Each month we spotlight one of our member’s stories…
This month we are highlighting several stories for East and Southeast Asian Heritage Month. Bianca Yau from Coutts International talks about why she’s proud to work for the organisation.
Name: Bianca Yau
Company: Coutts International
Title: Global Co-Chair of NatWest Group Multicultural Network
What can organisations do to better support those who identify as ESEA Heritage?
Organisations should adopt an inclusive approach to celebrate all cultural heritages and focus on a wide range of initiatives to target all groups of minor ethnicities. Black History Month is an important month where organisations spend a lot of resources on raising awareness and celebrating black heritage. Same for South Asian Heritage Month. These are fantastic initiatives to improve cultural awareness. When it comes to East and South East Asian Heritage, organisations tend to have less focus due to the lack of representation (and therefore voices) across all levels in the hierarchy. It is generally considered as “less important”. Or in some organisations, such initiatives do not even exist.
Tell us more about your role and what has inspired you around your career?
I have over 17 years of leadership and relationship management experience in Personal & Premier Banking, leading frontline teams to support our UK based clients at many different locations. I was the first female Asian Senior Bank Manager at Drummonds, a private bank with over 300 years of heritage. I have recently taken up a new Client Director role in Coutts International, which opens up more opportunities for me to connect with clients and communities from Asia, Middle East, Americas and Europe. As I gain more experience and knowledge in the international market, I am working towards becoming a trusted adviser and leader in the world of Wealth Management, a sector that is crying out for diversity. Alongside my day to day job, I am also very honoured to co-chair the NatWest Group Multicultural Employee-led Network for over 14000 members, creating a safe space for everyone to bring their best selves to work. Bringing people together brings me joy and serves my purpose.
What are the biggest challenges being from the ESEA identities?
As an East Asian from Hong Kong, I can say that most of the women from my heritage background tend to look a lot younger. I am 38 this year but most people think I look about 25. Although I cannot complain about looking young, I sometimes have to manage misconceptions by others. In a corporate world where unconscious biases still exist and there is a lack of representation, I have experienced unfair treatments in the past when I used to be more quiet and reserved, when I used to be more anxious about what other people would think, when I was trying hard to fit in. Since joining the NWG Multicultural Network and becoming an activist, I have learnt that the best way to bring our best selves to work is to be authentic, to respect our own cultures as well as others, to bring kindness in everything we do and most importantly to have a voice. Through the work we do in MCN, we are encouraging our ESEA colleagues, clients and communities to do the same.
What tips would you give other people who identify as Asian heritage, who want to navigate the corporate ladder?
Look out for development opportunities, be proactive, take action and reach out for support. Appreciate what your seniors and peers can bring and approach matters with a growth mindset. Respect and be curious about other cultures as well as your own as we create an inclusive environment. Be clear on your career path and find your ikigai, a purpose that brings you joy. Never be pushed back by negativity as perseverance is essential.
How can people be more inclusive of different cultural and marginalised groups in the workplace?
Be more open-minded about other cultures and heritages. You will find it an eye opening experience when you take time to learn about other cultures and traditions. And when you see the similarity in different cultures, you will start to appreciate the world of diversity we live in. It will help you gain different perspectives, positive thoughts on what goes on around us. Take a look at your circle of friends and family. How diverse is your social network? Who can you reach out to from a different heritage? These are often questions I have for myself and those around me. If you see any wrongdoings, you should feel comfortable enough to speak up. Be involved in discussions and activities on multiculturalism. If your organisation does not provide such opportunities, then it’s time for you to take action and make a positive impact for yourself and others.
Coutts is a London-headquartered private bank and wealth manager. Founded in 1692, it is the eighth oldest bank in the world. Today, Coutts forms part of NatWest Group’s wealth management division.