Inspirational Woman: Neeha Khurana | International Head of Talent, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Neeha Khurana

Neeha Khurana is the International Head of Talent for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Neeha leads Talent Acquisition (EMEA) and Learning, Leadership Development, and Diversity and Inclusion across International for BofAML.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Neeha Khurana and I’m the International Head of Talent at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML). I’m responsible for leading an integrated talent management function including Talent Acquisition, Learning, Leadership Development, and Diversity and Inclusion. I work with our leaders on their people priorities to support their business strategy and responsible growth. This includes recruiting diverse talent, developing and progressing the careers of our employees and supporting our leaders in building an inclusive and great place to work.

I joined BofAML in 2010 after more than ten years at UBS in a number of talent-related leadership roles. Prior to this, I worked in consultancy supporting a breadth of clients across a range of industries advising on topics such as executive assessment, coaching, performance management and capability building, talent planning, succession management and organisational design.

I’m also a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and I hold a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Occupational Psychology from Goldsmiths University in London.

I also have a passion for volunteering and supporting the work of various charities, whether through Executive Coaching support to CEOs and Executives of partner charities or as a Trustee Board Member for upReach (an organisation set-up to improve access to professional employment for undergraduates from less privileged backgrounds).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – but I do have a “learning” mind-set and have always been keen to develop and learn more. Whether learning-on-the job, attending classroom-based learning – and most rewarding of all – learning from others. In all my roles I have focused on learning as much as possible, building strong relationships, and highlighting business priorities and how the HR and Talent functions can add the most value to the businesses we support. I’ve also learnt that being open to different opportunities, taking risks, and being prepared to make lateral moves all have huge benefits in building a well-rounded skill-set that ultimately benefits your career progression.

I do set myself challenging but achievable goals to work towards. These have been key in helping me to build a rewarding career. I also believe in talking through or writing down your goals and ambitions, no matter how big or small, as this helps clarify what you want to achieve and sets you on the right track for the future.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I have faced challenges throughout my career, whether related to juggling a busy job with managing family commitments, or disappointment at not achieving a particular milestone at work. My approach to dealing with any challenges is take a step-back, focus on what I can control and breathe!

Once I’m clear on what I can influence, change or improve I then set about practically dealing with the issue at hand. Whether this is breaking challenges down so they don’t seem so daunting, finding support to help with family commitments or sounding out work issues with trusted partners.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would like to see a genuine, focused and measurable commitment from men and women in the workplace to support, develop and progress female talent. The tone must be set from the top and the “right” behaviour and decision-making rewarded and recognised.

A key part of my role at BofAML is to support our commitment to making our company a great place to work for everyone, irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, age or disability. The firm recognises the challenges working women might face and works hard to create an environment that contributes to their success and career progression, whether it’s through our Returning Talent Programme, Parent and Carers Network, Maternity Buddy Schemes, our Maternity Room in our London office, our career development programmes or our women’s networks (which are also open to men). We have also signed-up to the Women in Finance Charter, further demonstrating our focus on increasing the number of women in senior management.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion starts at the top with our Global Diversity & Inclusion Council which is chaired by our Chairman and CEO, and we regularly report to our leadership teams the progress that they are making in each of their businesses against the commitments and targets we have signed-up to.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring can be very beneficial in developing a different skill, bouncing around ideas or gaining another perspective. I think it is most impactful when the mentee seeks out a mentor that suits their needs and when they own and drive the process, rather than through a formal or overly-managed programme.

I have seen some excellent mentoring relationships develop through our various employee networks including reverse-mentoring opportunities (for example – junior talent mentoring senior leaders). Company-wide employee networks allow informal mentoring relationships to build and they broaden an employee’s understanding of what’s going on across the firm. It makes good professional sense to join a company’s network because they provide access to a range of people, with different ways of working; an opportunity to share best practice and learn useful tips; and offer great educational opportunities, too.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I will continue to focus on the critical people priorities for our businesses in light of significant change and complexity in the world of work and the environment in which we are all operating. The challenge of hiring, engaging and developing the best, diverse talent will continue with an enhanced consideration on the future of work including the impact of technology on our talent, a continued focus on health and well-being, and ensuring that we deliver on our commitments to be a great place to work.

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