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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Banking on Diversity: Standard Chartered Sri Lanka’s Strategy for Impact

Ransi Dharmasiriwardhana Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered Sri Lanka

Ransi Dharmasiriwardhana on how diversity and inclusion enable Standard Chartered Sri Lanka to drive human-centric innovations to adapt to the dynamic world of finance and technology.

Ransi Dharmasiriwardhana, Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered Sri Lanka, delves into the bank’s unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I). She illuminates how these principles are woven into the fabric of the bank’s strategic focus—spanning employee growth, community engagement, and tailored customer services. As technologies like AI continue to advance, she also underscores the growing imperative for organizations to cultivate a more humane and inclusive approach.

Standard Chartered has established its global commitment to diversity. How has SC Sri Lanka localized and interpreted this global vision for diversity and inclusion?

Our local D&I agenda is centred around the Bank’s overall purpose of driving commerce and prosperity through our unique diversity. This approach has cemented our reputation as a great place to work, contributing to numerous awards and consistent year-over-year growth in our Employee Net Promoter Scores. Our D&I efforts are central to our business achievements and enable us to excel as a workplace, a bank, and a community partner.

We have three main objectives for our D&I agenda: attracting and retaining diverse talent to optimize performance, offering banking products that resonate with our varied clientele, and fostering a
diverse and responsible supply chain while investing in our communities. We’re committed to empowering our staff with the resources they need to thrive both professionally and personally, thereby
driving prosperity across multiple dimensions.

We want our employees to bring their authentic selves to work with pride and confidence, as we believe that there’s power and beauty in diversity and that every human being has an equal right to
be loved and respected irrespective of differences.

The D&I Council in Sri Lanka has been active for over 15 years and has been the platform for bringing D&I to life with unwavering commitment and passion. I have personally been involved in it from the start of my career with the bank, progressing from an active member to now co-chairing the 80-member cross-functional committee. We appoint the D&I Champions and the six key pillar leads every two years to ensure a variety of perspectives in our strategy. Our D&I pillars cover gender, nationality & ethnicity, generational differences, disability, sexual orientation, and childcare, and our Women’s Network, W3 (Women Win @ Work), further amplifies our gender focus with its four key areas: grassroots impact, well-being, professional development, and inclusive parenting. The D&I Council collaboratively designs our annual D&I strategy to fit our unique culture and employee engagement needs in Sri Lanka. Through year-round activities, we raise awareness and celebrate our diverse workforce, cultivating a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.

Why is the diversity agenda particularly important, especially amidst the current challenges and technological advancements?

I was recently at a forum where the discussion was on how Artificial Intelligence will continue to develop and penetrate our lives, and the jobs we know now will never be the same! There is no denying the growing importance of technology, but as technology becomes better and stronger, organizations have a responsibility to become better corporate citizens by creating better employee experiences that are more humane, inclusive and innovative, and for me, a big part of the answer to this is D&I. The personalized, inclusive employee experience will differentiate good organizations from bad ones. As technology automates mundane tasks, making our working lives better, it also gives people more opportunities to do things uniquely human, such as showing empathy, passion, feelings, connecting with people, and decision-making based on perspectives from our diverse backgrounds and upbringings. For me, the most valuable trait is human connection, and the best proposition you can offer to your employees is the warmth and the unique culture of the organization that values them as an individual, not only as a worker.

What are some of the main diversity initiatives SC Sri Lanka has launched recently? And, importantly, how do you measure the success and impact of these initiatives?

We have over twenty D&I initiatives planned for 2023, of which, a few are traditional while some are out of the box, but I am especially proud of our ongoing commitment to building an
equitable and inclusive workplace and am thrilled to have unveiled the enhanced global Parental Leave benefits, effective 1 September 2023. The new policy offers a standardized 20-week paid leave for all parents, regardless of gender or relationship status, reinforcing our dedication to supporting employees through significant life events. This initiative not only reflects our core values but also challenges traditional societal norms. By offering more inclusive Parental Leave, we aim to improve workforce diversity and offer choices for shared childcare responsibilities.

Standardizing Parental Leave benefits will not only enhance individual financial stability but also create a more inclusive atmosphere supportive of diverse family planning choices. We view ourselves as a purpose-driven company and hope our steps inspire other organizations globally to follow suit. Together, we can make strides towards a more inclusive society. We take a stand to lift participation of the female workforce by standardizing parental leave across genders, and we contribute to enhancing gender equality in employment and reducing the unconscious bias of the ‘motherhood penalty’ affecting female participation in economic activity.

Our success in D&I is evident in key performance indicators, including our rising year-over-year Global Engagement Index and Employee Net Promoter Score for Sri Lanka. Remarkably, these scores
have outperformed global averages in 2023. Additionally, we are ahead of schedule in achieving our external commitments; Sri Lanka’s Management Team has already surpassed the 2025 target of
having 35% women in senior leadership, with a current rate of 38%. Moreover, we have already reached an 87% culture of inclusion score, exceeding our 2024 target of 84.5%.

These achievements are captured through our comprehensive engagement surveys, which gauge various aspects of inclusion such as respect, involvement in decision-making, career development,
and work-life balance. They are further validated by the numerous awards and accolades we continue to receive. We were the first to be EDGE-Move certified in Sri Lanka in 2021, and the second to be EDGE certified in the SC Group.

Every organization has its unique take on promoting diversity. What sets the bank apart from other financial institutions in the country?

The passionate and cross-collaborative D&I Council, our transparent and employee-centric approach, our leadership team that values D&I, the approach of co-creating our local D&I strategy each
year with cross-functional inputs and of course, the courage we have to take a stand! #BetterTogether #CultureMatters #StanChartSL