2019 Catalyst Canada Honours Company/Firm Leader Champion
Group General Manager, President & CEO, HSBC Bank Canada
Sandra Stuart joined HSBC in 1982 and has held numerous roles with increasing responsibilities domestically and abroad culminating with her appointment as President and Chief Executive Officer for HSBC Bank Canada in 2015. HSBC is the world’s largest trade bank, with a network spanning 66 countries and connecting 90% of the world’s trade and capital flows.
She describes her work in emerging markets as bringing home to her the economic challenges faced when there is a lack of access to education and opportunities—particularly for women. And her own experience as an outsider in another culture has made her more aware of the challenges and opportunities inherent in a diverse work environment prompting her personal commitment to ensuring equal opportunities and fair treatment for everyone—no matter the difference.
As a result, Sandra has promoted an organizational culture in which diversity and inclusion are part of the everyday dialogue among leaders and their team members.
How She Made Change
When Sandra joined the HSBC Bank Canada Board in 2010, women comprised just 20% of its members. As the Chief Operating Officer and the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee she emphasized the importance of data and metrics to identify trends affecting recruiting, development, promotion, and retention of diverse employees to ensure targeted solutions were developed to cultivate a diverse workforce.
As the Chair of HSBC Bank Canada’s National Diversity Council, Sandra led the development of policies and initiatives that resulted in an increase in the proportion of diversity appointments, especially women, to senior executive roles and Board positions.
Sandra ensured particular attention was focused on Board composition. Through her efforts, gender equality on HSBC Bank Canada’s Board, as well as on her senior leadership team, has increased: the Board achieved gender parity in 2013 and maintains it today.
Sandra champions gender-balanced recruitment and succession slates for her senior executive team. When gender balance goals were first set, HSBC Bank Canada had women in 30% of executive positions. Under Sandra’s leadership and advocacy, gender equity at the executive level was achieved in less than two years. Women now represent 60% of her senior management team.
HSBC Bank Canada also regularly reviews compensation to ensure it is fair to all employees with the most recent report showing that there was no gender pay gap.
Sandra sponsors and mentors emerging leaders within HSBC’s talent pool, taking time to engage with them about their goals and aspirations and encouraging them to constantly challenge themselves. She reminds her junior colleagues to stay focused on the “long-game” and not allow frustrations or the fear of failure to derail them from achieving their career goals.
She ensures that strategic developmental opportunities are accessible to men and women equitably. She enables “stretch moves,” promotions to international roles, skills and leadership training, and practical management experiences. She provides rising talent with ample opportunities to present to and lead discussions with senior executives and the Board of Directors, an experience that she knows is valuable and empowering for them.
Sandra believes in people and helps them believe in themselves. She has personally coached some of her current leaders regarding career advancement opportunities that they might otherwise have had reservations about, encouraging them not to hold back.
Thanks to Sandra’s input, all leaders at HSBC in Canada have achieved, or have been challenged to achieve, gender balance within their own teams of direct reports. The company’s rapid shift toward gender parity has resulted in the profitable exchange of different perspectives, conversations, and dynamics.
Sandra is very proud to lead an organization that has been recognized three years in a row by the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour with an Employment Equity Award, was named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in 2019, and has been named to Corporate Knights’ 50 Best Corporate Citizens in Canada every year since 2012 and as their Top Performer, Gender Diversity for the Financial Services Sector in 2017.
Inclusive Leadership: Empowerment, Accountability, Courage, and Humility
Sandra embodies the traits of Catalyst’s inclusive leadership research: empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility. In particular, she holds herself and her executive committee accountable for gender representation targets, making these goals a part of everyday dialogue, embedding them into annual scorecards, and collectively reaching established goals.
This extends beyond gender parity to create an environment where all employees are valued and respected regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, physical ability, or any aspect of personal difference. For example, HSBC has eight Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) championing education and awareness programs, facilitating open discussion of workplace issues, and consulting with senior leadership.
About Sandra Stuart
Sandra is the President and Chief Executive Officer for HSBC Bank Canada and a member of its Board of Directors. She chairs the Board of HSBC Global Asset Management (Canada) Limited. She is a member of the Faculty Advisory Board of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, Member of the Business Council of Canada, and a Governor of the Business Council of BC.