The power of di­ver­sity

Souad Benkredda, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Stan­dard Char­tered, is prov­ing that skills and merit-based em­ploy­ment are es­sen­tial to suc­cess

Arabian Business English - - SPOTLIGHT -

We meet one of the lead­ers who made it to the pres­ti­gious Women in Busi­ness list 2018 by Fi­nan­cial Times. Get to know Souad Benkredda’s story: Con­grat­u­la­tions on mak­ing it to the Fi­nan­cial Times HE­ROes global list. Can you tell us why do you think you were se­lected to be on the global list of the 100 FT HE­Roes fe­male cham­pi­ons? First of all, it is a real hon­our to have been nom­i­nated for the list, nom­i­na­tion it­self means much more to me than to be on the list and the ac­tual rank­ing. I can’t tell you which ex­act fac­tors made the FT panel fi­nally choose me for this list but in my view there are some fac­tors which helped us make sig­nif­i­cant progress in the di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion agenda both in the re­gion as well as for Stan­dard Char­tered in the UAE specif­i­cally which could have in­flu­enced the se­lec­tion to the list in a pos­i­tive way: • A long-term think­ing as op­posed to the de­sire of achiev­ing quick, demon­stra­ble re­sults – we have for ex­am­ple put a lot of ef­fort into the grad hir­ing for Fi­nan­cial Mar­kets UAE. • Gen­uine in­ter­est to cre­ate a fair, mer­i­toc­racy based work en­vi­ron­ment for ev­ery­body – this im­plies giv­ing hon­est feed­back to col­leagues with a view of de­vel­op­ing them as well as im­ple­ment­ing an FM Work shad­ow­ing pro­grammes en­abling our col­leagues to ex­ploit ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side their cur­rent teams. • Lis­ten­ing to the con­cerns and thoughts of a va­ri­ety of col­leagues and con­cretely act on feed­back on what is work­ing and not work­ing – we held var­i­ous ses­sions and dis­cus­sion pan­els with dif­fer­ent au­di­ences.

Who in­spires you? At work and in your per­sonal life?

I’ve got a few in­spir­ing fac­tors and peo­ple in my life. The big­gest source of in­spi­ra­tion are my par­ents, es­pe­cially my fa­ther who was a very brave man and stood up for what he thought was right and never com­pro­mised his val­ues. He in­spired us to do the right thing and to try to pos­i­tively in­flu­ence oth­ers as op­posed to only think­ing about what’s best for you in­di­vid­u­ally. To think big and not to put your­self into the mid­dle, to try to im­prove a sit­u­a­tion in the long run rather than fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual ca­reer op­ti­mi­sa­tion is what this trans­lated into for me as an in­spi­ra­tion to my pro­fes­sional life. An­other big source of in­spi­ra­tion, since I was lit­tle, is my brother. He in­spired me to think out­side the box, to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo and to think big whilst al­ways main­tain­ing my eth­i­cal stan­dards. With­out him I would not be the per­son who I am to­day.

How can women stand out in their work­place?

By not as­sim­i­lat­ing or pre­tend­ing to be some­one they are not. They should fo­cus on their strengths and com­pe­ten­cies, do what they think is right and, most im­por­tantly, stay au­then­tic. In my view this will au­to­mat­i­cally make them stand out.

How do you de­velop con­fi­dence which is needed in or­der to be a great leader?

The con­fi­dence comes from stay­ing fo­cused and see­ing the re­sults of the task or vi­sion which I have set my­self. I don’t think about how I can be a great leader but I just do things: I try to per­form in my role, stay mo­ti­vated and pass on the mo­ti­va­tion to oth­ers. I try to help oth­ers re­gard­less of the team they work in and pro­vide guid­ance as it makes me feel that I had a pos­i­tive im­pact which is great.

How can an in­ter­na­tional bank like Stan­dard Char­tered help you achieve your long and short-term goals?

I per­son­ally don’t have a spe­cific goal in mind, but am a strong be­liever that if you are good at what you are do­ing, you truly en­joy your work and you do the right thing, growth op­por­tu­ni­ties will open up au­to­mat­i­cally. The growth op­por­tu­ni­ties Stan­dard Char­tered of­fers are great with its unique global plat­form, our strong in­spir­ing top se­nior man­age­ment and its unique mar­ket po­si­tions: It is prob­a­bly the only bank with such a deep lo­cal mar­kets pres­ence which is plugged in into a global net­work.

Any other mes­sage for work­ing women?

Be au­then­tic, fo­cus on your com­pe­tence and if you have any is­sues or think that your ca­reer is not pro­gress­ing look for some­one you can speak to who can ad­vise or help you. Don’t give up if you like what you’re do­ing. How­ever, it is also im­por­tant to seek hon­est feed­back and use this as a way to im­prove and get bet­ter at what you’re do­ing. This bank takes di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion very se­ri­ously and it is men­tioned in our pur­pose state­ment, which is ‘Driv­ing com­merce and pros­per­ity through our unique di­ver­sity’. The di­ver­sity of thought is what dis­tin­guishes us from other banks and we need to use it to our ad­van­tage to bet­ter ser­vice our clients, help in­crease the busi­ness for the bank and bet­ter work to­gether. Each of us thinks dif­fer­ently and we should view this as a great op­por­tu­nity to learn from each other and to share our views where we dis­agree or look to give an­other per­spec­tive.

Souad Benkredda is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, head of fi­nan­cial mar­kets UAE and head of fi­nan­cial mar­kets – sales for MENA and Pak­istan at Stan­dard Char­tered

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