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Every month or so, HSBC New Zealand employees get to enjoy the food, traditions and dress of a different culture without even stepping outside their office.

The bank’s 230 staff members identify with at least 40 different nationalities and speak more than 50 languages, and frequently interact with clients from a wide variety of countries, along with HSBC offices around the world.

This diversity is celebrated and encouraged thanks to EMBRACE, an employee resource group dedicated to building a culturally open and inclusive working environment. The initiative is sponsored by the HSBC Diversity and Inclusion committee and is made up of staff volunteers from different department and backgrounds.


Photo of HSBC staff celebrating cultural lunchEMBRACE has two main missions: to build awareness of different cultures including their perspectives, work and social etiquette; and educating staff on embracing inclusion and leveraging the benefits of a culturally diverse workplace, overcoming its challenges.

As Business Manager Phong Do puts it, “HSBC New Zealand is a team of people from various cultures and backgrounds, like a salad bowl with multiple types of vegetables. Like a good dressing that harmonises the different textures and tastes to make the salad complete, EMBRACE was founded to build an environment that bonds the diverse workforce, enables employees to be their true selves, to overcome the cultural barriers and deliver results as one team.”

EMBRACE delivers on its mission with fun, interactive and engaging activities designed to appeal to staff. This includes themed events centred around cultural celebrations such as Matariki, Eid and Rosh Hashanah. Attendees are invited to dress in the national dress of the featured culture, taste its food and take part in traditional activities.

Pot luck meals are another popular activity. Small groups of up to 10 are randomly picked from different areas of the business. Each employee brings a plate from their culture and has the opportunity to share their food and their stories with colleagues in the group.

Photo of HSBC staff members at cultural celebration“They provide an immersive experience where staff can live another culture in a few hours, can dress and eat and play and think like a local,” says Phong.

Other opportunities to learn about different cultures are promoted via Culture Wizard, an interactive tool developed by HSBC in collaboration with RW3, specialists in the intercultural training and e-learning industries. It provides information on a wide variety of countries and can be customised to suit each user’s specific requirements. EMBRACE organises quizzes for staff based on the contents of Culture Wizard to encourage employees to use it.

Senior leadership has shown its support via guidance and advice, along with funding for events. Senior leaders attend events and encourage their team to do the same.

Phong says EMBRACE has not only promoted cultural understanding within HSBC, it has improved staff engagement.

“For our people, an inclusive atmosphere makes them feel valued for their unique contribution and fosters mutual respect. It can also be professionally enriching – exposing our people to new skills and approaches to work. This, in turn, helps the organisation to attract and retain the best talent,” he says.

HSBC New Zealand’s Country Head of Commercial Banking and Diversity & Inclusion Executive Committee-sponsor Rob Roughan says, “The next stage of our EMBRACE journey is how we can better apply HSBC’s multicultural learnings and experience to the wider community in New Zealand, including our clients.”

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