The Extraordinary Professional Success of Female Co-CFO Yupa Leewongcharoen and Her Ambition to Make True Corporation a Telecom-Tech Leader in Southeast Asia

21 March 2024

Did you know that “Thailand” ranks 2nd in the world in terms of women’s percentage in CFO posts. In Thailand, the percentage is as high as 43. Among the female Thai CFOs or chief financial officers is Yupa Leewongcharoen. She is now the (Co) Chief Financial Officer at True Corporation Public Company Limited.


To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, True Blog interviewed this iron lady. Before her contributions prove crucial to True’s goal to transform into a telecom tech company in financial and investment dimensions, she has been through a lot in both personal and professional life.


What are her motivations? What has sustained her through all the pressure? Thanks to her contributions, True – which is worth hundreds of billion baht – achieved its financial goal faster than expected. Here is her story:

Lost Opportunities: Price of Being Female

Yupa Leewongcharoen, Co-Chief Financial Officer at True Corporation Public Company Limited, has worked in the financial field since she obtained a bachelor’s degree. Growing up in Rayong, she later moved to Bangkok to enroll at a better-equipped secondary school. When it was time to enter a university, she could think of just a few choices though. Back then, career guidance and soul-searching concept was little known. There were thus just a handful of career choices to consider like doctor, dentist, pharmacist, and engineer. Most students decided to further their education in the field that would likely guarantee their job security for as long as their academic performance allowed them to.


“I was initially a student in the science program. Out of my love for mathematics, I furthered my education in accountancy field. My choice was also influenced by social value as it would be easy for me to get a job after my graduation. But to tell the truth, Mathematical Accounting is far different from Pure Mathematics,” Yupa said about her educational background.


After completing undergraduate studies, Yupa dreamed of furthering her education overseas with the aim to become a university lecturer. However, because she was a young woman, her family thought it was too dangerous for her to study abroad. Without advanced communication technology, people in the past communicated mainly via “letters” if they lived in different countries. Because her parents were worried about her safety, they coerced her to further her education in Thailand. So, in the end, she studied for a Master of Business Administration at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).


“In the past, parents clearly treated sons and daughters differently. If I were a boy, my family would have already supported my decision to study overseas. While I understood my parents’ caring concerns, I couldn’t help feeling that women lost opportunities so easily just because they were born female. I lost my opportunity even though I was capable and was accepted by a university of my choice,” this female executive said about conventional beliefs applying to women in the past.

Overcoming (Financial) Crisis

After learning a lot from textbooks, Yupa started “working”. Her first job was at the Bank of Ayudhya, where she was an assistant to the bank’s CFO and took charge of Managerial Accounting. Although she had already become a working woman, she had not really given up the dream of studying overseas. One day, she noticed an advertisement about a vacancy at the Telephone Organization of Thailand (It was already merged into CAT Telecom. Following the merging, it is now known as National Telecom Public Company Limited). Yupa was interested because the organization was a state enterprise, which usually offered solid job security plus bonus. It was also located in Ploenchit area just like Bank of Ayudhya. Yupa’s application was accepted. She was recruited to the organization’s Corporate Planning section. Her job responsibilities covered financial strategies, investments, and project feasibility.


Between 1992 and 1996, Thailand’s telecom industry enjoyed a big boom. The government granted a concession for the private sector to invest and operate fixed-line as well as mobile-phone services. Via her new job, Yupa met Suphachai Chearavanont, who pioneered CP Group’s communications business. Led by Suphachai, CP Group’s Telecom Asia won the concession to provide services for 2.2 million telephone numbers from the Telephone Organization of Thailand.


“I still remember the day I sat opposite Khun Suphachai, discussing about public private partnership. That’s a turning point. I joined True at his invitation,” Yupa revealed.


After accepting the new job offer, Yupa took charge of UTV. Operating a cable-TV business, UTV revolutionized TV watching in Thailand by offering special content to subscribers. Its only key competitor was IBC. But their competition lasted just for a while or until “1997 Financial Crisis” struck. Because the Bank of Thailand floated baht currency, both UTV and IBC became bankrupt. The cost of their imported content suddenly “skyrocketed” due to the change in currency-exchange policy. In that crisis, UTV and IBC merged into a new legal entity under the name of UBC. Major shareholders were True and MIH, a media conglomerate from South Africa.

Story Behind Trust

Yupa is a proven iron lady because she has braved through several crises before. Given that she has stood by her firm no matter what, the Board of Directors has finally entrusted her with a CFO post. She has been the CFO of  TrueVisions, True Move, True Online and True Group before its amalgamation with dtac. At present, she has served as a Co-CFO of True Corporation.


What does Yupa do to be entrusted with the mission of overseeing assets worth hundreds of billion baht? After contemplating the question, Yupa replied, “When I worked at UBC, I was exposed to multiracial context. Africans, Dutch, Britons, and Greek and Thais worked together. Back then, I was already a Deputy CFO. I once asked my Greece boss as to why he chose me. His answer was that I worked to the utmost of my abilities in the best interests of the company. I had never shied away from challenging and difficult tasks”.


Naturally, women have had some emotional and physical limitations. Sometimes, those limitations have caused an emotional wound too. At a younger age, Yupa once found that the decision maker of a partner mistook her for a junior assistant of her team and hardly treated her with respect. His behaviors constituted a form of sexual harassment even without any physical contact.

Stepping Stone

Yupa, so far, believes that femininity does not stand in the way of career advancement because women can use their feminine touch as a competitive edge and overcome any sexual obstacles. To do so, she recommended setting life goals, focusing on a big picture, and embracing a holistic approach to visualize what one should be in the future.


“Women can lead taking her soft power advantage. Women’s usual attention to detail also can be an advantage. It’s just that women should learn to focus on a big picture. Once we get the big picture, we can work on jigsaw pieces later,” this female executive said.


For financial planning, errors must be “zero”. Financial planners therefore always look and plan ahead. Taken into account are all relevant factors including macroeconomy. Yupa, for example, has already been making  financial preparations for the next year. At present, True’s total liabilities are at 370 billion baht. Every year, about 10 billion must be refinanced through the issuance of debentures. Yupa said the company must think carefully about what the interest rate should be each time to make a reasonable offer to investors.


True’s merging with dtac marks the biggest deal in Asia in terms of financial value. Yet, several financial decisions must be made within limited time…at the time negotiations for the deal did not really move on smoothly. Sometimes, it was as if the deal would not sail through. But Yupa said because of her supportive boss, she could keep going.


“As CFO, I have handled a lot of money as well as a lot of risks. That’s mean I can’t make a mistake. Support and advice from Khun Suphachai let me know that I am not on my own,” Yupa said.


This female CFO’s tip to other women for a career success is that, “The path won’t be rosy. You will need to balance career and personal life well. At work, disagreement sometimes happen. But you need to make sure that your decision is based on public interest. No matter what happens. Just accept and it. Once you have overcome obstacles, you will realize that those obstacles are in fact stepping-stones for your further growth. They are something you will look back at and feel proud of”.

Women can lead taking her soft power advantage. Women’s usual attention to detail also can be an advantage. It’s just that women should learn to focus on a big picture. Once we get the big picture, we can work on jigsaw pieces later