Employing diversity to accelerate change

Published by Paulina Daczkowska
Apr 9, 2022 2:21:45 PM

The CIONET Cookbook comprises recipes for success from 25 of today’s most influential and dynamic information technology leaders, across all sectors of business.This is the result of our research and interviews with top Digital Leaders. The CIONET Cookbook uses the analogy of a five-star restaurant to explain the importance of optimally integrated technology.

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Meanwhile dive in to the next recipe with our Master Chef Dr Bijna Kotak Dasani, Executive Director at Morgan Stanley.



  • A measured rather than radical approach towards change and innovation
  • A culture of continuous improvement to deliver business value
  • Guilds and communities of practice to share experiences and lessons

Preparing the dish

With a distinguished career in global banking and financial services, Dr Bijna Kotak Dasani MBE, FRSA was voted one of the top 100 female business leaders in the world this year (from across industries and sectors), for the fourth consecutive year by Yahoo Finance and Involve People. She recently earned an MBE in the UK for her services to the areas ofBijna CT 191021 diversity and inclusion.  She has also been awarded title of ‘Digital Leader of the Year 2021’ by Seamless Middle East which hosts 12,000 participants, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Saif Bin Zayad Al Nayhan. 

She is currently Morgan Stanley’s Executive Director focusing on Transformation in the Asian region and Global Automation. Additionally, she serves over a dozen groups internally on the DE&I agenda. 

Morgan Stanley is an American multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City. With offices in 42 countries and with more than 60,000 employees, the firm's clients include corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals.

Leading a revolution in banking

In Bijna’s words: “Banking is essential, but banks are not”. With the advent of open banking and the rapid rise of FinTech companies and non-financial services players entering the financial services ecosystem, global banks such as (her former employer) Lloyds Banking Group need to find ways to stay relevant and close to their clients. Digital start-ups are chipping away at traditional banking franchises and are threatening to erode margins. This situation is particularly true in the case of middle-income customers who constitute rich pickings for newcomers. 

Bijna believes established players have the necessary scale and scope to respond to the FinTech onslaught, but they must remain vigilant. Established banks are increasingly seeking to exploit their data lineage to retain and gain customers in a renewed effort to increase revenues. At the same time, these institutions need to streamline their global operations to reduce costs and increase margins. The bank’s global change programmes addresse all these factors.

Adopting a measured approach

Given regulatory constraints and the reduced appetite for risk following the 2008 financial crisis, global banks such as Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs (both also former employers of Bijna) are adopting a measured approach to business innovation. In many cases, this approach is centred on modernising existing factories rather than building new ones. Goldman Sachs has put its toe in the water with its recent launch of Marcus, its new retail-banking business. However, the majority of mainstream global banking players are adopting a continuous improvement strategy that is geared to optimising their current operations.

At the core of Morgan Stanley’s transformation is the adoption of agile ways of working that provide a test and learn environment for teams across the globe. This approach focuses on the ability to fail fast and learn from every experience. This measured approach has helped the organisation to embrace new ways of mobilising change at a global level that relate to the future of the workforce and the workplace.

 Leading the rise of the corporate guilds

Bijna has led the introduction a new concept in business transformation that is based on the formation of guilds within her working environment. These guilds bring technology, business strategy and innovation experts together as agile teams that are an integral element of the bank’s change programme. Her vision is to create guilds of technical and business staff who can share experiences on a regular basis to ensure that any lessons learnt are communicated rapidly around the globe.

The first guild was launched in Asia In 2020. This guild aimed to build case studies around process improvement. Members of the guild used monthly video sessions and online communication tools to discuss topics of interest and to share experiences. This collaboration has accelerated innovation and prompted continuous improvement across the region. These benefits have drawn the attention of senior stakeholders in the firm, says Bijna: “It is all about getting buy-in from the top. The guilds must be empowered to work collectively at a time of immense commercial disruption.”

Introducing diversity to accelerate change

Bijna is fully conversant with the many differences in race and gender that pervade the Asian region. In many respects, the region remains conservative, with females occupying less than 20% of workers in populous countries such as India. Bijna envisages a workforce and workplace of the future that is more evenly balanced. One of the mechanisms that helps promote a positive diversity policy is the use of ‘career allies’. Becoming a career ally is now a critical component of a leader’s role within the bank. Careers allies, such as Bijna, actively identify and encourage the development of ethnic and gender minorities. 

Bijna believes the coronavirus pandemic has opened new possibilities to elevate industry’s culture by exposing weaknesses that were less of a priority in stable times. Bijna is positive that the combination of guilds, agile teams and career allies will help the banks make the necessary changes to excel in the coming years.

Defining the qualities of a Master Chef

To be effective, business leaders within the bank need to articulate their vision for the future by giving the guilds and other communities of practice crucial knowledge, which includes:

  • An understanding of the business strategy and associated measures that matter to the bank at board level;
  • An awareness of the way in which the workforce and workplace of the future will evolve to fulfil this strategic vision;
  • A comprehension of the role that each key function will play in the new banking landscape and the contribution of technology.

To meet these conditions, Bijna has placed strong emphasis on demystifying and simplifying many of the digital concepts that permeate the bank and the finance sector. She is keen to ensure that everyone works from a common foundation of knowledge. This foundation strengthens the prevailing culture and invites open conversations about issues that need to be resolved. In Bijna’s words: “If you don’t understand the problem, you will never reach a satisfactory solution.”


  • Embrace collaboration and inclusion to accelerate business value creation
  • Emphasise the overlap between strategy, technology and innovation
  • Introduce new schemes to overcome current limitations in diversity

    Interested to know more? Order and be the first one to get your hardcopy or e-book!
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