An HSBC manager tweaked titles and voice systems—transforming LGBT+ lives globally

M, Myr, Mx, Sai, and Ser.
M, Myr, Mx, Sai, and Ser.
Image: Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It is often seemingly small changes to the way we work and go about our day-to-day business that can have a profound impact on our lives. And for those in the LGBT+ community who are still fighting for equality across the world, recognition of their identity is the first step.

For cisgender people, ticking “Mr” or “Miss” on a form doesn’t seem like a big deal. But for those who fall outside those socially constructed boxes, such as transgender or non-binary people, just filling in a form for something like banking or working in a place that has gender-denoted job titles can be an affliction on your identity.

So when Stuart Barette, a transgender man with high-functioning autism, led the charge to roll out gender neutral titles for both HSBC employees and customers, it was a sea change for many and prompted other banks to expand the options on titles in the future.


Leading by example.
Leading by example.
Image: HSBC

“I’m amazed and astounded that the work I’m doing is being reflected specifically to me as a role model. Usually when you see a LGBT+ role model in business, it’s usually from large cities. But I’m based on a small island (Jersey) which is only 9 miles by 5,” said Barette, Global CMB IT Application & Infrastructure Streamlining Manager at HSBC, to Quartz.

“It’s actually a helpful thing [being based on a small island] because you can start small and roll out processes that work to the rest of the UK, then Europe, and then globally. We have been able to do this, even in less-supportive countries of LGBT, but have made a difference in employees and customers’ lives, such as Dubai.”

But it wasn’t just the gender neutral titles that made Barette win the professional LGBT+ membership organization OUTstanding’s LGBT+ Future Leaders award—it was also some key changes in tech and processes at HSBC, as well as supportive content and transitioning guides that have been implemented across the organization.

Barette not only helps head HSBC’s Pride Network and is an LGBT+ Mentor, he also produces social media videos for colleagues and customers, and also initiated LGBT+ training for all branch and contact center staff.

He also runs a monthly employment support call for Trans, Intersex and Non-binary colleagues for the bank and 45 network partners globally, and is part of many advocacy groups externally, including Stonewall.

Importantly, Barette helped simplify the gender change procedures and makes sure voice biometrics technology is up-to-scratch for trans customers, by leading HSBC’s Trans Ally training program.

“We internally train allies in the bank to not only ward off transphobia but to create visibility and stand up for people and show them that coming out is fine. We want people to understand the issues people face as gay, lesbian, transgender, and how that also makes a difference in how to apply marketing, designs, and new applications that support that community,” said Barette.

“When we were rolling out an internal system for our staff, it was an ally that noticed that the gender neutral titles weren’t showing in our staff systems. And within 24 hours, this was fixed. Having an ally network is part of empowering all staff and creating a massive army to mobilize across the world.

“Educating on issues and making changes to things like voice biometrics, makes people understand the issues trans people can face with banking over the telephone, for example, having a voice that is breaking. Simplifying the process on gender recognition in day-to-day living, like in banking, can change steer of the world.”