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HSBC China COO on why finding like-minded people is important at work

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Chief operating officer of HSBC China, Terecina Kwong. Photo: HSBC China

HSBC China chief operating officer Terecina Kwong was awarded fourth place in this year’s HERoes Top 100 Women Role Model Executives list. The list, released by diversity and inclusion network INvolve and supported by Yahoo Finance, celebrates women who are leading by example and driving change to increase gender diversity in the workplace. View the full HERoes Top 100 Women Executives list here.

As chief operating officer of HSBC China, Terecina Kwong is already one of the most high-powered bankers in the world — she has oversight of tens of thousands of employees and is responsible for an annual budget of nearly $200m (£164m).

You would think, therefore, that she would have little time to establish a country-wide company diversity network. But that is exactly what Kwong did.

Inspired by HSBC UK’s Balance network, which has won awards for the opportunities it creates for women in the the bank’s UK workforce, Kwong launched a counterpart initiative in HSBC China when she moved to the country in 2018.

‘Finding like-minded people is so important’

Balance gets to the core of Kwong’s beliefs about making it in your career, and in life, she said.

“The experience I’ve gotten working across countries and regions means that because I need to work with very different stakeholders, or meet with different customers, or even regulators, I’ve realised you need a stronger support network,” Kwong told Yahoo Finance UK.

Kwong said that, no matter which country she is working in, she tries to find like-minded people to work with, be it for personal or professional development.

There is "power to be able to have connected like-minded individuals [who] understand different contexts, who have similar aspirations,” she said.

Since its founding last year, Balance has supported the recruitment, development and engagement of a gender-balanced workforce in China. It has also built a network and organised themed events that have reached nearly 30,000 employees across all of HSBC’s various divisions in China.

“I thought moving to China and taking on this role was a great opportunity for me to create a platform. And, given the size of the workforce, it’d be a missed opportunity not to do it,” Kwong said.

Kwong draws a distinction between mentorship and sponsorship. Photo: HSBC China

46% of women in senior leadership positions

Kwong has either set in motion or strongly support several other initiatives that have increased diversity within her workforce.

A series of panel discussions and keynote speeches focused on themes like women in technology and the barriers that women face in trying to reach positions of power.

She also regularly holds mentorship meetings with high-potential women within the company, and goes to lengths to promote HSBC China as a “gender parity brand”.

The bank has thus become one of the top companies pursued by female candidates within China, and has won an industry award for its activities in this sphere. Women now make up 46% of senior leadership positions within HSBC China.

‘Giving back to society is not something you only do after retirement’

Outside of her work with HSBC, Kwong has also been involved in initiatives that focus on equipping underprivileged Chinese women and teachers with financial knowledge.

In 2018, she spearheaded a project that donated more than 120 computers to remote areas of China, and launch a similar programme later this year.

And working closely with HSBC’s corporate sustainability functions, Kwong led an initiative that saw 1,000 employees deliver financial management training to underprivileged communities.

But Kwong does not feel like she deserves acclamation for this work — she considers it a responsibility.

“I was talking to someone who is due for retirement, a quite senior CEO in another organisation, and I asked how they were going to spend their time,” Kwong said.

“They told me that they’re going to spend time on charity work and development. That was interesting to me, because giving back to society is not something you only do after retirement.”

“All of us who are quite senior in the corporate world should think that this mission is part of what we do. That’s my belief.”

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Yahoo Finance is supporting diversity and inclusion network INvolve’s executive role model lists across EMpower, HERoes, and OUTstanding. Nominations for the 2019 OUTstanding role models lists are open.