COO Magazine Q2 2024

COO Interview: Graeme Greenaway

Chief Operating Officer, CIB

Graeme is the global Chief Operating Officer for Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) from September 2021.

Prior to joining Standard Chartered Bank, Graeme was Managing Director and Head Wholesale Banking and Global Markets Technology and Operations at United Overseas Bank (UOB) in Singapore.

Graeme has 28 years of experience gained within the banking industry, having held senior leadership positions at UOB, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered. During his career he has specialised in operations, compliance, and technology.

He has extensive experience of driving efficiencies following an enterprise-wide role out of the agile methodology and has led in the development of a fully-fledged digital bank.

Leadership and Inclusion Philosophy: What is your personal philosophy on leadership and inclusion in the workplace, and how has it evolved over your career?

The three traits I value most, from a leadership perspective, are authenticity, being comfortable with vulnerability and being generous – these have also shaped the way I lead and interact with my teams and colleagues. First, being authentic means being brave enough to be yourself, bring your best self to work and do the right thing by your colleagues and clients. This in turn builds a culture of trust where everyone feels safe, included, heard and respected for being their authentic, unique self.

Second, being vulnerable means being comfortable and open with showing empathy, acknowledging that you are not perfect and importantly not expecting perfection. Like authenticity, this fosters mutual trust and understanding, allowing for greater connection between leaders and their teams and courage to experiment, share feedback openly, and learn from mistakes.

Third, being generous with your time and knowledge means taking the time to coach, develop and see more in others. When I started my career, I was focused on gaining understanding and knowledge, then I focused on applying what I have learned and finally, standing out as a team player and leader. As I have matured as a leader and benefited from selfless leaders and role models, I have gradually evolved from being self-focused as I see the immense value in developing others.

From an inclusion perspective, I have not had to work hard at being inclusive as I am naturally interested in spending time to get to know the people around me and I do this with the intention of creating a safe, collaborative environment for my teams. Building an inclusive team for me means embracing the differences that everyone brings to the table and focusing on developing each other’s strengths instead of blaming our weaknesses.

In my function of about 13,000 employees, I am proud to share that we have an almost 50-50 ratio of women to men, with a majority of senior roles in my leadership team held by women. While I have not set explicit parameters to maintain gender balance, as a Bank, we have policies and processes to ensure our leaders make objective and fair decisions, including gender balanced candidate lists for hiring. We review promotion lists and succession plans to ensure we have adequate representation of women and have not overlooked any talent. And so, as I was building my team, I was able to recruit the best talents and bring together the most complementary capabilities with transparency and efficiency.

Challenges and Solutions: What do you think are some of the most signifcant challenges women face in advancing their careers in your industry, and how is your organization addressing these challenges?

The fast-moving nature of the finance and other sectors poses a challenge for those who take time off for care responsibilities and this is particularly true for women. According to Standard Chartered’s newly released “Women leading through STEM and AI in Asia” report, done in partnership with Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society, women’s caregiving responsibilities for both children and elders contribute to the lack of parity in leadership roles. A survey of women in the STEM workforce, including banking, in Asia Pacific show that over 30 per cent of women with caregiving responsibilities have listed family responsibilities as a reason they would leave their roles.

To address the challenges that working mothers face, we have identified a comprehensive set of solutions that covered wellbeing, benefits, IT and other administrative support, career advice and coaching. For instance, in 2023 we introduced new flexible benefits which enhanced our parental leave benefits to a minimum of 20 weeks parental leave, regardless of gender. The Bank also provides guidance to employees on maternity leave about their rights and optional ‘Keep-in-touch Days’ which allow them to stay connected with the business. We have also built networks of senior women who serve as role models and inspiration across the Bank.

My advice to women seeking to advance in your career – be your authentic self so you can do your best work and gain followership, do not be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help and sponsorship when facing barriers and finally, focus on competing with yourself to improve and shift the game from comparison to others to progress against your previous self.

Future of DEI: Looking ahead, what trends or changes do you anticipate in the way organisations approach diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially regarding gender equality?

First, public reporting through taking a data-led approach on the impact of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion continues to be critical. This year, we have expanded the scope of our annual Fair Pay Report, published since 2017, to cover our broader commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion through our Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Impact Report. Despite solid progress in many areas, our report highlights places where we need to do much better – particularly how we promote and hire across the Bank. For instance, our gender and ethnicity pay gap analysis shows that we still have proportionally fewer women and colleagues from minority ethnic backgrounds in senior roles, and in roles with higher market rates of pay. We are committed, however, to taking continued action to increase representation and reduce these gaps further in 2024 and beyond.

Second, as organisations commit to publicly and steadily improving gender balance across all levels of seniority, we should be seeing a positive trend in women taking up senior leadership roles. For instance, at Standard Chartered we signed the UK HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter in 2016 to further progress the gender agenda and build a more balanced and fair industry. Since then, supported by policies and programmes, we have seen women in senior leadership roles increasing from 25 per cent in December 2016 to 32.5 per cent at the end of December 2023. Our goal is for 35 per cent of senior leadership roles to be occupied by women by 2025.

Personal Reflection: Can you share a personal story or experience that highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in your leadership journey?

30 years ago, when I first started my career as an engineer the field was very male dominated with only a small handful of women pursuing that specialisation at university and in the workforce. Being in that environment where most people had a similar mindset and way of thinking was very limiting for me.

When I moved into banking, I very quickly realised that building an inclusive culture is a critical lever to long-term business success. It is essential for psychological safety, and this in turn supports innovation and better decision-making. At Standard Chartered, we believe inclusion not only helps execute business strategy but also extends beyond the workplace to deliver excellence for our clients while making a positive impact in the communities where we operate.

Learning to put myself in someone else’s shoes and listening to them to better understand their lived experiences has helped me grow as a leader and person. While I am still a work in progress, valuing diversity and inclusion has helped me lead in a way that makes people feel safe, respected and valued for their distinct skills, life experiences and be confident in reaching their full potential. Taking the time to understand individuals and relate to their unique views has also helped me to consciously build a more balanced and fairer environment both at work and home.

Finally, living in cosmopolitan Singapore for the last 23 years and being exposed to the diversity of cultures, values and international communities here has helped cultivate deep insight and joy in embracing the differences and richness of backgrounds and perspectives.


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