LONDON, UK. August 15th, 2023 – Back in August 2021, Ian Clarke was Vice President of Global Banking Sales in New York City USA. Then a driving force behind strategy, innovation, content and solutioning across six strategic sub-sectors at HSBC Transaction Banking, it was the last month of his consistently top-rated, performing and decorated 14 year career.
Two years after his Project Speak Up report
into the state of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) across financial services generated newsflow around the world, we caught up with Ian to explore his thoughts on all things ‘change’ in the world of banking, business and beyond.
What was Project Speak Up’s legacy?
Globally it lifted people and reminded them they aren’t alone. Truly meaningful change. Though I never got a ‘thank you’ from Ms. Bailey, my favourite of its 7 world records is still the first black female board appointment in Investment Banking history. I’m phenomenally proud of what we achieved, thanks to the many incredible, courageous, dutiful colleagues who brought them over the line, contributed to my research and brightened every day of my career. But I’m frustrated it took 450 years and martyring my career to do so. Leaders exist to consider and manage dynamic emerging risks. Call me ‘old fashioned’ but surely unique ideas and different perspectives are superior genes to nepotism and discrimination.
Sewing new division and untold harm to Human Identity globally, George Floyd’s murder was met with universally performative measures from lackluster leaders and their ‘yes men’. Pretending everything’s great helps no one. Only being real and daring to tackle uncomfortable truths drives change. Someone had to do something. Ideally someone ‘else’, but here we are. I hoped for the best. Yet without decisive, vocal support from those I fought for (as in, everyone), it was sadly a career ender.
Speaking up isn’t easy. It takes courage and can be devastating financially. Yet money isn’t the only measure of success. Helping others first galvanised my purpose in life, expanded my perspectives and ambitions, gifted me unique information and new science, plus it forced me too to change.
How do you rate business leaders change effort?
Paper, manual processes, awkward hours and queues out the door. 15 years ago, branch banking was a nightmare. Today, money moves 24/7 thanks to digital banking. And if you find a branch, you’re more likely to encounter coffee over queues. Change is good, in the piggy bank or across the sector.
Yet despite 8 years of triple lock that is a legal, moral and financial D&I case, our leaders haven’t changed. From hair style to height, I count 14 traits experiencing vivid, active senseless oppression across our largest firms. The world’s top bank in 2007, HSBC barely scrapes top-10 today. Ultimately self-destructive, uncompromising rigidity and homogenisation helps no one thrive. The first initiative of its kind, my report paved the way for more to speak up about their suffering — particularly on workplace discrimination. Last month, Wells Fargo added a declared whistleblower on racism to its litany of discrimination class action lawsuits. And Credit Suisse’s $75bn collapse in March reminded us a poorly run investment banks sole product is bankrupt investors. So what’s the plan?
Of the UK Big 5, only Lloyds and Santander target proportionate gender representation by 2025/26 (and don’t mention the other 13 traits). Yet both missed their 2021/22 targets and appear likely to do so again. NatWest’s net +0.5% annual trajectory this cycle suggests Alison Rose may need to re-read her own report. Barclays are finally moving but remain bottom of the pack on targets and delivery. Only HSBC met its 2021/22 target (by +2.5%) and looks likely to in 2025/26. Credit entirely due for a sector leading trajectory anchoring meaningful changes like 3 new black or brown US board directors, tone of voice improvements and bonus-linked D&I staff objectives.
What’s your view on Diversity & Inclusion?
Since records began, elections were broadly peaceful affairs. Yet in 2021, Capitol Hill established riots as the new norm. Vividly, our Identity is falling to Hatred, yet neither concept is defined in science. Thus why D&I has no product. Anyone can sell their soul to make money. But interviewing 100 colleagues taught me hatred isn’t personal – its existential. I sacrificed my career to protect the careers of others. Yet with hatred and oppression still unchallenged globally, things will only get worse until they end. And I’m fresh out of careers to give up. To save the day, we need Project Speak Up x1,000.
What are you working on now?
Seemingly banished from big business, I decided to embrace my inner geek. Newton’s third law of motion tells us for every problem there is a solution. Find it. Apply it. Simple.
Rarely if ever have we had an example of a discrete meaningful change yielding tangible global results over a finite time instigated by one person. Reconciling Speak Up’s steps against known science left me with a chunk of seemingly new science. To scale it up, project became business model. Enter the Deilightful Group, a brand new industry anchoring Quantum Mechanics I’ve dubbed a ‘Change Engine’. Now we just need to prove it works.
If you’re fed up of being bullied, underpaid or undergraded at work and want to know why in order to tackle it. If you gaze up up at the stars and wonder ‘where is everyone else’? Or if you simply see value in hearing out a rare perspective on life, I wrote my book – The Sciences of Change – to help ensure your sweet success. Taking curious minds on a journey across space and time, it attempts to swap todays wicked problems and biggest questions for yesterdays news and tomorrows solutions. Expect lovingly-illustrated non-fiction full of lived experiences, imagery, life hacks, authenticity, scandals, evidence and real fixes anyone can use to help others (or just themselves) thrive. A book laced with uplifting potential, this one’s for the Change Makers.