To mark Black History Month, we spoke with Molly Duffy, Financial Markets (FM) Head, Europe & Americas, and Leonard Bell, Macro Sales, US, about the importance of allyship, working together to make change happen, and why you need to be confident in your story to succeed.
Molly, how would you describe your professional relationship with Lenny?
Molly: It’s hard to define whether our relationship is allyship, mentorship, or just being very supportive of Lenny and his career goals, as well as his goals around diversity.
Over the years, Lenny and I have spent time really listening to each other and taking the time to understand our different points of view and experiences, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Lenny: I see our relationship as all the ships you can think of – allyship, mentorship, friendship. I’ve worked at four banks in my career in sales and trading, and it’s rare – just two bosses out of the seven I’ve had – that have been as direct and aligned with my goals and missions around retention and recruitment.
Are these goals based on your own lived experiences?
Lenny: Definitely. I started my banking career in Chicago in a class of 30. I was one of only two Black people in the class. After two years on the program, it was only me. And that didn’t feel great.
I got bad reviews in my first few years in banking, and I never felt like I had somebody, for whatever reason, to take me to the side and say, ‘this is how to be successful in this career.’ It took me a long time to find someone who did that for me.
It’s incredible you’ve finally found a place where there’s a space for you to bring all that lived experience and be your authentic self.
Lenny: Yes, and it only took 20 years!
Molly, what impact have Lenny’s thoughts, and your mentoring relationship, had on you?
Molly: Around Black Lives Matter, and the conversations following George Floyd’s death in 2020, Lenny was a guidepost not just for me, but for many others who didn’t know what to do or what to say. I know that was a difficult time for Lenny and his family, but he helped so many people with how to think about it.
Lenny: I remember our conversations around that time, as I was having similar conversations with a lot of people. It felt a little bit like I was Frodo in Lord Of The Rings – this is my burden to bear – but it was also an incredibly encouraging moment as it was probably the first time in my career that folks actually wanted to hear what I thought. It was a series of tricky, tough conversations, but then again it was a tricky conversation within the Black community. There wasn’t a simple answer.
Looking back to the events of 2020 to frame some of the conversations that you’ve had. Do you feel like we’ve made enough progress since that summer?
Lenny: Within the Bank there has absolutely been a change in mentality towards the issue of diversity. The results aren’t there yet, but it’s not from lack of effort.
But also, the US concept of diversity wrinkles the paper a little bit.
For example, if you look at all the different ethnicities in FM in the Americas, you could say ‘Wow! We’re super diverse!’ But there can also be more Black colleagues in FM. Standard Chartered is truly diverse internationally but it’s just a more challenging concept at a country-level.
Do you think the role of Black History Month has changed?
Lenny: I think it’s more important now, but only a smidge more important than it has been prior. It’s always a little bit strange to have the month – is this the only month we’re going to talk about it and then it’s over? Or can we view it through the lens of ‘this is the month to really highlight the issues’?
I do think that it helps move the needle in having a month where you can focus and prepare for conversations, but in our Origins, Nationality & Ethnicity Employee Resource Group, for example, we’re having these conversations year-round.
Molly: I do think though that from an Americas point of view there isn’t a month that’s celebrated in the same way. Perhaps because Martin Luther King Day is a lead into it, and that was stronger this year. It has gained a lot of momentum in the past decade and has taken on an importance that is different now.
Can you share an experience where you’ve been an ally to someone, or where you’ve benefited from someone being an ally for you?
Molly: I’ve certainly benefited from allyship and mentorship, and I hope I’ve been an ally and a mentor to others as well. In my career I’ve had a long list of people that have helped me. I doubt there’s anyone, really, that can go far without help and advice in their career. One of the things that I always find interesting is that most people that I speak to have a group of people that provide advice and assistance to them – people that they can call when they need input. That’s what an ally is – giving you their true opinion, their direct statement, hearing you, and supporting you.
Lenny, how has this relationship sown the seeds for you as a leader to be able to bring the lessons learned to the next generation?
Lenny: I always try to recruit people who have a unique story. What I’ve learned, and what I pass on, is that what made me get better at my job is how I got to the point where I was extremely confident in my story, and extremely confident in what I do and do not know, and I take that to everybody. Allyship for me is making sure that in meeting people and forming allies, friends, and partners, the next generation know to be confident in their story.