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