"Consciously overcoming unconscious bias"—Kalpana Denzel interviews Judy Hsu, CEO of Singapore and ASEAN Markets, Standard Chartered Bank, on how to consciously consider diversity and inclusion in business strategies.
"Diversity is not a onetime goal you achieve; it is a continuous journey. Diversity numbers move backward the minute you stop focusing on them, faster than you can imagine." An interview with Judy Hsu, chief executive officer, Singapore and ASEAN Markets, Standard Chartered Bank
Judy Hsu is the chief executive officer of Singapore and ASEAN Markets at Standard Chartered Bank, where she is responsible for developing and executing business strategy, building client relationships, and increasing bottom-line profitability and capital. Judy joined Standard Chartered as the global head of Wealth Management and led the strategic advancement of wealth management platforms supporting Retail, Private Banking and SME clients. Prior to Standard Chartered, Judy spent 18 years at Citibank, most recently as the head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management Asia Pacific and Country Business manager, International Personal Banking.
Q: What sparked your passion for diversity and inclusion?
A: My strong sense of fairness and inclusiveness goes back to my childhood. As a new immigrant in Canada, I remember the experience of trying to fit in at a new school in a new country at the age of nine and wrestling with a completely different culture. Fortunately, I had a teacher who went out of her way to make me feel welcome, helped me get through that first year and taught me what it meant to be inclusive, especially with those who are 'outsiders'. As a manager who has worked with many teams in my career, I see the tremendous value diversity brings—resilience, adaptability and innovation—which is so critical in today's fast-changing world. Equally important, diverse teams tend to attract strong, diverse talent—it is a virtuous cycle.
Q: How is Standard Chartered moving forward in its diversity and inclusion journey?
A: Standard Chartered has a diverse workforce because we operate in over 70 countries—Singapore alone has more than 75 nationalities. While we have made good progress in this multiethnic environment, it is still common to find people who are attracted to familiarity, or who join teams of people with similar backgrounds. The bank is cognizant that a continuous, active effort is required to promote diversity and inclusion and help people overcome their hidden biases. In our markets, we have active D&I champions who lead a wide range of networks and initiatives to make our workplaces inclusive.
Q: And are there certain competencies that are required to be an inclusive leader?
A: The leader sets the tone for diversity and inclusion. In my view, we need to inculcate the right mindset and instill the necessary skills before a person makes the turn to becoming a people manager. To be an inclusive leader, he or she needs to be conscious of his/her biases, be comfortable dealing with colleagues from different backgrounds and be open to being challenged with different views. It is human nature to congregate and work with people from a similar background and culture, but diversity is not a onetime goal you achieve; it is a continuous journey. Diversity numbers move backward the minute you stop focusing on them, faster than you can imagine. It is critical that we continue to emphasize D&I at every level of the organization.
Q: How do you ensure that each voice participates and is actively involved in decision-making?
A: That is a tough one. A person's ethnicity and background play into how he or she participates. Generally, Asians tend to be quieter and subtler versus other nationalities. As a leader, you must remind yourself to balance the airtime so that you can draw the most out of a diverse team.
In Singapore, to raise consciousness around unconscious bias, we conduct small group sessions where we invite people from different backgrounds to share their views on Singapore and its work culture. Often, when they share their views, they can hear their own unconscious biases. On the other hand, for the Singaporeans receiving the feedback, they benefit from useful advice and tips on how they can get their own voices heard.
Such small group discussions are great for self-awareness building and encouraging open dialogue. We hold similar discussions for just our female employees, so that they have a platform share dialogue as well.
Q: Could you speak a little more about gender inclusion at Standard Chartered?
A: Gender inclusion is a focus for the bank and we do several things well. For example, we actively mentor and sponsor high-potential women to prepare them for their next role and/or next promotion. It doesn't mean that they are guaranteed a role or a promotion, but it means they are given the support and help to increase their chances of success. We are making progress only because we are aware, but taking the next step to being inclusive and following through. We are pleased to be recognized as one of the companies included in this year's Bloomberg Gender Equality Index.
Thank you, Judy.