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Sir Simon McDonald speaks at HSBC Mentee Network

Alumnae and Mentees of the Executive Programme gathered at HSBC’s offices in Canary Wharf for our first HSBC Mentee Network meeting of 2017 on Tuesday 21st March. The event came just two weeks after International Women’s Day, and our host Birgit Neu, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at HSBC, took the opportunity to tell us about some of the work the bank had done to celebrate the day.

We were fortunate to be joined by three pre-eminent speakers at the event: Elizabeth Corley CBE, Vice Chair, Allianz Global Investors GmbH; Professor Heather McGregor CBE, Executive Dean, Edinburgh Business School; and Sir Simon McDonald KCMG KCVO, Head of the Diplomatic Service and Permanent-Under-Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Douglas Flint CBE, Chairman of HSBC, also attended to introduce and welcome Sir Simon.

We heard from Elizabeth Corley in an ‘in conversation with…’ session, during which she talked about hinge moments in her career, including the importance of curiosity and constantly learning. Heather McGregor, who wrote for many years as Mrs Moneypenny in the Financial Times, has several board roles and has also worked as a stand-up comedian, spoke to us about ‘Preparing yourself financially for the future‘, covering topics including investigating your credit score, writing a will and coming up with a giving policy.

Finally, we were delighted to be able to welcome Sir Simon McDonald, who gave a fascinating talk entitled "Brexit: What the FCO is doing right now, and how it is preparing for what follows – the crucial thing is what this country, and the FCO, does after the EU." As well as setting out the process and the FCO’s role in the negotiations, Sir Simon reassured us that his department is prepared – and has the requisite skills – for the task ahead, even though he described Brexit as the biggest diplomatic challenge the country has faced since the very concept of diplomacy came into being.