Mind Your Business: HBSC’s Lavanya Chari on holistic wealth

In Mind Your Business, we speak with business leaders and thinkers who inspire their respective companies and industries. Here, we feature Lavanya Chari, HBSC’s global head of investments and wealth solutions

Lavanya Chari believes in “bringing my whole self” to her role as a key driving force behind HSBC’s global private banking and wealth product strategies. Her unencumbered—and bold—approach to her professional duties has yielded growth and benefits on many fronts, from empowering her approximately 1,200-strong staff through her emphatic management style, to fortifying and growing the finances of the bank’s global clientele through a holistic approach to wealth management.

Since joining HSBC in 2020 to spearhead its Investments & Wealth Solutions (IWS) division, Chari has also embarked on a number of initiatives that bring new perspectives and meaning to personal and fiscal growth. These include HSBC’s IWS Women’s Network (IWin) programme that fosters an inclusive environment that helps women to advance their careers, and the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programme within HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking in 2021.

Lavanya Chari is a proponent of diversity and holistic wealth goals. Photo by HSBC

Tell us briefly about your journey in the finance industry.

I’ve had the privilege of working in the finance industry for over two decades. My career has taken me from London where I spent ten years, to Asia where I remain today. A big part of my journey focused on global markets, but around eight years ago I made the move to private banking and wealth management. It’s been an incredible ride since then! During this period, I’ve worked with some talented people to help clients reach their life goals. The wealth management industry has also experienced significant growth and will continue to do so, so this is an exciting space to work in.

What are your thoughts about being a woman in a male dominated space?

I am deeply committed to promoting gender diversity. Considering that a significant portion of our client base consists of women, it is important that we reflect this to effectively serve their needs. Furthermore, I firmly believe that cultivating teams with diverse backgrounds, in the broader sense, can boost business performance.

I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to mentor many women and participate in forums that promote and celebrate diversity. One initiative I champion is HSBC’s IWS (Investments and Wealth Solutions) Women’s Network (IWin), through which we aim to foster a safe and inclusive environment that empowers women to advance their careers.

Describe your management style.

Focusing on results is paramount, both for our customers and the bank, but it is equally vital to establish a clear vision and strategy. By doing so, we are better equipped to navigate the challenges and uncertainties we encounter along the way and, ultimately, achieve our objectives.

Early in my career, I hesitated to bring my empathetic self to work, fearing it would be misconstrued as a weakness. However, with time, I became more comfortable with who I am and now I show up as my whole self. I believe that by not fully embracing all aspects of ourselves in our professional lives, we may leave behind our most valuable character strengths.

I understand that you consider the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programme a professional milestone. Care to elaborate?

We launched a comprehensive Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programme within HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking a little over two years ago. The programme is built upon three key pillars. The first pillar focuses on thought leadership and the importance of educating our clients on what ESG means in relation to investing. The second pillar focuses on the solutions we offer, with an emphasis on quality and relevance. Lastly, the third is centred on enhancing the client journey, ensuring it is intuitive, convenient and guided by insights. For example, our clients can now use their mobile app to access their portfolio ESG scores and performance from a sustainability standpoint.

HSBC released a Quality of Life report in September 2023. Please share a bit of what it is about.

We approach the concept of Quality of Life from a holistic perspective. Based on data and responses we gathered from over 2,000 people we surveyed across nine markets, we found that a healthy body and mind, along with financial security, are crucial for achieving a higher quality of life. Moreover, we found that physical wellness, mental wellness, and financial fitness are closely interconnected. Interestingly, individuals who rated themselves as physically or financially fit were also more likely to have above-average scores in mental wellness. Improving any of these dimensions can significantly enhance one’s quality of life.

It may come as a surprise but developing markets are actually outperforming some developed markets in the Quality of Life Index. When it comes to mental wellness, for instance, individuals from emerging markets exhibit higher levels of optimism, confidence, and social connections. On the other hand, many people in developed markets express concerns about challenges such as rising living costs and inflation. Additionally, individuals in emerging markets demonstrate better financial planning practices. According to our survey, they regularly review their plans, exhibit confidence in choosing financial products, and periodically reassess their risk tolerance levels. This is a valuable practice for everyone to adopt.

Any final words of advice of our readers?

Regardless of one’s wealth, everyone should exercise financial discipline as a means to achieving a greater level of control and assurance. That’s why we advise our clients to start thinking about their goals and plans at the earliest possible moment. I believe it is never too early or too late to begin financial planning. A fundamental piece of advice is to establish a strategic asset allocation plan and then revisit that asset allocation periodically as needs and objectives change.