Despite graduating in the top five per cent of his class in 1987, Simon struggled to find a job in finance. So too did many of his friends, particularly those who, like him, were from African or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.
“I probably had to apply to about a hundred different places to get a job,” says Simon, who is now HSBC’s Deputy General Counsel for Retail Banking and Wealth Management in the US.
Simon’s experience made him determined to improve opportunities for the next generation. So when he joined HSBC, Simon decided to get involved in an employee resource group that supports the personal and professional development of black colleagues through training and networking opportunities.
There is much more thought around how we change the way we do things
Today Simon is executive sponsor of the bank’s African Heritage Employee Resource Group in the US, which is part of Embrace – one of seven global employee-led networks at HSBC. Thanks in part to the work done by Embrace, colleagues from a broader range of backgrounds attend development programmes. Senior black employees also regularly talk to HSBC’s executives as part of a two-way mentoring scheme.
“What I am seeing more and more, not just in our space but I think with the other demographics in the bank, is much more strategic thinking [about different ethnic backgrounds], much more thought around how we change the way we do things to create an inclusive environment,” says Simon in a new HSBC video.
HSBC has seven employee networks that aim to foster a culture in which everyone can feel included. Embrace, which focuses on ethnicity and race, seeks to ensure that the bank is a place where people of different backgrounds can succeed. Other networks focus on disability, gender, faith, age, working families and sexual orientation.
The bank has received recognition for its work on diversity. The Human Rights Campaign, a non-governmental organisation, recently gave HSBC USA a perfect score in its 2017 Corporate Equality Index assessing policies relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at Fortune 500 companies. In 2015 and 2016, HSBC was recognised as a Times Top 50 Employer for Women in the UK.