Who Cares Wins: Leading the Sustainable Charge
By Eleanor Hill, Editor, TMI
You could be forgiven for thinking that Lance T. Kawaguchi, Managing Director, Global Head – Corporates, Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC, is ‘all business’. But as we sit down to discuss the changing world his team is operating in, and his recent Treasury4Good Award win, it’s clear that there is more on his mind than cash management.
It’s not often that my conversations with senior bank executives kick off with a discussion around the lifespan of sea turtles. But then again Kawaguchi isn’t your average kind of guy. Recently named as TMI’s Outstanding Treasury4Good Leader 2019, ‘lean’ and ‘green’ are watchwords for Kawaguchi’s approach to business – from the way he manages his diverse team to the paper straw he carries everywhere in his suit pocket (really).
Eleanor Hill (EH): Why is it important to you to be an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) leader and how do you embody that?
Lance Kawaguchi (LK): Honestly, because ESG makes good business sense. It’s the right thing to do for people and the planet, but also for profits – numerous studies have shown this, but real-life business practice is increasingly demonstrating it too. The way in which companies approach everything from climate change to ethics in their supply chain can significantly impact business success. In today’s world, ESG is a key component of trust, reputation and innovation.
For me personally, being recognised by TMI as an ESG leader (thanks for the Award by the way!) reflects my ongoing commitment to working with clients and colleagues to implement creative solutions that contribute towards both the bank’s and our clients’ ESG objectives.
On the client side, this means working with internal stakeholders to support the build-out of more efficient digital solutions, keeping up to date with regulatory developments, and producing value-added content to educate clients on best practices when it comes to ESG.
For my team, this means removing any barriers that prevent them from being at their best and laying the foundations for them to thrive in their careers and fulfill their ambitions.
EH: It’s all well and good paying lip service to ESG, though. What commitments can you give in your role as Outstanding Treasury4Good Leader? And what are your priorities for the year ahead?
LK: You’re right, there’s no point just talking about ESG. We have to enact it too – and sometimes that means enforcing it, because often people don’t like change, even if it is for the greater good. There’s also an education piece that needs to happen to help secure buy-in for ESG initiatives.
One of my aims for 2020, therefore, is to help educate clients through another sustainability publication, building on the topics raised in HSBC’s Sustainability Guidebook for Treasurers which was released in Q4 2018. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that treasurers have access to the latest ESG solutions and know how to deploy them to benefit both the treasury function and the wider organisation.
Within my own team, a key focus will be continuing to drive diversity – which is integral to business success. When I began my banking career, the industry was very homogeneous, with more or less one demographic, which wasn’t representative of the client base. To serve our clients in the best way possible, we need a diverse team.
When I say ‘diverse’ I’m not only talking about different genders and ethnicities, but also different ages – especially millennials and Generation Z. The way that digitally-native generations operate is different, and we need to be aware of that when recruiting and retaining talent. These generations also have different expectations from their employers and increasingly want to work for organisations that meet their sustainable and ethical standards. As such, I’ll be focusing closely on ensuring all forms of diversity in our current and future talent.
EH: I don’t want to put you on the spot (ok, I do) but are there any specific diversity criteria you are working towards within Global Liquidity and Cash Management?
LK: Throughout Global Liquidity and Cash Management we’re very supportive of the bank’s commitment to having 30% of senior leadership roles across the bank globally filled by women by 2020. That being said, when I took up my current role in July 2017, I needed to fill six senior positions and I ended up appointing only men. This may surprise readers, and no doubt could be construed as gender bias, but the sad truth is that no women applied for the roles.
As such, my personal target is to have a 50:50 split of male to female applicants for all future roles, which I will achieve by focusing on the talent pipeline – and encouraging women to believe in themselves more.