BNY: Engagement within and beyond the walls

BNY Mellon’s initiatives to promote workplace gender diversity and inclusivity involve wide-ranging internal and tangible external engagement. Two of the company’s senior executives in the Asia-Pacific region, Anna O’Sullivan and Lauren Stewart, discuss the programmes and their aims to tackle systemic societal issues.

BNY Mellon’s commitment to gender diversity is exemplified throughout its businesses. Women account for 33 per cent of the board of directors, 40 per cent of new hires and 41 per cent of the global workforce. Anna O’Sullivan is BNY Mellon’s APAC head of transaction management, corporate trust, in Sydney. Lauren Stewart, also based in Sydney, is the firm’s vice president, APAC communications.

O’Sullivan says gender diversity is a very important part of BNY Mellon’s culture and is not viewed in isolation. She explains that the company has made strong financial and advocacy contributions to many social-justice movements and is focused on promoting ethnic and cultural diversity internally to the same extent as its commitment to gender diversity.

Stewart says BNY Mellon is not only advocating for diversity but demonstrating it, pointing to the company’s new country head in South Korea, Hyon Joo Park, and the chief executive of its investment management business, Hanneke Smits. In both cases, it is the first time a woman has held these roles in the company. Women represent 55 per cent of BNY Mellon’s Asia-Pacific workforce.

The company’s pursuit of gender and cultural diversity is supported internally by the BNY Mellon Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), which has grown to have more than 6,000 employee members from just a handful when it was established in 2009. O’Sullivan is co-chair of the WIN Australia branch while Stewart is co-chair of the APAC branch.

"It is astonishing how many highly educated women are finding it difficult to get back on their feet and into the workforce. BNY Mellon is seeking to make a tangible community impact to help tackle some of society’s structural issues with gender diversity."

WIN promotes professional development within BNY Mellon by giving members the opportunity to network with and access senior leaders, and by providing professional training and access to diversity-related research and content at no cost to the employee.

O’Sullivan says: “WIN is not just about improving employees’ negotiation and networking skills or improving their visibility within the business. It also provides practical training for skills like reviewing financial statements and access to continuing education, live feeds and articles on gender diversity.”

WIN also tries to reach beyond BNY Mellon and have an impact on the wider community. For example, the Australian chapter has supported Dress for Success Sydney for four years.

Dress for Success provides professional clothing, career-development tools and a support network to women with the aim of promoting financial independence and self-sufficiency. Often, these services are provided to women who are escaping harmful relationships or are otherwise coming from a disadvantaged background.

BNY Mellon provides support every month primarily by way of mentoring, and interview and CV preparation. Stewart says a recent experience with Dress for Success involved speaking with a woman looking for work in investment management. Providing insight, expertise and feedback in this particular area was rewarding, Stewart adds, though BNY Mellon’s mentoring through the programme is not exclusive to its specific areas of business expertise.

“It is astonishing how many highly educated women are finding it difficult to get back on their feet and into the workforce,” Stewart explains. “BNY Mellon is seeking to make a tangible community impact to help tackle some of society’s structural issues with gender diversity.”

O’Sullivan continues: “Recent research shows that the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia is women over the age of 50. It is crucial that the workforce is a safe and welcoming place for women to return to after they have had children so they can be financially independent. Having a workplace ensures women have a support network, income and are accumulating superannuation for a healthy retirement.”

"It is crucial that the workforce is a safe and welcoming place for women to return to after they have had children so that they can be financially independent. Having a workplace ensures women have a support network, income and the build-up of superannuation for a healthy retirement."


Executive spotlight

Anna O’Sullivan, APAC head of transaction management, corporate trust, and Lauren Stewart, vice president, APAC communications, are two of BNY Mellon’s leading executive women in the Asia-Pacific region, with experience across multiple roles and jurisdictions.

BNY Mellon’s businesses in Australia cover services in corporate trust, asset servicing and investment management. The Sydney office serves as a key hub for BNY Mellon’s business in Asia, which the firm sees as an ongoing growth opportunity. O’Sullivan and Stewart’s roles at BNY Mellon cover markets in North Asia, South-East Asia and Australia.

Their careers span years with BNY Mellon in Australia and elsewhere. O’Sullivan first joined Chase Manhattan Bank in 1999 in London. This business subsequently came under the J.P. Morgan umbrella and, through an asset swap in 2006, became BNY Mellon. O’Sullivan left BNY Mellon around this time but stayed in corporate-trust management and returned to run its transaction team in Sydney in 2017.

Stewart began her career managing strategic internal and external communications for financial-services companies in Australia before moving to London in 2003.

In 2015, while still in London, Stewart became EMEA communications manager for BNY Mellon’s investment-management business. BNY is one of the world’s largest investment managers with a total of around US$2 trillion of assets under management across eight firms.

Stewart returned to Australia in 2016 and remained with BNY Mellon, taking up the role of vice president, APAC communications.

O’Sullivan says a career highlight came recently while working with the Australian Office of Financial Management and other stakeholders to establish the forbearance special purpose vehicle (FSPV). BNY Mellon is trustee, trust manager and security trustee for the FSPV, which will be deployed under the Australian government’s Structured Finance Support Fund and is intended to provide crucial support to the lending industry through the COVID-19 crisis.

“This has been a very rewarding experience and it has been particularly good to have so many senior women from across different organisations involved,” says O’Sullivan.

Stewart has been instrumental in channelling global investment funds toward companies and initiatives that support diversity.

More recently, she has been involved in communication around the launch of BNY Mellon’s Dreyfus Japan Womenomics Fund, an equities fund which focuses investments on companies that support and provide services to women. Stewart has also been crucial in organising BNY Mellon’s annual International Women’s Day events, which often attract more than 150 of Australia’s leading business men and women. 

Stewart points to the superannuation gap as another area of focus fior WIN. Industry Super Funds estimates women in Australia typically retire with 47 per cent lower superannuation balances than men, leading to precarious retirements and likely contributing to Australia’s ballooning population of homeless women over 50.

Tackling the gender pay gap is critical in resolving these socioeconomic issues, Stewart says. “If women earn the same as men it is not only a more equitable society but a more prosperous one, where global wealth per person increases substantially.”

BNY Mellon’s internal and external pursuit of gender diversity and inclusivity outcomes focuses on micro and macro challenges. Ongoing leadership on these fronts will be crucial in the wake of the COVID-19 economic crisis.

O’Sullivan says BNY Mellon remains resolute in its commitment despite the chill winds of the latest crisis. Its internal advocacy and engagement is ongoing, and its external support for programmes such as Dress for Success has been maintained by digital means throughout the crisis. Furthermore, O’Sullivan says, it is encouraging to see the continued development and expansion of diversity in the wider banking and finance industry. She says much of this is being driven by women in leadership positions but there is also a proliferation of support from male allies within the industry.

“A lot of firms are being proactive in this area. This is good because the wider the buy-in, the greater the impact. At BNY Mellon we want continuity in the progress and momentum achieved in recent years, so it remains a big focus for us,” O’Sullivan explains. 

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