Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 5, HSBC's Diane Reyes

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Group General Manager and Global Head of Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC

HSBC’s Diane Reyes has spent much of the past year spreading this message to the roughly 10,000 employees she leads: Conduct counts.

Though the global liquidity and cash management division she leads has been untainted by scandal, HSBC itself has paid hefty fines for various infractions in recent years — penalties that might have been avoided if front-line employees who knew of the wrongdoing had been brave enough to speak up.

Reyes said that junior workers sometimes stay silent because they don’t want to appear to be ratting out co-workers, or they fear they’ll be implicated themselves for not speaking up sooner. Some are also afraid of delivering bad news to supervisors who don’t necessarily want to hear it.

But silence has consequences, so Reyes has made it her mission to foster a “speak-up culture” within her division, which handles the cash management needs for more than 2 million small, middle-market and large businesses in more than 50 countries.

In preparation for a global town hall last year, Reyes’s group created a video featuring junior employees from across the globe discussing various ethical quandaries and how they would handle them. It also recently established a worldwide team of volunteer “conduct ambassadors” to whom employees can air their concerns if they are uncomfortable bringing them to supervisors.

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The takeaway for staffers is that they should feel empowered to speak up when they see something wrong, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Reyes wants them to be similarly vocal if they believe a product or service that HSBC is testing is not ready for release.

“The people who are closest to the clients and to the delivery of services can see things before management can see them, and we want them to tell us when something doesn’t look right or feel right or sound right and to not worry about the potential repercussions for them or their colleagues,” Reyes said.

Reyes has headed HSBC’s cash management business since 2011 and was promoted to group general manager in 2015. She is one of just 14 women serving in that role at the $2.3 trillion-asset bank and is the institution’s highest-ranking female executive in the U.S. Last year, her group’s profit before taxes came in at 30% above target as revenues hit a record $7 billion.

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