Banking on diversity

 

AT BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH, DANIEL SOUTH IS THE HEAD OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION FOR EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA (EMEA)  AND BELIEVES THAT PEOPLE PERFORM THEIR BEST WHEN THEY CAN BE THEIR TRUE SELVES

You are head of Diversity and Inclusion for EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. What does the role involve?

My role is to help make things happen – whether it’s engaging our senior managers on the topic of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I); driving new initiatives and programmes; or working with our nine Employee Networks who support our diverse internal and external communities. Creating an inclusive culture where everyone can be themselves at work is something we work hard to achieve. We want our LGBT+ employees to feel that they can be out at work, our women to have a brilliant career in financial services, those with a disability to get the support they need and for all employees to have the chance to succeed regardless of their background.

 

Prior to this, what was your background?

I’ve always worked in the “people” space – I’m fascinated by the dynamics of individuals and teams in the workplace and helping them to perform at their best.

 

What attracted you to this role?

At my previous organisation I helped to set up an LGBT+ Employee Network. This was my first experience of understanding the importance of supporting and developing employees from diverse backgrounds or who are underrepresented. I saw the move into my current D&I role as a way to be a “culture-changer” for the company – to push us to be as diverse as possible and for everyone to understand that the more inclusive we are, the more effective we are as individuals, as teams and as a company.

 

How important are Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace?

For us they’re  truly ingrained across the company. We don’t see D&I as a bolt-on or something to think about a few times a year: that approach wouldn’t drive change or make our company – or indeed the individuals who work here – stronger. We embed D&I into everything we do, whether it’s our intern and graduate programmes, our training and development, discussions with senior managers or how we interact with clients and suppliers.

 

Would you encourage LGBT+ employees at Bank of America Merrill Lynch to be open about their sexuality?

It’s a personal choice. Recently, we had an employee of 17 years come out at work and he has talked openly about how much happier and more productive he is now. We believe that people perform at their best and enjoy their work more when they can be themselves, and for our LGBT+ employees that can mean being “out” at work which we encourage everyone to consider. We work hard to ensure managers create inclusive cultures within their teams for this to happen.

 

What positive steps is Bank of America Merrill Lynch taking to promote diversity in the workplace, especially with regard to your LGBT+ employees?

We are really proud of our Ally Programme which was developed by our LGBT Pride Employee Network to drive positive change and engagement. It allows colleagues who aren’t LGBT+ to show their support for LGBT+ colleagues, join training sessions to better understand what it means to be L, G, B or T, and to attend events and talks that discuss some of the issues facing this community. This year we have reached over 21,000 allies globally, which shows just how much support there is across the bank for our LGBT+ employees.

 

What role does your LGBT Employee Network play?

Our LGBT Pride Employee Network is at the centre of everything we are doing to create an LGBT+-inclusive culture and to bring allies with us on our journey. Network members focus their efforts across five key areas: business strategy, recruitment, development, culture and community. So whether our volunteer members are out on campus talking to graduates; hosting talks internally with senior leaders or engaging with our charity partners, everything they do is helping to engage our workforce on LGBT+ topics and challenges. I already mentioned our Ally Programme: the Network is incredibly proud of this initiative and the amazing support our LGBT+ colleagues have received from 1000s of allies across the company since its launch a few years ago. It’s initiatives like this – involving allies or advocates who want to show their support for others – that is making us a truly inclusive company and a great place to work.

 

On a personal level, what has given you the greatest satisfaction as Head of Diversity and Inclusion for EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch?

I’m really inspired by how many employees and senior managers are involved in our D&I efforts. Across our nine Employee Networks over 170 people are volunteering to run events and activities, and this is on top of their busy day job! They don’t see D&I as something that is done by HR or a standalone D&I team, they are actively involved because they believe that everyone should play their part in helping to make this a great place to work.