Bank of America Merrill Lynch: The importance of diversity and inclusion

bobsguide spoke to Jennifer Boussuge, Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, prior to her session on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the financial industry at this year’s Sibos conference in Geneva. She spoke about how the promotion of these are of paramount importance within organisations today and how …

by | September 5, 2016 | bobsguide

bobsguide spoke to Jennifer Boussuge, Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, prior to her session on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the financial industry at this year’s Sibos conference in Geneva. She spoke about how the promotion of these are of paramount importance within organisations today and how BAML, as a bank, works to ensure that everyone is supported and treated equally.

How does diversity and inclusion fit into your role at BAML?

I head our global transaction services business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and I am based here in London. Diversity and inclusion are very near and dear to my heart, so in addition to my day job of running the business, I am very engaged in our activities in this region as a member of our diversity and inclusion council and also as the co-exec sponsor for an internal networking group that we call EMEA LEAD. It used to be called LEAD for Women but we dropped “for women” because ultimately the purpose of the group is around leadership, education, advocacy and development. We realised that just asking women to join the group would not solve the problem, so now one in three members of the group is male.

How does this tie into what you’ll be discussing at Sibos?

In terms of what Andrew Bester, Commercial Banking, Lloyds Banking Group, Mark McLane, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Barclays Bank and I are going to talk about, the broader topic will be diversity and inclusion, but with a focus on gender diversity. A recent survey by Deloitte revealed that 86% of executives said that corporate culture is an important issue and within BAML we have a saying that “diversity means business”. I think having a healthy culture, especially one that is diverse and inclusive, is very crucial for business success.

The good news is that we have seen a real mind shift in recent years when it comes to inclusion in financial services, so it’s certainly no longer an issue that sits within our HR team. Certainly within our firm, diversity is valued and defines who we are as a company and we want people to define us as a diverse organisation. Around the globe and in reference to the global group within which I work, managers are absolutely accountable for building diverse teams and for fostering an inclusive environment where employees are valued for who they are and what they offer.

Do you see fintech companies as competition?

Clearly there is competition from fintechs and not just in the diversity and inclusion space. The competition stems from how they embrace innovation, how agile and nimble they are, and how they operate in what is right now (for them), not a highly regulated environment. This is something that we always have to keep in mind, especially as financial institutions are highly regulated, which puts constraints on us in terms of what we can and can’t do.

At the moment the fintech industry is not feeling these constraints as much, but it will come in time, and we’re seeing a little bit of it creeping in right now. That said, I think there are many things we can learn from the fintech industry, for example, how they embrace millennials and the types of environment and culture that they are creating makes people feel like they’re valued and can put forward their thoughts. The structure is not very hierarchical and everyone can make decisions so that their voice is heard.  

What are you doing for the younger generation?

In terms of what we’re doing in the junior talent space, we are ensuring that millennials are able to envision a future career in banking because they have so much passion and bring an interesting perspective to old problems that we’ve been trying to solve. It’s about a shifting of our culture to being more open to these millennials. Within GTS we’re currently piloting a programme which is a reverse mentoring scheme where every member of my leadership team is going to be mentored by a millennial.

This year in London we launched “IGEN” which is an inter-generational employee network, giving a sense of community to millennials but with the dual purpose of allowing them to share experiences and knowledge with older generations and vice-versa. This group is also helping us better understand how different generations communicate and use technology – which helps us internally but can ultimately help us with client relationships too.

By 2020, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce so it is a mind shift for us to realise that it’s not only about us imparting knowledge to them, it’s about listening a little more and understanding their perspectives. Across the financial industry, it’s important that we do this so that we don’t lose valuable talent to fintechs. We need to remember that millennials have had access to technology and information since they were born and it is what they’re used to – that’s very different to Gen X or Y and baby boomers.

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