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TWO OF Britain’s most recognisable black entrepreneurs recently shared a stage and revealed what motivated them to achieve their hard-earned success.

The high-profile panel included Dr Uchenna Okoye, owner of the London Smiling Dental Group, and the resident dentist on Channel 4’s makeover show, 10 Years Younger.

She was joined by former Dragon’s Den judge Piers Linney, chief executive of cloud-based IT company Outsourcery.

They were interviewed by Dr Sandie Okoro, general counsel of HSBC Global Asset Management and deputy general counsel of HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management.

Welcoming the audience of business people including MOBO founder Kanya King and BBC’s Apprentice alumnus Tim Campbell and Bianca Miller, Okoro shared her career story.

It included the pivotal moment in primary school when she told her teacher she wanted to be a judge and was promptly told that “little black girls from Balham don’t grow up to be judges.”
Okoro said: “She didn’t get the sack, because they didn’t sack people for that then, but she would now – and rightly so.

“That woman is no longer with us but if she was, I would say thank you for driving me on and putting an obstacle in my path that I have to kick out the way all the time.”

She continued: “I’m not a judge, but being global counsel of HSBC, which is a massive organisation with 470 billion US dollars under management in my division, is quite a big job.”

Okoro, of Trinidadian and Nigerian heritage, added: “I think that it’s really important for everyone, including the people we mentor or come into contact with, to see people like us to show this isn’t a ‘minority thing’. There are lots of people out there that aren’t in the room here who are doing fantastic things and are fantastic role models. That’s a message I think is really important.”

Linney agreed it was vital for role models to be visible as he admitted that growing up he had no one to turn to for advice on his chosen career path.

“If people haven’t got experience or anyone to inspire them…they find it really hard to ask the right questions, [so] it’s about breaking that cycle.

“I say this often, but at the beginning of my career I never met myself. Never. Not until recently. I never once sat in a room with someone of my heritage, specifically Caribbean heritage and that’s something that troubled me and I want to do something about it.”

Ian Stuart, head of Europe, Commercial Banking HSBC and executive sponsor for the HSBC UK BAME Network, said: “The pace of change in the world today is just incredible, it’s very fast-moving. Diversity in the workplace is increasing massively.

“I say to my people all the time: it does not matter to me one iota where you come from, what colour your skin is, how you sound – and I’ve got a very strong Scottish accent myself – all I want to know is, can you do the job and can you get along with customers? If you can do those things, come and join HSBC.”

The event, which featured a performance from the London Community Gospel Choir, also coincided with the bank’s 150th anniversary.

Founded in 2012, the HSBC UK BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) Network is focused on the needs and aspirations of BAME and non-BAME employees and customers.

Source: voice-online.co.uk

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