Regional Head of Customer Experience, Wealth & Personal Banking EMEA – HSBC
With all two decades of her career planted firmly in HSBC, Haydi EL Lamey has climbed the ranks quickly. She recounts the highs and lows of her successful path, the challenges she has faced and the opportunities she has relished in, albeit while needing to weigh up the risks. Through it all, she credits her incredible father for the path she has forged for herself.
In a nutshell, please tell us a little about your career journey until this point.
For the entirety of my career, I have worked for HSBC. I started out in the bank as a junior customer service officer and from there, worked my way up the ladder. From my junior role, I stepped up to team manager, looking after two Customer Service Units, then managing a Team of Relationship Managers. This experience proved for the next big jump I took as a Regional Manager of our Advance Proposition where I led strategic initiatives and designed offerings and solutions to our high net-worth clients. Not only did this move push me into a completely new area of HSBC in terms of exposure, but it also shifted my career into a head office environment. It was a completely different and totally exciting experience that shaped my career today.
As I look back, one of the greatest milestones in my career was working on the acquisition of Lloyds Bank in the UAE. I had been appointed as the lead integration manager, reporting directly to the deputy CEO, which was unique and provided me with unprecedented exposure for my career. During the integration, I worked with an incredibly diverse range of people and learned about the bank in ways I had never done before; from operations, project management and deepening my understanding of all lines of businesses to culture building and people integration – it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity.
Following the acquisition, I was appointed as the Retail Branch Manager to our Flagship branch and Customer Services Centres, driving business, delivering to our customers, and managing a team of motivated and talented colleagues. After almost 5 years in that role, I found a very exciting opportunity back in the head office, taking a big leap of faith to leave a role that I was passionate about and venturing into a completely different area. I had to put an overwhelming amount of trust in myself when taking this role. I suddenly became integrated into a whole new team, with completely new dynamics and very Senior stakeholders. It was scary and exhilarating!
But here I am now, and I am so pleased I took that risk.
“Being surrounded by diversity puts you into a growth mind-set. You’re always learning, always growing, and always expanding your knowledge.”
Who is your role model and why?
I’ve been very lucky throughout my career to come across amazing role models and inspirations around me at every turn but, if I had to pinpoint anyone, it would most certainly be my dad. Sadly, he’s no longer with us but I’ll forever aim to walk in his footsteps. He was just a wonderful person; he was endlessly caring, optimistic, considerate, and forgiving. All he wanted to do was help people and make the world a better place; with no expectation of receiving anything in return. He was beautifully altruistic.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I have never met anyone else like him. I used to question whether he was real sometimes, you know, one of those people who was simply too good to be true. But he was real, and he was, and still is, my guiding light and role model.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had so many dreams growing up, but they all revolved around helping others. Whether it was fundraising and gathering donations or having an orphanage to help children grow and have opportunities, I always had something in my mind that took that caring path.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and what’s your greatest career achievement?
Taking the regional role was probably one of the hardest professional decisions that I had to make. It took a long period of contemplation and discussions with my family before I took the leap. I knew the role was much broader and the hours would be much longer, I would need to do a lot of learning while also managing a team that spanned over many countries. It felt like a big risk because I have three children, and it was going to be a balancing act of raising them while also developing myself and my career.
I was so torn between my personal responsibilities and the thought of ‘this sort of opportunity doesn’t come around very often’. But, with the support of so many people around me, I went for it and embraced the change. It was the best decision I could have made, and I wouldn’t have changed anything for the world.
“My family have always been there to share responsibilities and support me at every stage.”
What would you tell your 18-year-old self if they could see you now?
Just to keep doing what you’re doing, and I promise you’ll be proud of yourself.
How has your personal journey informed the way you navigate your career?
A lot of my upbringing shapes how I work. It’s those values that my dad especially instilled into me from a young age. That sense of undying commitment and leaning into responsibility has really helped me navigate to where I am professionally today. Of course, the other aspect that has moulded my career is having my own family. When I was younger, my dad would do anything he could to make sure we had everything we could need and want. I wanted to ensure I could provide the same security and happiness to my children. I have always wanted to work hard for them and be their role model.
How have your lived experiences helped you in your industry today?
This rings back to the way I was raised. My father always wanted to provide a sense of cohesion and support to the family. We are a close-knit family, and we continue to live jointly today, even after having our own families.
This closeness and family support has been instrumental in my career and gave me a deep appreciation of the importance of having people that can rely on you, and you on them. My family have always been there to share responsibilities and support me at every stage. Without them, I wouldn’t be the leader I am today.
And this very collaborative approach in my personal life is something I have tried to emulate in my professional life. I have always wanted my team to experience the power of cohesive relationships and look up to me as a leader and remember me in the way that I remember those who have been amazing leaders and supporters of me.
“Just to keep doing what you’re doing, and I promise you’ll be proud of yourself.”
How has connecting globally with people in other countries influenced your thinking or approach?
It certainly broadens your horizons and showcases that while humans have so many differences, they are fundamentally the same in many aspects. It helps to break down any stereotypes you may hold and increases your cultural awareness. Most importantly, being surrounded by diversity puts you into a growth mind-set. You’re always learning, always growing, and always expanding your knowledge.
It also makes you appreciate that no one-size-fits-all for anything. Whether it’s how you lead or approach problems, or how you connect and engage with a range of cultures; it makes you question your ‘usual’ process of doing things and enables you to take broader perspectives and challenges into account; simply put, it makes your business so much more effective.
How do you think driving inclusion in your region differs from other parts of the world? Are there unique challenges or opportunities?
I think there are both opportunities and challenges in the UAE. On one hand, we are a hub that is home to a diverse community. I think we have over 85 nationalities – it’s like the world in one place. We embrace diversity, and the region certainly encapsulates that growth mind-set we spoke about earlier. Everyone is different here, and everyone is accepting of that difference.
But I also grew up seeing the Middle East’s very strong culture. There are still times where I see this culture continue to be very deeply rooted and you can see how some people are still adjusting to the change occurring around them. Of course, there will always be elements of your culture that is deeply rooted within you that cannot be changed. While it’s not a challenge, it’s certainly a learning curve – people need time to adjust to a broader range of cultures on their doorstep.
We often reflect on you can’t be what you can’t see, how far does this resonate with you and your own experiences?
I believe this and it resonates with me, 200 per cent. From my dad to the leaders who have guided me through my career, if I hadn’t had someone who had been walking the walk and talking the talk, encouraging me all the way, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.