Hundreds of senior business leaders gathered at the fifth annual Out Leadership: Asia 2017 LBGT+ Senior Summit, hosted by for the first time in partnership by KPMG, HSBC, and Thomson Reuters.
KPMG, HSBC, and Thomson Reuters also committed to co-sponsor the Out Leadership Summit in Asia for 3 years, working together to build an enduring alliance to drive change in the region. Summit participants enjoyed increased opportunities to learn and participate in a regional dialogue about corporates’ investment in LGBT+ inclusion across the three business-focused Summit sessions, including a conversation between the three CEO Summit hosts, a discussion of the way LGBT+ inclusion impacts risk assessments in the financial services industry, and the launch in Hong Kong of the United Nations business standards for LGBT+ inclusion.
Speaking at the first session, John Flint, Chief Executive Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC, noted the importance of personal stories to the LGBT+ inclusion conversation. “What I’ve tried to do is move this conversation away from being conversation that focuses on people’s heads and towards a conversation that engages people’s hearts. The head bit’s fine. Bankers’ heads are full of data and stuff and KPIs and research and that’s what we do, and there isn’t much space for any more data. What we don’t do a lot of though, is listen to people talk about themselves and their stories and their emotions and the realities of what it’s like to live in the environment we’ve created. Once we start telling those stories, people start to listen. When they start to listen, they respond. That’s when the change happens.”
“I know John said that conversations have gone beyond the business case, but I’m not sure that’s equally true around the world,” responded Sanjeev Chatrath, Managing Director, Region Head – Asia, Financial & Risk, Thomson Reuters. “I think there’s a need for us to constantly keep reinforcing the business case for LGBT+ inclusion, because there are still a lot of doubters and not every geography globally is on the same page. And we see at Thomson Reuters that the business opportunities are real. Our news team, for example, focuses on under-reported news specifically around LGBT+, which there’s an audience for. Our tax and accounting business, similarly, has created solutions for same-sex couples. There are real business opportunities for leaders who focus on the LGBT+ market opportunity to explore.
Andrew Weir, Regional Senior Partner, Hong Kong and Global Head of Building Construction and Real Estate, KPMG, argued that sweeping LGBT+ inclusion into diversity & inclusion efforts broadly might not pay off: “Leaders often use the diversity and inclusion angle, as a way to get buy-in, and broadly, as a way to gesture towards or move towards LGBT+ inclusion. I often hear the argument that diversity and inclusion just makes sense, it’s common sense governance. It’s much more acceptable to get broad buy-in that way. But I’m starting to think again. Because if one’s not careful, it just becomes generic, and motherhood and apple pie. There’s definitely a thesis, that if you want a certain amount of progress, you need to make a certain amount of noise. I think we need to think about that. If we still have this step-by-step perspective, seeing LGBT+ as a subset of diversity and inclusion, I wonder if we’ll get that quantum change we’re seeking.”
Kevin Martin, Head of Regional Banking and Wealth Management Asia-Pacific, HSBC (left), underlined his bank’s special relationship with Hong Kong, noting that it creates both influence and responsibility: “The ‘Hong Kong Bank’ has an association with Hong Kong that’s far deeper than just being a financial pillar. Right? We are and have been a part of this community since the very beginning. Our success is inevitably tied to the success of the community we serve here in Hong Kong. As a result of which, we have a duty of care to the community of Hong Kong that extends beyond providing financial services and our relationship with government, with Beijing, with the whole raft of key stakeholders here. It’s an unusual relationship. And we’re conscious of not creating a single line of debate or favor when our responsibility is to the entire community. Which is why we’re seeking to create an environment that’s safe and welcoming, where every individual feels they have a say no matter what their identity or position. We’ve lit the building. We’ve put rainbow lions outside. There is no question about HSBC’s commitment to LGBT+. There is no question about our commitment to an open, transparent, diverse organization and community. But there’s another level to go.”