Financial Services execs lead HK LGBT summit
by Francis Nikolai Acosta, Ignite Asia (A Financial Times Service)

Hundreds of senior lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied business leaders from across Asia gathered yesterday in Hong Kong for the second annual “Out on the Street: Asia Summit”.

At the summit, financial services industry leaders participated in a series of discussion events and presented views and research on the most effective actions for promoting LGBT equality.

The event was hosted by Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s group CEO.

“There are sound business reasons for promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace, but this is about more than just financial return – we need to do this because it is right,” Gulliver said in the statement highlighting key points of the summit.

Panel discussions included Lisa Robins, Deutsche Bank’s Singapore-based head of global transaction banking for Asia Pacific, Helen Wong, HSBC China’s deputy chairman, president and CEO, and Allan Zeman chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group.

Although Hong Kong has been showing “positive signs” of inclusivity, the territory lags behind other developed economies, York Chow, chairman at Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission, says in a statement.

Misconceptions and stereotypical thinking about the LGBT community still “remain far too common”, and that is why platforms for dialogue and sharing of best practices, such as the “Out on the Street” summit, are important, he added.

“Ensuring equal opportunities for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, is a key success factor for Hong Kong’s future, both as an international city as well as a regional centre for business and financial services,” says Chow.

Senior LGBT leaders are most likely to be out at work when their peer executives identify and “act as allies”, and we know that diverse teams come to market more creatively, Todd Sears, founder and principal of Out Leadership, an LGBT collaborative organization, says in the statement.

Although companies may have different LGBT initiatives, “it’s really senior leadership that sets direction”, Stephen Golden, Hong Kong-based Asia-Pacific head of global leadership and diversity at Goldman Sachs, said in an interview with Ignites Asia in May.

Citing an example, Golden said that, before the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idahot) on May 17, Goldman Sachs’s Asia-Pacific management committee, as well as its chairman, wore something purple, the official Idahot colour, to show their support. Goldman Sachs also has what it calls “MD allies”, who are senior managing directors in every division of the company who are very supportive of the company’s LGBT network, according to Golden.

“When our employees see that their senior leaders are doing this, then they know it’s important to the firm and to the company, and they see us as a very LGBT-inclusive or LGBT-friendly company,” he said.

Aside from “Out on the Street”, there is also an LGBT Interbank Forum, which is a membership forum consisting of many investment banks with offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, as reported.

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