Women in banking: tips from the top

22 February 2018

By Tim Pemberton

Young woman using smartphone and pulling suitcase, city skyline in view

Diane S Reyes is regularly named among the most influential women in financial services. Here, HSBC’s Head of Global Liquidity and Cash Management explains what makes a successful leader – and shares her tips on how to make an impact in the workplace.

Focus on a few main leadership skills.

These skills have been key to my success. They aren’t specific to banking or being a woman; they’re key attributes in any career and for anyone.

 Diane S Reyes: It’s vital to speak up
  • Persistence. If you have a good idea, don’t let other people disregard it too soon. Sometimes it takes more than one go to iron things out and achieve consensus.
  • Teamwork. You won’t always have the answers, so you have to reach out to others. To be really successful takes a “village” approach.
  • Communication. Tell people what you want to achieve – and do it many times. It can take time to digest. Repetition is vital.
  • Execution. Deliver against your objectives or business case. You will get people’s confidence and they will see you as credible.

Don’t make assumptions. And speak up.

People may make assumptions about colleagues and the type of opportunities they’re interested in. Someone may have your best interests at heart but if you haven’t told them what you want, you might find yourself missing out on opportunities.

The solution is to talk openly about your career aspirations, especially when your circumstances change – for example, if you are a recent parent returning to work. Some may assume that this could stop you taking a specific job that requires either travelling or long hours. But if you have a childcare situation that works for you, you may want to pursue it. As someone who has had four children, I encourage you to speak up. If you’re a manager, ask the people who work for you what they want and need – and keep asking.

Good communication works for both genders.

I had one member of staff who wanted to go back to his home country after less than a year in a new role in the US. Many of his peers were sceptical as to why. I had breakfast with him. It turned out his child was ill and, understandably, he wanted to be at home to support his wife and care for his child, but was afraid to speak up. We were able to help him return and stay with the bank.

Women need to be their own publicist.

Some women, especially in certain cultures, aren’t comfortable talking about their achievements. They feel they’re being arrogant or are boasting. They think their boss will see their results and that will be enough, but managers are often too busy to notice. I insist that the people I manage write an assessment of their own accomplishments before their official performance review.

Have an elevator pitch.

Boil it down to soundbites. If you get the chance to talk to a senior leader at your place of work, use it wisely. Don’t talk about the weather! Tell them your idea to improve efficiency, how you’ve just delivered a cost saving – something that sells you. And remember, speak up.

Be an advocate for change.

Deliver against your objectives or business case. You will get people’s confidence and they will see you as credible

Encouraging a diverse workforce is important to me and to HSBC. I’ve been part of several of our diversity and inclusion committees, which aim to help to support an inclusive working culture at the bank. I have also sponsored Nurture, a global staff network that supports employees caring for disabled children or elderly relatives.

I recently became the sponsor of a new leadership programme in our Global Banking and Markets business. This scheme enables senior leaders like me to mentor our most talented women to develop their careers and move into more senior roles.

Promote the value of diversity.

If you’re a manager advertising a job and all applicants are male, go ahead and interview them, but encourage women to apply too. That way you’ll get what I call diversity of mind. If you employ people from the same background you always look at a problem the same way. The same applies to the interview panel. Having people from a variety of backgrounds at HSBC means we reflect the diversity of our customers better.

I’d tell my younger self to take more risks.

Early on in my career I was more conservative. If you moved jobs you went to another department or the company next door, not another country. The world is so small now, you can get assignments abroad. Don’t wait. Experiment. And remember, be persistent – and don’t be afraid to communicate what you want.

Read more about HSBC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion



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    Alice Lemaitre

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