, 2024

In a world where, despite several advancements, a woman often struggles to get equal opportunity to prove her latent talent and overcome gender bias, there are a few who shatter the glass ceiling again and again. Playing a key role steering the DWS Group’s Americas business, Hepsen Uzcan, the Head of DWS Americas CEO Office, emerges as an inspiration with over 20 plus years in the asset management industry. Beyond her swift decision-making, she captivates with her compelling communication, strategic insight, adaptability, empathetic approach, delegation finesse, and knack for inspiring and motivating others. These dynamic qualities have rightfully placed Hepsen among the distinguished “Top 10 Empowering Women Leaders of the Year, 2023.”

As we feature her as the cover story, we explore Hepsen’s transformative journey, witnessing her lasting impact on an industry characterized by adaptability and a driving force behind business advancement. Meanwhile, readers, especially aspiring women leaders, will get an exclusive chance to obtain valuable insights from Hepsen’s wealth of experience.

Early Dreams and Ambitions

Recollecting the formative years of her life, Hepsen identifies herself as an inquisitive person. She harbored a relentless curiosity about how things operated, the reasons behind their functionality, and their origins. This thirst for knowledge also extended to people, as she keenly observed and sought to understand their roles and journeys. Hepsen attributes her focus on education to this combination of interests, a trait instilled by her family’s unwavering support for her schooling, providing a robust foundation. This commitment to learning prompted her to move to the U.S. at the age of 15 to attend school. Her curiosity remains a defining aspect of her character. Nevertheless, this humble businesswoman acknowledges that there’s always someone with knowledge surpassing hers in any room. As she puts it, “I walk into every situation knowing that someone knows something more than I do and I cannot wait to learn from them.”

Perception of Success

This seasoned executive emphasizes the importance of individuals identifying their unique definition of success early on. She believes this varies for each person, characterizing it as where one finds equilibrium between happiness and intellectual gratification. Personally, Hepsen characterizes success as a continuous evolution. “It is gratifying to see you are waking up to a more evolved version of yourself, doing something better each day.” She attributes that to the ability to pursue her passions everyday. She also acknowledges that success is frequently realized with a reliable team or network backing along with discipline and daily perseverance.

Navigating Challenges and Setbacks: A Journey of Resilience and Growth

As the proverb goes, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors,” Hepsen’s experiences exemplify the resilience inculcated through adversity. She reflects on her journey in asset management for over two decades, remarking, “As a female with 20-plus years of experience in the asset management industry, I of course faced challenges in my initial career due to a lack of diversity in leadership positions.” Although she expresses her gratitude for the male mentors she has had over the years, Hepsen states that lack of female mentors during her informative years led her to navigate a male-dominated environment through ‘trial and error.’ Despite the hindrances, Hepsen is now fervently dedicated to imparting the lessons learned to the upcoming generation of women. “It is crucial that we as leaders build a strong framework to support and mentor our female talent so that they can get to leadership roles faster. Our male colleagues have done this really well for decades; something for us to mimic and build upon.”

Initial failures and constant hurdles often leave a bitter taste. Having said that, it is a known fact that in every profession and business, setbacks are an inevitable aspect. When questioned about the roadblocks and valuable lessons that have contributed to her personal and professional growth, Hepsen shares insightfully, “I restarted my career, in my view, three times: once after college, once after law school, and once at DWS.”  The process of self-discovery, recognizing her strengths and passions, prompted Hepsen to reassess her career trajectory and steer toward a new direction. Through these transformative experiences, she has gleaned profound insights, firmly believing that success is born from a combination of passion and hard work. She ties it back to our conversation about the definition of success. “Focus on identifying your passions and strengths early on and ensure your work will allow you to use them day in and day out. Consistent practice is key to laying the groundwork for success.” Hepsen believes that you will never get good at something that you do not enjoy doing.

Life before DWS and Greatest Achievements

Hepsen dedicated over two decades to her tenure at DWS, commencing her career as an associate at the company. Her life before DWS was focused on education, having left her home in Istanbul, Turkey for the U.S. when she was 15. Being an only child, she recalls it took determination to continue her academic journey away from her family during the era of “pre-Facetime.” When asked, instead of attributing her success to a specific event or promotion, Hepsen attributes it to being resilient, maintaining a ‘can-do attitude,’ and steadfast direction in the face of adversity, new prospects, or impediments.

DWS and its Services in Brief (dws.com)

DWS Group with EUR 896bn of assets under management (as of 31 December 2023) aspires to be one of the world’s leading asset managers. Building on more than 60 years of experience, it has a reputation for excellence in Germany, Europe, the Americas and Asia. DWS is recognized by clients globally as a trusted source for integrated investment solutions, stability and innovation across a full spectrum of investment disciplines.

They offer individuals and institutions access to their strong investment capabilities across all major liquid and illiquid asset classes as well as solutions aligned to growth trends. Their diverse expertise in Active, Passive and Alternatives asset management complements each other when creating targeted solutions for their clients. Their expertise and on-the-ground knowledge from their economists, research analysts and investment professionals are brought together in one consistent global CIO View, giving strategic guidance to their investment approach.

DWS wants to innovate and shape the future of investing. They understand that, both as a firm as well as a trusted advisor to their clients, they have an important role in helping navigate the transition to a more sustainable future. With approximately 4,500 employees in offices all over the world, they are local while being one global team. They are committed to acting on behalf of their clients and investing with their best interests at heart so that they can reach their financial goals, no matter what the future holds. With their entrepreneurial, collaborative spirit, they work every day to deliver outstanding investment results, in both good and challenging times to build the best foundation for their clients’ financial future.

Pioneering a Blueprint for Future Generation Women’s Success

A driving force in empowering the next generation of women in challenging workplaces, Hepsen is on a mission to equip them with essential skills for success, even in largely male-dominated environments. Stressing the importance of both individual excellence and collective support, she emphasizes the need for women to uplift each other at every stage of their careers. She shares her experiences as a mentor, aiming to instill resilience and confidence in navigating obstacles. Hepsen’s vision extends beyond personal mentorship; she advocates for systemic changes to foster gender equality, envisioning a future where women thrive individually and collectively, contributing to a more inclusive professional landscape for future generations.

Leadership Portfolio: Hepsen Uzcan’s Key Roles at DWS

Hepsen shoulders a host of leadership responsibilities in her current role. As the Head of Americas CEO Office, she is responsible for collaborating with the DWS CEO Americas to manage the strategy, execution, and coordination of DWS’s business with the Americas Leadership Council. Likewise, as the Head of Product – Americas, she is accountable for coordinating DWS’s product capabilities throughout the Americas and supporting and conversing on behalf of the company with regulators and other pertinent parties on product-related topics. Hepsen has also a set of responsibilities as the Head of Mutual Funds Business. She oversees the Fund Administration group, which includes Transfer Agency Oversight, the Treasurer’s Office, and Board Relations. She also holds the pivotal role of President and CEO for DWS Funds, contributing to the organization’s funds’ overall leadership and strategic direction.

Cultivating Growth and Empowerment in Leadership

How do you keep your team at DWS motivated? “My team would be the best audience to pose this question to, but the answer strongly resides in delivering through actions,” says the Head of DWS Americas CEO Office. In her leadership roles, Hepsen’s objective revolves around creating a safe and collaborative environment that encourages individuals to embrace new progress avenues and responsibilities. Her emphasis lies in providing a secure space for skill development and problem-solving. Hepsen firmly believes in the motivational power of entrusting individuals with ownership of tasks or projects, recognizing the dual impact on personal and professional growth. The assurance of relentless support is equally vital, reinforcing the team’s collective commitment to a shared goal.

A Day in the Life of Hepsen Uzcan

Maintaining an ideal alignment between personal and professional lives involves carving out dedicated space for individual, family, and work priorities for Hepsen. She highlights the importance of consistent routines for her to ground herself. Her “can-do” attitude resonates through her personal life as well. She picked up running in her late 30’s, and she points out that her daily runs through the park are where she gets to reflect on the day and plan ahead. She also does not shy away from talking about the challenges she faced in having children. “Similar to definition of success, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieve your personal equilibrium. For me, creating a disciplined life tailored to my needs and goals is how I achieve such equilibrium.”

On a typical day, Hepsen’s routine begins with a large cup of coffee at 4:30 a.m. and concludes around 9:30 p.m. As we go through the specifics of her day, Hepsen adds “To me, having a structured approach is what enables me to navigate the demands of my professional commitments while prioritizing moments of connection with family, embodying a personalized and disciplined approach to a well-balanced life.” She also adds – with a glowing smile – that each day starts and ends with a heartfelt kiss to her daughter.

DWS’s Strategic Roadmap: Charting Future Growth

DWS has unveiled a comprehensive strategy with the aim of enhancing shareholder value and unlocking the organization’s full potential. The strategic vision encompasses maintaining the company’s prominent position in Germany, capitalizing on European growth opportunities through partnerships, utilizing Xtrackers (Passive), and leveraging Alternative capabilities to engage in the European transformation. In the Americas, DWS seeks to expand Xtrackers and its Alternatives business, while in the Asia Pacific region, a focus on cultivating robust strategic partnerships is paramount. The strategy includes self-funded incremental investments over the next two years by reallocating resources.

Aligned with this strategy, DWS has set forth ambitious financial targets to be achieved in the coming years, including a targeted Earnings per Share of EUR 4.50 by 2025, and an Adjusted Cost-Income Ratio below 59 percent by 2025. Additionally, the plan outlines Passive Assets under Management Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) exceeding 12 percent and Alternatives Assets under Management CAGR surpassing 10 percent until 2025. Notably, the company proposed an extraordinary dividend of EUR 800 million to be paid out in 2024. The proposed dividend payout ratio from 2025 onward stands at an attractive 65 percent.

Aspiring Heights: Personal and Professional Pursuits

Looking ahead, Hepsen sets clear aspirations both professionally and personally.

Professionally, her ambition remains steadfast on expanding her leadership role within the organization, keenly focused to foster a culture grounded in teamwork, trust, safety, and collaboration. She also notes her professional commitment to leveraging her leadership platform to champion the success of women in DWS and in the industry overall. “We must strive to dismantle barriers that persist for female professionals. We need to pave the way for the next generation of female leaders to be successful earlier in their careers than my generation did.”

Personally, she has one focus and that is “Providing my daughter with an enriching and memorable childhood, enabling her to identify her own passions and “equilibrium” as she grows up” Hepsen notes.

As we wrap up our conversation with Hepsen, she highlights the significance of having a holistic approach to success and fulfillment, particularly in converging professional and personal aspirations. This further demonstrates the focal takeaway of our discussion with her – the importance of defining our own success and equilibrium in our journey of life – with a can-do, resilient attitude.

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