Partnering for progress
How can mentoring programmes contribute to diversity and inclusion? Bank of America mentors Shamir Malviya and Sarah Chiu discuss this with their mentee, Clifford Chance Singapore Associate Allison Tan.
Why has Bank of America partnered with Clifford Chance on this programme?
Shamir Malviya: Our aim is to help promote under-represented groups in the legal profession through a programme of mentoring and career development for talented associates at our key relationship law firms such as Clifford Chance. Greater diversity benefits everyone as it results in more knowledge, smarter ideas and better decision-making, so we want a higher level of inclusivity in the teams we work with at our partner law firms.
What does it entail?
Sarah Chiu: We typically have two Bank of America colleagues of different seniority mentoring one associate at Clifford Chance. We try to avoid being too rigid in terms of the format of each session; it really depends on the people involved, what they hope to achieve and what type of discussions they want to have. As the individuals become more comfortable with each other, the discussions invariably move beyond the legal arena.
Shamir: It’s also about giving the mentee the opportunity to broaden their network. As well as being connected with Sarah and I, we work to ensure Allison has access and exposure to our broader team. We want her to have the breadth of relationships across Bank of America that can help her in the work she does with us and in her career with Clifford Chance.
Shamir: We’ve tried to keep it general. For example, Allison has raised questions about our expectations of external counsel and what she can do to further develop as a lawyer. But it’s mainly geared towards areas where Allison is seeking a different perspective or perhaps questions she may not want to ask internally.
What do you think you’ve learnt so far?
Allison: I hadn’t really seen the value of mentorship programmes before, so this has been a real eye opener. I’ve been given such useful and practical advice that’s reshaped how I view things. It’s also been really enjoyable to be able to chat to people on a personal level. But for me, seeing someone similar to yourself – whether in terms of gender or part of a minority base – succeed in a large global company has made it feel more tangible and like a real option for myself. It’s made me feel I could do that one day if I wanted to pursue a similar path.
Sarah: Building and maintaining a good communication channel is important and mentoring is a great way of doing that. It’s also beneficial from a personal perspective as I can now call Allison a friend as well.
Shamir: It’s important to remind myself there are those who are in a different stage of their career and to share some of the learnings and career advice that have served me well. The associates of today are the partners of tomorrow, so it’s valuable for both sides to start building the relationships and networks early.
How do you feel this will benefit the business relationship?
Shamir: We want our relationships with external advisors to go beyond the technical aspects of the work. Helping Allison develop a deeper knowledge of how Bank of America thinks, our culture, products and business strategy and, most importantly, how we want to receive legal advice and how we look to apply that. We want our partners to become long-term trusted advisors who have a good understanding of who we are.
Sarah: I worked with Allison on a large project last year and, having taken part in this programme, it has made it easier for me to just pick up the phone and speak with her directly. This will be particularly helpful if this project continues to develop over the course of the coming year.
Allison: Beyond understanding how to generally provide better service, Sham and Sarah have been helping me set up a presentation for Bank of America on the new exemption framework that’s come into effect in Singapore. That’s a real concrete example of how it’s been beneficial for our relationship because it involves other members of the legal team and means I get to develop closer links with the wider bank.