Jagdeep Rai, Regional Director, South & East Business Banking, provides some key insights into life and work at HSBC. Jagdeep discusses the importance of nurturing a diverse and inclusive business, the best things about her current role and the advice she wishes she had received at the start of her career.
What do Diversity and Inclusion mean to you?
For me, quite simply the thread that runs through all the elements of diversity is fairness and equality. I am deeply passionate about doing my bit to help the world become a fairer place where no one is discriminated against or treated unjustly due to things that are out of their control – be that gender, ethnicity, disability, age or sexual orientation. And this is very personal to me as I and my loved ones have faced discrimination and bias throughout the course of our lives from a young age to the present day. So in a nutshell - for me it’s personal and a morality and values piece – it’s part of who I am as a person to stand up and stand against discrimination and unfair bias in all its forms.
Secondly and also importantly it just makes business sense to build and nurture a diverse and inclusive business. There are numerous studies and pieces of evidence that show that businesses that have a good mixture of diversity across all metrics perform better. Why is this? – these companies are able to foster a depth and breadth of ideas, thinking, creativity and most importantly they reflect the communities and customers they serve which means they have a deeper level of understanding and connection of their needs and better able to build trusted and long-lasting deep relationships. That’s got to make sense.
Thirdly – despite all the work that has gone on over the years to drive inclusivity and root out discrimination the fact of the matter is that discrimination, prejudice, racism, homophobia in this day and age sadly still exists – we still have a lot of work to do in society and in business. In 2017 (only 3 years ago), BBC did a test – they sent out 2 identical CV’s in response to 100 job opportunities. Completely identical – skills, experience, qualifications, education. The only difference was one had the name Adam, the other had the name, Mohammed. The one with the name Adam had 3 times more responses and invitations to interviews than the one with Mohammed. If that doesn’t demonstrate how much more work we need to do, I don’t know what does
Perhaps the most profound event of recent times was when everything came to a head 25th May 2020, where an African American man, George Floyd was brutally killed by police officers in Minneapolis. His killing was captured on video for the world to see.. and the world has reacted with protests and outrage. In what already feels like a time of great change, this feels like a critical moment for us all. A moment that perhaps future generations will look back on and judge whether we responded to make the fundamental change needed to eradicate racism and inequality. Subsequently, we have opened up a conversation in our organisation as many others have about true lived experiences that black people face day in day out and that’s one of the reasons why I am proud to work for HSBC because workplaces play an important role in challenging societal inequalities by educating colleagues on creating a fairer society which often gets taken back to our families around the dinner table after work. The number of people I’ve spoken to who when they’ve listened to the lived experience of a minority group who have said ‘I just didn’t know’ is remarkable. I think it’s now time to know and understand and help create better awareness and understanding of the challenges that people in minority groups face because it is with that understanding can come action and real progress.
In my role at HSBC, I am determined to make sure that attracting recruiting and retaining people from all walks of life, whatever creed, colour, background, gender, age or sexual orientation becomes core to our business –through our values our actions and our behaviours. It’s so important that colleagues, both existing and prospective feel really comfortable being totally authentic and bring their whole selves to work – that we are seen as an attractive place to work no matter who you are and that you can see opportunities to progress and develop on an equal playing field. And let me be really clear, I don’t see that we have a diversity ‘problem’ in our business – I see it as a real opportunity for us to become an even better business that can face up to the challenges of the future.
My final point is that it is so important to recognise the commonality and intersectionality of D&I across all individual pillars –it’s important to acknowledge that many people feel an affiliation to the challenges of more than 1 group. As an Asian woman, in the past, I didn’t feel drawn to either the gender group or the ethnicity group but a cross between the 2. My experiences were very different from a white woman but also very different from an Asian man –so I struggled to know where I should be. That’s why this for any D&I initiatives to work, as well as working vertically within the pillars, we must also work across pillars horizontally to ensure that the common threads are addressed.
I am a passionate believer that we are all in positions of influence where we can be part of positive change. I believe in focusing on similarities between people to build trust, deep human connections and relationships and then it becomes so much easier to educate and raise awareness around our challenges and differences. In fact, by doing this, most people will find that there are more similarities than bring us together than keep us apart.
What do you enjoy most about your role/job?
I am Regional Director for Business Banking in the South & East. I am super proud to lead a passionate and skilled cadre of HSBC colleagues who support businesses in the South & East by providing banking solutions, services and insights that enable those businesses to grow and thrive.
I always say that I have one of the best jobs in the world because it’s all about people – colleagues and customers. I get my energy from the rich diversity of people that I interact with on a daily basis and obtain deep personal satisfaction from seeing people and businesses develop, progress and thrive. No 2 days are the same in my role, and I really enjoy the challenge of using my IQ and EQ in tandem to solve business problems that come across my desk. My biggest sense of accomplishment comes when I can help people to see the solution and am able to inspire them to take action towards it.
If you could go back in time what career advice would you give yourself?
I would say don’t worry too much about trying to ‘fit in’ and to be my authentic self from the outset. As a young girl of Indian immigrant parents growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I was always encouraged to keep my head down, work hard and not make a fuss or question the status quo. I guess this stuck with me throughout my education and early career years in banking – it was through the help of a great mentor I had that helped me to realise that my difference in terms of my background and upbringing was my edge as opposed to the thing that would hold me back – don’t get me wrong, it’s important to be professional, to be brilliant at your job, and to work incredibly hard at it, but it’s also crucial to be totally authentic. It was when I realised the power of this combination and the self-confidence that came from this that I saw my career start to exponentially rise.
In addition to this I would say, always be open to new experiences and opportunities, and when going for new roles, worry less about the parts of the job you can’t do but focus on the parts you can, and learn quickly the parts you need to develop. Finally, I would change my perspective on failure – I used to fear failure but have learnt that failure is a good thing – when things haven’t gone my way have often the most seminal learning moments, and times when I have grown and developed the most. The key is how you deal with it and what you learn from it.