5 Minutes With Linoy Kidd on banking and building schools

Linoy Kidd, CIO of HSBC, shares the inspirational story of how she climbed the corporate ladder while raising money to build schools for children

Describe your journey into banking. How did you get here?

I did my undergraduate degree in IT, which has a direct correlation to the job that I do now. I did a summer internship at a Dutch bank called ABN AMRO and the people were so helpful. After that position, I went into telecommunications to try a new industry, but I really preferred banking. As you can imagine, some incredible brains work in the bank; they have to understand so many intricacies including algorithms and underpinning formulas. That, and I really liked the fast pace of the job and how smart the people are.   

For me, working with the business in partnership is the most rewarding part of my job. I joined HSBC 17 years ago and started in foreign exchange options as a support analyst, then worked my way to team leader. I moved on to Manager and then CIO in Mexico, before becoming CIO in MENAT for MSS (Markets Security Services). 

As soon as I became a leader of men/women I knew this was my calling in life. I love being a leader and managing people. I really feel it is a privilege to manage people and to try and get the best out of them to work and output for the business.

Who was your childhood hero and why?

I grew up in the 80s, when Band-Aid was a big event on television. I knew that I wanted to emulate those that help others and to action change in the world in whatever small way I could.  Martin Luther King sacrificed himself for the greater good to change the face of the world forever. I always quote him: “I have a dream where all children can play together no matter their race… not everyone can be famous but everyone can be great because greatness is determined by service.”  

My grandmother was also a big influence. She could not read or write and would beg her grandkids to teach her. She was Kurdish from Iraq and was just never taught to read. Because of my education, I was able to get a role here at HSBC. Fast-forward three years and my daughter has just graduated with a double major with distinction in STEM. Because of this, combined with a deep understanding of what education can bring, I set up the #Infusion100 movement four years ago. With colleagues from HSBC, we have built seven schools: five in Africa; one in Haiti after the earthquake there; and one in Nicaragua. These schools have educated over 1,000 students so far, and continue to do so. 

We encourage them to learn and then make a choice for how they want to live. Education gives choice; education gives freedom.

With Infusion100, I want to show women around the world that there is no glass ceiling. That we can punch through it and that anything is possible, no matter your past or who or what you are.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I had a manager in Hong Kong who told me that it is the ‘think outside of the box’ ideas that make the difference. At Google, they have the 10% principle: carve out 10% of your work week to try and innovate, to do something new that is not part of your day's work. Google Maps came from this 10%, so its impact can be wide ranging. 

Name one piece of technology you couldn’t live without and tell us why (excluding your mobile phone)

I am a sports fanatic; I go boxing every day after work. Every year, we walk over 100km for charity so I can’t live without my Garmin. I wake up and check it, and I go to sleep checking it.  It basically shows me everything, including calories burnt, steps, stairs, heart rate (so I know when I am getting too stressed), and sleep – and no, I don’t sleep enough. 

Who do you look up to in terms of leadership and mentorship? 

I really look to leaders that lead from the front. I built a school in Nicaragua and, like the chief of that village, I try to emulate the way that he leads his village and his tribe. He knew every mother, child, and baby by name. He greeted them with a smile on his face. He was humble and not only that, but every day at the school work site, he was there early and gave 200%. He was strong and he led the way. He had built every house in the village by hand.   

On the last night, we had an arm wrestle with all the village leaders and us. He beat everyone. He laughed it off; I wanted to emulate this type of leadership, to treat everyone equally, whether they are the CEO or a graduate. Everyone has a place in the world, everyone.

Is there a personal achievement from the past 12 months of which you are particularly proud?

I gave birth to a son during the pandemic; it was brutal as no one was allowed to be in the delivery room with me. I had to have an emergency C-section because the baby went into distress, and I got a double infection that I couldn’t fight while in labour. I signed my life away on that table and they came over with a waiver form saying if I die, I am liable for my own life.  At that moment, I felt totally alone. I experienced some PTSD and depression after that, but then I started boxing again. I got my life in order, and now I want to show women you can have it all; that whatever you live through that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  

During my maternity leave, I went to Ghana and built the sixth school. I dug it with my new baby because I wanted to show people that it's possible to do anything as a woman – even five months after the surgery. Give birth, bring up a baby and build a school.  No one wanted to go on this school build, and it was very risky because it was in the middle of COVID-19. But we went and we built anyway because that is our calling as the Infusion100 team: to build a school a year until we die.

Describe yourself in three words

Determined - strong - stubborn (with a strong slice of ‘anything is possible’)

What inspires you in banking and fintech today?

IT underpins the business; you cannot have one without the other. It is our job to take out the blockers and enable the business to do their job as seamlessly as possible.  

So it’s amazing to be pivotal to the underlying strategy. Pivoting to the cloud has been instrumental to be more agile and using the agile methodology to revolutionise the way IT works. 

What’s next for Linoy Kidd?

At work, I am very happy with the level I have achieved. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I will look to grow within these shoes for many more years to come.  

I’m always thinking of new ways to revolutionise the human experience within IT and banking, bringing networks upon networks of people together to show what can be achieved in a small space of time.   

In terms of the charity, we will hit nine years next year. I want to build nine schools in nine years, then keep going and going with that  to set up out of school education for those less fortunate and who do not have access to education. I want to think of ways to be a better leader to improve myself day on day, to help those around me and to change their lives in whatever small way I can, to keep on working on giving people the toolkit to step out of poverty, to give them the same viewpoint on life that anything is possible when you bring people together.

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