Continuing our series of profiles of women of colour making their mark across industry.
Fiona Daniel is Head of Diversity UK at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations. The company has 3,900 offices in both established and emerging markets, serving around 38 million customers worldwide.
Tell us about your current job responsibilities.
As Head of Diversity and Inclusion, I am responsible for leading diversity and inclusion. We are in the process of creating HSBC UK, so this is an exciting time for me and a great opportunity to be part of something new and drive forward this agenda.
A typical week for me consists of meeting with senior leaders, external partners, designing and shaping solutions and speaking at events. I can be doing something strategic one hour and something transactional another.
What were the key decision points that were important in deciding your career path?
In no particular order. What puts “fire in my belly?” I have to have passion for what I am doing. If there is no heart in what I do, I am not at my best. Impact in all things I do, for me it’s about making a difference, seeing tangible change and impact, no matter how large or small.
I enjoy being challenged and learning every day, as that is what keeps me on my toes. I always ask myself as I navigate my career path; ‘can I stay true to myself and my personal value set?’
Finally my health, well-being and personal circumstances, all these have to be aligned.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
There are two things; one without a shadow of a doubt has to be the variety. Every day is different, emotionally, physically and mentally, there are no two days the same. Second, I have the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing people.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
The most challenging is ironically the same as what I most enjoy. Diversity and inclusion is a topic everyone has an opinion about and I see it all, from passion, disinterest, to let’s change the world. It can be a Godsend one moment and a pain the next!
My strategies tend to include positive thinking, listening, empathy, and general personal resilience and using these perspectives and inputs of others to shape and develop solutions. Better to take people with you when driving change than leaving them outside with shoulda, coulda and woulda. It can be a Godsend one moment and a pain the next!
What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?
I think it has to be when I was invited to St James Palace to meet Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall and other distinguished guests, in recognition of my work and contribution to the diversity and inclusion agenda, particularly for BAME individuals in the workplace. It was a very proud moment for me and made me realise that doing something you are passionate about, although it may seem invisible to me, is very visible to others.
Who is the industry figure that you admire? Why is this?
Tough question – although I have never met her, I always hear her name and see her profile in many places and admire her from afar and that’s Funke Abimbola. The main reason being her approach to championing the diversity and inclusion agenda and her passion for supporting the next generation of future leaders. I am a strong believer of giving back and holding doors open to let others come through.
Best piece of career advice you have ever received? And who was it from?
Best career advice: “when you’re climbing up the ladder, look up as well as look down, always keep true to what we taught you, empathy, love, respect, say thank you, be humble, be vulnerable, give trust and kindness to all, as you never know who you may bump into on your way up or on your way down… people never forget the way you make them feel…positive or negative, once felt it can never be taken back.”.Great words from my father who was and still is the best leader I have ever come across.
Away from your work role what are your passions?
My passion is watching films, when I get the time! I like to watch a good old black and white film and brand new films too.
My other passion is writing poetry and trying to get out on paper the book I have in my head. I have not devoted enough time for that – but it’s a promise I made to myself that I will make time and do it before I reach my next milestone age.
What are the three (professional or personal) books/websites/ or resources that you would recommend to others?
Little Book of Resilience by Lucy Lane – a book I wish I had written, for me it’s like walking around with my parents in my pocket.
An equally amazing book, in a similar vein, is What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey, given to me by a very dear friend, and old book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
What do you know now, that you wish you had known as you started your career?
Time is precious and must be used wisely.
Do you have any advice for women entering your industry?
Don’t let others define you – define yourself – too often I see actions and solutions about fixing women, but very few about fixing the behaviour and mind-set of those who say ‘fix the women.’
Don’t forget to develop yourself. Human Resources spends a lot of time supporting and developing employees yet when you join such a people focused function you can forget the most important asset – you! So always make time to develop and learn and be the best you can be – for you.
If you weren’t in this role what would be your alternative career?
I studied law and always wanted to be a barrister fighting the cause for fairness and justice but as time has gone on, I realise that my true alternative career is a nurse.