Appointed early this year as managing director for Kimberly-Clark (Hong Kong), Robin Moriarty has an extensive brief. She is not just responsible for driving growth and strong financial results for the company’s core consumer brands, which include Huggies, Kleenex and Scott paper towels. She also has a strategic advisory position on the North Asia leadership team, playing a key role in the plans for corporate growth in Greater China.
Before arriving in Hong Kong, Moriarty was the company’s regional director of feminine care in Latin America. During her four years in charge of that category, she provided the leadership and necessary inspiration to develop a clear vision and bring it to life. Prior to that, from 1998, she was with BellSouth International, working to expand the company’s wireless communications business.
With more than 15 years’ experience in policy work and international business, Moriarty holds a PhD in international relations from Emory University, studied political science at Duke University, and has fellowships from the University of Michigan and Stanford University. She talks to Jan Chan.
Was your career more a matter of good planning or good luck? It was probably a bit of both. Over the course of my career, I have held staff and line management roles in a variety of industries, and have led multi-functional teams in the US, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and now Asia. Over time, these experiences have melded together to give me a very interesting career. One of my favourite times was in a marketing role for the company’s feminine care category in Latin America. We changed everything - the brand positioning, product portfolio, packaging, communications, even the R&D. We flipped the category on its head and great results followed. These challenging, transformational types of opportunity prepare you for bigger roles later on. Which achievements have given you greatest personal satisfaction? For me, it is the little things that can mean a lot. Like when someone comes and asks for advice because they think I’ll have something interesting to say. Or learning something new and then sharing it others. Or helping people achieve things that nobody thought were possible. Getting my PhD was also a pretty big deal.
How would you describe your style of leadership? It is very collaborative and I focus on trying to serve as a guide to help people along the way. In fact, this style is something the company promotes internally, so it fits really well with my vision for the business in Hong Kong. I feel that if you can create a compelling vision and inspire, others will follow.
What qualities have allowed you to be an effective leader? First and foremost, I think good leaders need to listen and take time to understand the context. They also need to bring a positive, “can do” attitude to an organisation, while knowing how to laugh and have some fun. Personally, I believe in hiring good people and then empowering and trusting them to do their jobs well.
How do you assess new ventures? When thinking about new business ideas, it is important to consult my team for input and feedback. Engagement and collaboration are often underestimated when getting ideas off the ground. Generally, we look to anticipate consumer needs and concentrate on exploring opportunities, innovations and untapped spaces.
How do you want the group to develop in the years ahead? To keep growing as a market leader, we will continue to stay close to the consumer, understanding needs and meeting them in creative ways. An example is our Huggies Club where pregnant women and new mothers can come for information about what to expect with a baby - and have some fun.
We also want to stay close to retailers and store owners because good partnerships are important in business. Underlying everything is a focus on people, so we must develop leaders and equip them with the skills and experience to take on larger roles.
If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be? I believe in giving people the chance to get a good education and a good job, so they can reach their potential and exceed their goals. That’s why my efforts professionally and personally focus on giving opportunities for education and professional development. This is the way to make a difference in local communities, by empowering people to achieve more.
What do you aim to contribute as a member of outside committees? I hope to bring different perspectives based on diverse experiences around the world and offer some fresh ideas to help solve problems. For example, I am now participating in the mentoring programme run by The Women’s Foundation. It is a great platform for sharing experiences and contributing to the development of local talent in Hong Kong.
What is your advice for young recruits? Something I talk about every day is the benefit of getting exposure to as many different things as you possibly can. Read, attend classes, lunch with people who have interesting or weird jobs. Ask, learn, be open, listen, and contribute. If young people participate in and contribute to the dialogue, it is a richer experience for everyone.
Moriarty finds her current role very exciting, but it takes multitasking to a whole new level
For long holidays, Moriarty enjoys travelling to Uruguay for its beaches
She likes to share fresh ideas and is a frequent guest speaker at universities