Bank chief calls on LGBT bosses to come out
Openly gay HSBC honcho Antonio Simoes slates closeted executives for failures of leadership
HSBC UK boss Antonio Simoes has criticised gay City bosses who have not yet publicly revealed their sexuality. At the Deutsche Bank-hosted Out on the Street Europe Summit – a forum that encourages support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender finance workers – Simoes said that City leaders were failing to acknowledge the good work that gay rights campaigners have done over the past few decades. “We're in London, we're in 2014,” he said. “It's not acceptable that we take for granted all the work done by others on issues such as marriage equality.”
The Lisbon-born banker, who came out as gay in a video message to his employees last year, said that the announcement had taken a weight off his shoulders – and that losing the burden had been reflected in his workplace performance. “I am the short, bald, Portuguese gay guy,” he said. “I have started to use it as a positive element of my personality [which has helped me to be] more empathetic and better leader.”
At the Summit, hundreds of senior LGBT business leaders from Europe’s leading financial institutions gathered to devise solutions to LGBT equality and creating job-market opportunities. John Griffith-Jones, chairman of City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, was present at the event, and urged banks to more closely monitor the progress of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender progress more rigorously and make sure gay workers are not neglected within their organisations.
“You have got to start at the top, with a real determination to do something,” he said. “I am an accountant, so I favour metrics – not quite quotas – but we need to measure progress. We need a firm target and a real concentration on meaning it.”
Colin Grassie, CEO of Deutsche Bank UK, added: “We want to foster a workplace and a society where talents and contributions are respected and opportunities to succeed are provided regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Simoes’ remarks follow in the wake of similar words from Apple chief Tim Cook, who in late October publicly confirmed he is gay in an editorial for Bloomberg Businessweek – a move that sparked conversation across the business world about sexuality and openness. The tech mogul wrote: “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Although Cook admitted he had never experienced resistance in the workplace due to his sexuality, he understood that this isn’t the case for many gay workers. “For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation,” he wrote. “Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.”
He added: “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”
Image of Antonio Simoes courtesy of the British Banking Association.