Money Moves

All the world's a stage

by Billy Chan

Stephen Knight (right)
managing director, investment banking technology
Sonali Goel, executive director, investment banking operations
J.P. Morgan
Photo: Lewis Wong

J.P. Morgan embraces concepts of workforce diversity and inclusion

Globalisation has over the last decade pushed a great number of companies to fine-tune their corporate cognitive systems in a bid to optimise business efficiency and drive growth, essentially giving the very notion of workforce inclusion and diversity a fresh and practical dimension.

With diversity comes strength. In keeping with this core belief, investment bank J.P. Morgan aims at maintaining a diverse workforce, harnessing the skills and knowledge of people of both genders as well as those from different cultural and professional backgrounds.

"Just like a diverse portfolio might consist of stocks, gold and other assets, we build our global workforce along the same principle," says Stephen Knight, managing director, investment banking technology, J.P. Morgan. "An inclusive workforce, which combines different perspectives on business issues, ultimately makes us stronger."

Diversity is a driving force for global corporation, remarks Sonali Goel, executive director, investment banking operations, J.P. Morgan. She points out that findings of numerous researches reach the conclusion that diversity in the workplace increases productivity, fosters bonds and enhances teamwork.

"At J.P. Morgan, we create a culture that sparks creativity, leadership and exceptional performance. Our success depends on enabling and challenging each other to contribute our best in an environment that is inclusive, open, flexible, fair and encouraging," adds Ms Goel who manages about 250 staff in nine countries in Asia-Pacific, including Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and India.

Strength in numbers

Aware of the importance of creating a diverse workforce in Asia's varied and growing markets, the financial services corporation went against the norm and expanded its technology division during the height of the economic downturn at the end of 2008.

"There's great potential for progress in the region and we realised that we needed to invest in it," says Mr Knight, pointing out that local knowledge and insight are crucial to steering business direction and product development in the particularly dynamic Asian market.

"As a result of our actions, J.P. Morgan now finds itself in an exceptionally good position in the aftermath of the financial crisis," he adds. "We believe this is a direct result of our diverse and innovative leadership."

The strategy has also helped the company to maintain its position as market leader, says Ms Goel. "Employees feel that their contributions are recognised when they're adding value rather than just execute tasks passively."

In addition to this, the bank stresses the importance of a level playing field for all staff, as well as respect for every individual. There are policies in place to ensure that all the bank's employees benefit from equal opportunities for mobility across different regions and team members at all levels are encouraged to voice their ideas and offer suggestions.

The organisation also willingly accommodates employees with a genuine need for flexible working arrangements. "There's a self-generating energy that prevails inside J.P. Morgan because of this acceptance and inclusiveness," notes Mr Knight who currently manages 450 staff.

Taking action

To further promote inclusivity, J.P. Morgan organises regular events such as a recent seminar for junior staff on leadership opportunities in the growing Asian economy, organised by the bank's investment banking technology and operations diversity committee. For the first time, external speakers, including two entrepreneurs and an audit partner, were invited to share their success stories with the audience.

"We want to show our people that certain qualities can help them pursue career success and that, provided they have the right mindset, they can make it to the top regardless of their background," emphasises Ms Goel.

"Action speaks louder than any mission statement and we know that if we don't have multifaceted viewpoints within our employee population, we probably won't have a balanced strategy going forward," stresses Mr Knight. "The right strategy is what supports business growth. This goes for operations, as well as technology."

Diversity is not just another corporate buzzword, he concludes. "It's very important to the bank and has all but blended into our job now. Far from being an afterthought, it's always at the forefront of our thinking."

Salient point

  • Workforce diversity boosts corporate strengths
  • Local knowledge and insight crucial
  • Inclusivity gives new perspectives on business issues
  • Employees benefit from equal opportunities

Taken from Career Times 28 January 2011, A2

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