HSBC’s Diane Reyes on the introduction of mobile technology in the payments division, the importance of building consensus within a team and the value of women’s career development. 

Diane Reyes portrait

JPMorgan, Citi and HSBC are some of the biggest names in global transaction services and you would expect people working for those banks to have a global outlook. One such person is Diane Reyes, global head of payments and cash management at HSBC. With a career that has seen her work in the US, you could be forgiven for thinking that she is American through and through. But Ms Reyes describes herself as “Filipina at heart”.

She was born in Okinawa, Japan, and lived there for a short time before moving to the Philippines, where she spent 19 of her formative years. As one of only two blonde-haired girls in her class, she spent her school days speaking like everyone else in her school. Although her Tagalog skills may now be a bit rusty, she jokes that she remembers “all the slang”.

She moved to the US for her university education, where she majored in sociology, completed an MBA as well as the first year of a PhD programme.

From there she moved into the banking industry, and worked in cash management for what was known at the time as Mellon. “Mellon was well known for its service and reputation for transaction banking,” she says. From there she has had stints working for the other big names in transaction banking: JPMorgan, Citi and now HSBC.

Global players

One of the observations she notes from her time in transaction banking – more than 20 years – is that there are now fewer global players in transaction banking, explaining that the investment needed is significant to survive through the market ups and downs. “Now there are fewer global providers in the market that are as committed [as they once were],” says Ms Reyes.

Another change she has witnessed is the changing role of the treasury in organisations. “The treasury’s role is more strategic. They have to have the right banking partners,” she says. And in an environment where bank lending has been constrained, corporates “have to use their own cash”. She says: “The role of the treasury was important and technical, then interest rates declined and treasurers were further able to show their worth.”

At Citi, which she joined in 2000, she worked in a number of roles that culminated in her being appointed the global head of payments in 2009 for Citi’s global transaction services division. She has been at HSBC since 2011, where she can put her skills to use. As a bank that has a substantial portion of business in Asia, having spent a childhood in Asia helps with communication and understanding cultural differences. Also, the combination of a sociology degree and an MBA means that she has the sensitivity of understanding the impact of organisational changes, as well as having the hard management skills to get things done.

Leadership style

In terms of her leadership style, she has focused on delivery and execution. “I can be counted on to deliver the results,” she says. However, she has changed her style in recent years. While before she focused on results, now there is an emphasis on building consensus. “You need to execute, but you also need to be able to bring people with you.”

She also advocates the importance of communication, which can be daunting with more than 3000 people in the payments and cash management (PCM) division at HSBC. One initiative she has introduced to keep the division informed is the appointment of a number of PCM ambassadors – who are, for example, product managers, sales managers or regional heads – who are vital in conveying the relevance of PCM and in providing direct feedback.

One major trend that the payments and cash management division at HSBC has been working on is mobile technology. Often associated with the consumer market and retail payments, Ms Reyes has been focusing on bringing its capabilities to corporate customers. She comments that in the past 18 months there has been an increase in the numbers of large transactions being sent through mobile apps. Now corporates feel comfortable with the technology and trust its security: “$1.2bn in one session – it does happen,” she says.

“We want to be relevant to our customers,” she says, and one area where mobile makes a difference for corporates is with collections. "Removing the paper and cash out of collections processes is faster, giving companies quicker access to their funds and it’s safer as it removes the risk of robbery.”

“Collections and receivables is ripe for mobile technology – it really shows the development.” Also she notes, mobile collections help cash flow as money gets to the customer's account sooner, reducing the need for them to borrow.

Digitising corporate payments has been a journey that the major global transaction banks have been working on for a number of years and HSBC is no different. When asked what differentiates her as a transaction banker from her peers, Ms Reyes comments that it is her interest in women’s career development. She has been voted as one of the most powerful women in banking and she has applied her knowledge and experience to help other women advance their careers.

She has four children, three girls, and she has a “strong inclination to help women advance in their careers”. She is an active participant both inside and outside the bank through a number of women’s councils and career developments schemes.


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