Treasury Talent

Diversity, equality and inclusion in treasury

Published: Apr 2021

Cognizant’s in-country payments in China were managed manually by local finance teams, impeding visibility over cash and making it difficult to forecast future cash flows. The solution: working with Standard Chartered Bank to create a domestic cash pooling solution with host-to-host ERP integration.

3D illustration of a global network

Debbie Kaya

Senior Director of Global Cash and Operations
Cisco logo

Rachel Brown

North America Head of Implementations Treasury and Trade Solutions
Citi logo

Carlos Fuentes

Senior Vice President, Treasury and Trade Solutions
Citi logo

What do we mean when we speak about inclusion?

In conversation with Treasury Today were Debbie Kaya, the Senior Director of Global Cash and Operations for Cisco Treasury, Rachel Brown, the North America Head of Implementations of Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions and Carlos Fuentes, from Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions team. Cisco and Citi, like many other companies, have been further compelled by the events of 2020 to look more closely at inclusion and to confidently articulate the complexities of building an egalitarian and diverse workforce.

Kaya outlined the ways in which she tackles the issue in her role, mostly approaching it from an HR and educational perspective, primarily by rolling her sleeves up and getting involved. The most obvious impact this has is on hiring, which Kaya looks at from a practical perspective. There must be a diverse group of candidates to begin with, and a diverse board conducting the interview process itself, in terms of both gender and ethnicity.

Although Citi has long aligned itself with a progressive social policy and agenda, the events of summer 2020 have encouraged the company to publicly declare its position and to solidify its social commitments with a number of new initiatives aimed at both internal and external communities. Brown and Kaya both emphasised the importance of education.

As Kaya explained, in some cases this is about education and in some it is a matter of re-education. When she is dealing with a global team, not everybody understands the history behind recent events in North America and so opening up a dialogue is critical. This crucial work that takes place within Cisco exists alongside Kaya’s support of inclusion as a whole in the industry, evidenced in her involvement with Women in Treasury and her support for industry events and discussions around inclusion and racial equity.

Brown explained that similarly and concurrently for Citi, the focus on diversity and inclusion has been a real journey that they have been on over the last couple of years. For her, operating in this space is a lifestyle approach. It is not just something that one does in the confines of one’s role or work environment, but something that becomes core and central to who you are. She began with herself, making sure that she was aware of the injustices that were taking place, better understanding the vocabulary, what unconscious bias meant, what micro-inequities meant, all in order to create a culture of belonging that would equip others to have these conversations as well. Brown explained that these discussions can be hard initially because they are new, therefore it is imperative to try to normalise them and make them easier to initiate. People must feel free and be encouraged to learn and grow, not full of fear of judgement and self-doubt.

Kaya spoke of the impact in her team of the tragic deaths in the black community. ‘When I spoke with my management team, we agreed a conversation with the team about the recent events and its impact needed to happen I sent an email and asked the team to have a very open discussion, trust each other, understand that not everybody has the right language, we may use the wrong words and just created that space. It is not the job of minority colleagues to educate others on the minority experience, but provide space for them to play a role, if they wish. Some may want an active role in the discussion, and some may be okay to answer questions, but we must also recognise many people are very emotionally drained by the situation.’

As Brown summed up, ‘We have had heavy hearts lately and it’s been a really different time for individuals who have experienced these traumas, in their family, in their family history, and they watch the news cycle and then have to re-experience these traumas. We walk into these discussions thinking about our families and how to keep our loved ones protected from these same injustices.’

When I spoke with my management team, we agreed a conversation with the team about the recent events and its impact needed to happen I sent an email and asked the team to have a very open discussion, trust each other, understand that not everybody has the right language, we may use the wrong words and just created that space.

Debbie Kaya, Senior Director of Global Cash and Operations, Cisco

Brown and Fuentes both drew on the importance of surrounding themselves with nurturing environments and empathetic leaders. This highlights the need for diverse leaders from different backgrounds with different experiences. Fuentes then expanded to explore the international community of which Citi is a part.

‘Operating in over 95 countries, it is already a quite diverse organisation when we compare amongst peers. Working with teams across multiple countries and cultures, makes you very aware of understanding the differences and integrating that within your work.’ Ultimately, as all speakers mentioned and Fuentes explained, it is really a question of embedding inclusion into everything that a company does, as he has seen at Citi.

Brown echoed Kaya’s point on the importance of getting involved, citing Citi’s success with grass roots programmes. These are affinity programmes that are led by employees across the organisation who give of their time and they are a focus for talent recruitment and development. Additionally, she highlighted getting involved in the community, with affinity networks within Citi covering a number of different spectrums that have really seen successful. This, coupled with a focus on increased transparency, has allowed Citi to breathe new life into accountability and credibility and hopefully set a tone for the wider industry.

Ultimately, all agreed that it came down to the human aspect, with individuals in the workplace being valued for their experiences and the talent they bring. A diverse team has different ideas and discussions, with challenges being placed at the table, opening up new ideas and paving the way for innovative.

Brown’s hope for the future was, ‘that we don’t have to work so hard against score cards or representation statistics or even on trying to close gaps, my hope is that it becomes so embedded in our DNA that it is just the way that we operate and so it isn’t something that we strive for.’

Regarding advice for the community, Kaya offered the following, ‘the last thing I would say is determine where you want to commit your time. How much time do you have and how do you want to commit? Many people get involved because of how it appears to others, but it is important to be very authentic around this topic. Do you have a passion around this and if you do, how can you get involved?

Summarising and amplifying Kaya’s points, Brown added, ‘I think that it is important to just make yourself aware of where you stand now and then give yourself goals on where you want to go. I would also say expand your network. If you look around and you see your network looks a lot like you, whether it be at home or at work, find new people to bring into it, have one-to-one conversations. Those are going to be very enlightening and will give you a greater sense of understanding around what is needed.’

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