We all have a responsibility to make sure we are leveraging the skills around the table to their fullest.

Peta Latimer

Partner and Chief Executive Officer,

Mercer Singapore

An Interview with Peta Latimer

by Kathy Rougier | OCTOBER 2020

How would you describe your leadership style?

One of the biggest achievements you can have as a leader is to guide teams and colleagues to be more successful than you were, or even could be. So as a leader, I always try to balance leading from within the team – where transparency and open dialogue is key to ensuring people feel empowered – and leading from afar – where I have a longer line of sight and am able to see the fuller picture to make the most appropriate decisions.  

To me, dynamic leadership is the ability to articulate a very clear direction, then inspire colleagues to run their journey whilst removing obstacles that might get in their way.

What’s one important leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

You cannot do it on your own – you need strong leaders around you and a culture of empowerment and action. There is no point running ahead, if no one is able to follow you.  And you might be running in the wrong direction!

What are some important things that you have undertaken and have contributed to your success

Being curious and saying ‘yes’.

I’m always keen to learn, to understand more about business, the environment and people.  By treating my career somewhat like a ‘game of skill acquisition’, I’ve been able to look for opportunities beyond my comfort zone and accept challenges where I may not know the answer. 

There is such an opportunity to learn and grow in roles that give us the space to stretch. It is important to have faith in yourself to take on the challenge, even if you haven’t done it before.

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

The best decision I ever made was to leave Australia and begin my journey as a global citizen.  I have been able to work all around the world, have met so many amazing people, and grown personally in a way I wouldn’t have been able to if I stayed in my ‘home country’. 

I’ve made plenty of bad decisions, so it’s hard to pick the worst! But each and every bad decision has made me reflect, think differently and/or try again.

What does diversity mean to you in a practical sense?

Diversity is a natural way to bring fresh perspectives and better problem-solving capabilities into the workplace. Different backgrounds, different skills and different experiences are critical to development.

In a world where ‘change is the only constant’, none of us can afford to rest on our laurels, none of us have all the answers and rarely will any of us have seen and solved a specific problem before.  This is what I love about having a strong and diverse network, both internal and external - the ability to access different ideas. 

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?

Through empowerment and awareness.  Firstly, it is critical that everyone understands what their expectations are and that they feel supported and empowered to deliver to those expectations as best as possible.  This is driven by creating an open, action-orientated and (friendly) competitive culture.   

Secondly, as a leader, people manager and colleague, we all have a responsibility to make sure we are leveraging the skills around the table to their fullest.  This can be done by providing different communication channels, embedding activities like ‘around the grounds’ in meetings where everyone has to share, and setting up of buddy networks so colleagues have a range of different support and escalation paths

What would the person you are today say to the person you were on your first day at work?

Talking to my younger self, I would emphasis the importance of financial acumen and independence.  Financial independence gives you more freedom of choice, allows you to pursue what you are passionate about and prepares you for wherever life takes you.

From a specific work perspective, I would say ‘get ready to be comfortable with being uncomfortable’. With the world changing so quickly, it’s important to keep a constant pursuit of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

It’s really part of the job and in some ways, I thrive on it. Channeling that stress and pressure towards positive outcomes is the key. I work hard to use it to push myself for solutions, actions and learning.  It is definitely not easy, and I’m pleased at the growing prominence of addressing mental health concerns in the workplace.


What is one interesting fact that we will be surprised to know about you?

I love to travel, especially solo – you never know what adventures await you…. Like the time I was in the Peruvian Amazon and met my second cousin on a boat who I had not seen since I was 15 years old! Or like the time I had a Witchdoctor in Central Africa tell me the EXACT same fortune as a Buddhist Monk in Cambodia a few years earlier!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, how much I like adventure, meeting new people and experience new cultures.  The world is an incredible place.

More about Peta:

As CEO of Mercer Singapore, Peta leads the Health, Wealth & Talent businesses to help clients deliver impactful business outcomes in the areas of future of work, financial advisory and outsourced investment solutions, healthcare cost/quality of care, and employee experience. She has more than 15 years’ experience across industries, managing successful consulting teams, and working with multinationals providing advice on change and workforce transformation. Peta is passionate about making a difference to the way people work, and drives high performance in an authentic and sustainable way. Outside of her day job, Peta is a member of Women Corporate Directors and sits on the Board of Governors for the American Chamber of Commerce Singapore.