HSBC’s Decades-Long Celebration of Individual Differences Sets the Global Bank apart

by LP Green, II

Since its founding in 1865, HSBC has recognized the need for diverse perspectives in order to serve diverse constituencies. HSBC started in Asia – “H” represents“Hong Kong” and “S” represents “Shanghai” – but had a presence in the United States nearly from day-one; 1865 was also the year it began serving customers in San Francisco.

Diversity and inclusion have been woven into the international bank’s strategy ever since, and its US operations frequently serve a study abroad program in China for African-American as a cultural and commercial bridge between the United States and Asia. Case in point: a few years ago, HSBC USA’s head of private banking traveled to China with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The trip sparked a dialogue about how HSBC could leverage its Asia expertise to support the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Incorporated’s (CBCF) focus on global leadership for the next generation of leaders. The result was a study abroad program in China for African-American college students majoring in business or one of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, math).

This summer, the CBCF program is underway for the third year in a row, with 20 young African-American men and women immersing themselves in China, visiting major cities, attending lectures on the nation’s history and culture, and seeing many of the country’s most fabled sites. The program is partially funded by HSBC and infused with the bank’s local expertise and spirit of inclusion. Said one student who has taken the trip, it “opened my eyes to the opportunities that I may have in the future. I have also learned that a vast broad understanding and exposure to the world helps you both personally and professionally.”

“Acquiring a broad understanding of the world is the essence of what our commitment to diversity and inclusion is all about,” says Maureen Gillan-Myer, Head of Human Resources for HSBC USA. She leads efforts to attract top-notch talent by establishing the bank as a place that hires, develops, and promotes based on merit, and also provides an open, supportive, and inclusive working environment. “At HSBC there are people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Our differences are important – they make us who we are as individuals and, together, who we are as a company.”

HSBC’s celebration of individual differences is embodied in its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Led by high-performing diverse employees, these groups facilitate open discussion of the
workplace issues facing diverse groups, assist with recruiting, and promote professional development through networking and career development events. Underscoring how ERGs are ingrained at HSBC is their participation in large-scale projects. For example, the Valor ERG for veterans is collaborating with other employers and organizations to support US service personnel as they transition to corporate America. And the Ability ERG is leading the bank’s nationwide review to help attract, promote, and develop employees with disabilities.

HSBC is also promoting a culture of inclusion through a reverse mentoring initiative, Project Reciprocate, whereby some of the most senior executives are paired with the most senior African- American employees.  One participant is Simon Des-Etages, Deputy General Counsel for HSBC USA’s retail banking and wealth management business. As a reverse mentor, he had a series of open, frank conversations with his C-suite mentee to help reduce unconscious bias and raise awareness of the unique challenges facing black employees.

Des-Etages, who serves as Executive Sponsor of the African Heritage ERG, acknowledges that while HSBC has had recent success in finding African-Americans for senior positions, “we know this takes time and requires ongoing focus.” He attributes the bank’s progress to a holistic approach that integrates HSBC’s business objectives. One example in the planning phase is a multi- year, multi-faceted initiative in Harlem that will encompass support for community organizations, financial literacy programs for local residents, and a focus on making more loans to local small businesses.

“Diversity and inclusion is a business differentiator,” says Des-Etages“It provides us – and our customers – with the promise of a more prosperous and sustainable future.”



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