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A top-down approach to diversity and inclusion

Gary John-Baptiste of ABN AMRO says greater variety of thought leads to improved performance for firms

11 August 2020

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Gary John-Baptiste
Gary John-Baptiste, ABN AMRO Clearing's Chief Commercial Officer for Asia Pacific

What drew you to the derivatives industry?

First, it was curiosity and the allure of trading and financial markets. When I entered the markets, I realised how stimulating it was intellectually, and how creative you can be. This is still a people business and I like that.

Who have been your role models and the most influential people in your career?

At every step in my career, I have been fortunate enough to have mentors – people who have given me good advice and helped me progress in my career. In London, I worked alongside a gentleman who was an Army officer. We are from very different backgrounds, but the combination of our experiences and skills made us a successful team. Our differences made us stronger.

The leadership team at ABN AMRO Clearing has had a very positive influence on my career – they build trust by walking the walk and talking the talk, driving purposeful change and influencing positive workplace culture. They have always shown me trust. One of our Culture Principles is in fact ‘Give trust’ – and I never feel my voice isn’t heard.

Finally, having a good work ethic was drummed into me at an early age by my mother. I am a product of the Windrush Generation and my mother experienced many unfair hardships and made sacrifices so that I could have a smoother path in life. She is a fighter, something I am truly grateful for.

How have things changed in terms of diversity and inclusion since you started working?

When I started in this industry, I could count on one hand the amount of minority or female participants at a conference, and I knew them all. That was a pretty accurate gauge of what it was like in the industry back in the mid-1990s. It has improved since then but there is still some work to do. At ABN AMRO, we have a measurable, top-down approach to diversity, inclusion, and gender balance. It’s a big focus because we know that a more diverse business team, with a cross-section of people in terms of age, gender, race and ethnicity, is happier, more productive and creative. This is what helps businesses thrive. ABN AMRO is not necessarily looking for people who studied at the elite universities; it is looking for smart, motivated, determined people from all walks of life who want to make a difference, progress the business and affect change.

That said, from an industry perspective, I am still in the minority. There is an outside perception that derivatives has a 'boys' club' mentality and is dominated by a singular demographic. I believe the industry is slowly changing for the better…

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What do you see as the biggest barriers to Black and ethnic minority professionals growing into leadership roles?

Unconscious bias is the major barrier to black and ethnic minorities growing into leadership roles. That doesn’t mean everyone is racist or sexist, although I have met some individuals who are. In most cases, people are drawn to their reflection. Having a good system in place to combat this type of behaviour is important. In addition, there aren’t enough mentors who are able to share their experiences and offer advice.

Tell us one thing you hope for future generations.

My hope is that one day this topic is no longer a discussion. A person's race, colour or gender has no bearing on why they should be chosen to be a business leader or a senior manager in any industry, including derivatives. People should be chosen on the merits of their experience and their expertise, rather than the way they look or to simply fit in a perceived or preferred cultural mould.

Gary John-Baptiste is the Chief Commercial Officer of ABN AMRO Clearing in Asia Pacific, based in Sydney, covering multiple asset classes, client groups, and products. Prior to joining ABN AMRO Clearing, he spent nine years in senior banking positions, working in operations, business development and relationship management. 

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