Irina Seylanyan: I feel very comfortable in the banking community

08.03.2023 | 12:34 Home / News / Interviews /
#HSBC Bank Armenia #Irina Seylanyan
March 8 is the perfect opportunity to recognize women leaders in the Armenian business sector. We maintain our established tradition and bring to your attention our candid conversation with Irina Seylanyan, the Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Bank Armenia.

- Ms. Seylanyan, you hold a leadership position in the banking system, which is considered to be a mostly “man-dominated space”.  What are the biggest challenges you have faced?

- Our business community in general and banking system, in particular, is still dominated by male leadership. It is not a secret that female leaders face greater and bigger challenges, as they also have to battle against people’s perceptions.

I’m fortunate enough to start and build my career in one of the world’s leading financial organisations, which promotes diversity and I have never faced any obstacles from that perspective at work. Overcoming market perception was a challenge in the earlier days of my career, as from my experience, for a woman at certain levels, it takes much more effort to be accepted and her views to be heard and followed.

Nowadays I’m very comfortable in the banking community and have an excellent relationship with my peer CEOs. I believe, however, that our financial sector would benefit from having more female leaders.

- Would you clarify, what is the advantage of engaging women in business?

- In my opinion, it is not just about men and women, but generally about ensuring diversity within the organisation, as it ensures the diversity of thought, and creates a healthy environment for people to thrive and fulfill their potential.  

Men and women inevitably have different ways of thinking, experiences, and backgrounds, which shape their approach to business and affect their leadership style and decision making process. Many researches suggest that organisations that have more women in management and boards, on average, attain better financial results, are less likely to go insolvent, and are much more likely to innovate.

- It’s interesting to learn about your perspective on effective leadership.

- There are many definitions of effective leadership, but to me, effective leadership is about a few things.

Firstly, it is about inspiring and motivating people to work together to achieve a common goal. An effective leader needs to build a team of professionals who would be great at their own area, but also realize that there is a journey to make together towards that goal, a journey full of rewards and challenges. It is important that the team is able to complement and challenge each other in a healthy way on that journey. It is also about being decisive and making changes on the way if you see things going wrong or unpredicted.

Secondly, effective leader needs to be authentic in the way they engage with people, and also in the way they use their authority and communicate. An effective leader is a timely and effective communicator.

To me, effective leadership is also about creating psychological safety at work, an environment, where people feel safe to speak up, talk about things that matter to them, challenge where they see things going wrong, and acknowledge mistakes without the fear of being punished or embarrassed.

And lastly, I think that energy matters. Whether you bring positive or negative energy it influences people around you. So, it is important to create a positive environment, where everybody feels energized, valued and appreciated.

- The beginning of your career as the CEO of HSBC Armenia coincided with the challenging period of the pandemic. How difficult was it for you to navigate this kind of complex situation?

- To me, you are more likely to be successful in navigating a complex environment if you are able to exercise effective leadership. We spoke about effective leadership and from my experience, many aspects mentioned are especially important, when things are rough.

I’m very proud, that despite the really challenging environment, we were able to successfully overcome the difficulties thanks to having robust business continuity plans and a team of professionals able to exercise those plans, adjust them quickly to the changing environment, stay united and communicate effectively throughout the organisation.

- What would be your advice to women who want to create a successful career?

- First of all, I would advise to choose a profession you are passionate about. If you love what you do, you are much more likely to succeed.  Disregard stereotypes, and advocate for yourself and your ideas. Confidence is a vital part of success. Don’t be scared to make mistakes, but learn from them. Fear of failure can be one of the biggest obstacles to the success. And lastly, do not sacrifice your other roles as a woman for work.

- Our interview takes place on the eve of International Women’s Day, as CEO of HSBC Armenia what does this day mean to you personally?

- International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. In Armenia, as in many post-soviet states, over time, the day became a holiday of “spring, love and femininity”. For me it is a combination of the above and a perfect day to express our appreciation to all women in our lives, be it a colleague, friend, mother, wife or daughter for being there, being amazing, and being able to play so many roles and juggle between personal and professional commitments.
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