Issues relating to Diversity – recognising, accepting and respecting that each individual is unique – were not very high on the industry’s priority list when the Asian Private Banker Awards for Distinction first began in 2011. Since then, much has changed – and much still needs to change.
The impetus for change has come from many fronts, albeit without much regulatory thrust. Primarily, with the fight to attract and retain talent intensifying, private banks are realising that being diverse, at the very least, makes good business sense. Increasing recognition for organisations that invest in creating such an environment, whether from awards or otherwise, is another. A third, and perhaps most important, motive is the need for private banks to keep up with the high bar set by their competitors, specifically the industry leaders.
Goldman Sachs, the deserved winner of the Best Private Bank – Diversity award for 2015 – making it three wins in five years – is one such leader. It has created a blueprint for inclusion that is referred to widely as the gold standard in Asia. In particular, the bank’s private wealth management (PWM) business in Asia has led the charge from the frontline, spearheading many of its diversity initiatives. Ron Lee, head of PWM Asia Pacific, is also the firm’s co-chair for Diversity in the region.
Other Diversity leaders include Nick Yim, head of the PWM Greater China business who is on the board of advisers of the firm’s Hong Kong Women’s Network (HKWN); the board offers mentoring, coaching and guidance to HKWN leadership so as to maximise its contribution and visibility. Mary Anne Choo, a managing director for PWM, sits on the Asia Pacific Diversity Committee. She and Jason Moo, Regional Manager for PWM in Southeast Asia and Australia, are advocates of LGBT inclusion within the firm. Moo is also a male champion with the Financial Women’s Association in Singapore, and Choo is actively involved in philanthropy.
Not surprisingly then, Goldman Sachs’ vice chair, chief operating officer and head of compliance for PWM in Asia are women.
This dedication to diversity most certainly percolates from the firm’s most senior leaders. Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein has advocated for marriage equality legislation and is quoted both internally and externally: “Diversity is at the very core of our ability to serve our clients well and to maximise return for our shareholders. Diversity supports and strengthens the firm’s culture, and it reinforces our reputation as the employer of choice in our industry and beyond”.
Of particular interest to Asian Private Banker is the institutionalisation of inclusion at the bank, which has been created by a consistent and concerted commitment to making diversity part of its corporate DNA.
Tellingly, an excerpt from its Business Principles, which the firm claims is the foundation of its culture, reads: “Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”