An upbeat network with a serious message

To connect colleagues to help them understand and appreciate different cultures and to reinforce a diverse and inclusive workplace: that is ING Crossing’s mission. The network celebrated its 16th anniversary on 21 May 2021, which is also World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Aschna Makhan and Lloyd Morgan are both board members of Crossing. Aschna was born in the Netherlands, and has roots in India with parents and grandparents from Surinam. Lloyd is Welsh and moved to the Netherlands 11 years ago. Aschna: “In my former job I was used to having colleagues from lots of different cultures, and I missed that in my current department at ING. I was longing to talk about multicultural topics with people who shared similar interests and understood where I was coming from.” 

Lloyd joined Crossing when he was still relatively new to the bank. He became a board member when he returned from a short-term assignment in New York: “I first joined the network because I wanted to get to know new people. I knew there had to be colleagues from all different backgrounds within ING, but there weren’t any in my immediate circle of co-workers. I subsequently joined the board because I always tend to think about how I can take things further.” 

For everybody who has a culture

Crossing sums up its mission as ‘an employee network that is open to all ING colleagues with an interest in cultural diversity in all its forms’. “I’d like to take that up a notch and say that Crossing is for ‘everybody who has a culture’… in other words, for everybody,” comments Lloyd. “We literally cross borders as most of our events are open to all colleagues within ING globally, because many ING countries don’t yet have their own Crossing network. All members share an interest in learning about and appreciating other cultures.” 

Diwali, Chinese New Year, Ramadan

Aschna continues: “I guess we could say Crossing stands for inspiring and educating people at the same time. Let’s learn about each other, and discover the beauty of other cultures and how they can enrich us. I try to contribute by sharing stories about diverse celebrations that are less known to many colleagues and by organising events. Last year, for example, Crossing organised a celebration of Diwali (the Festival of Lights) and a Bollywood Dance workshop: they were a big success. So too was the awareness campaign around Chinese New Year. We will continue celebrating and spreading knowledge through our ‘cultural calendar’ of events and celebrations happening during the year.” 

Mutual understanding and respect

“These kinds of initiatives are important to raise awareness of the differences between people, countries and cultures within our company, and how to deal with them,” Lloyd adds. “Being aware of existing differences means being aware of possible sensitivities. It creates ways to communicate better with each other. Also, mutual understanding and respect lead to stronger teams. Although some discussions can take longer and get more heated, I believe the outcomes are better and more creative, simply because various perspectives are taken into account. Besides, diverse teams are definitely more fun! I love the amusing moments that occur during discussions in diverse teams – they can be hilarious sometimes.” 

“I totally agree,” says Aschna. “At Crossing we want to contribute to making ING a fun place for everybody, without forcing people to fit in with one culture at the expense of their own. Besides that, a diverse workforce reflects the diversity of our clients, and that’s extremely important too.” 

Celebrate and educate

Although Crossing is an upbeat network, it’s not all about having fun and organising celebrations; there is a serious and educational side to the activities too. “Just a few weeks ago, we hosted a presentation about data and modelling ethics, and how algorithms can be biased against specific cultural groups,” explains Lloyd. “And while people love our festive events, our more serious initiatives are highly appreciated and very well attended too. Another example are the ‘Lunches with Leaders’ we organise, which are the ideal chance for our members to discuss the topic of cultural diversity within the bank with ING’s board and other senior management.”

About Aschna

Aschna joined ING in January 2020 and works as a Non-Financial Risk Officer within Operational Risk Management. She is a keen cook and loves trying out new recipes. She also enjoys outdoor swimming and spending time with friends. She has taken up painting since the start of the pandemic.

About Lloyd

Lloyd is Head of Transformation and Innovation Audit. He has a background in computer science and software development, but his heart lies in the area of change management, which he moved into in 2007. He has been working at ING since 2010. He and his girlfriend are the proud parents of identical twin daughters and he spends as much time with them as he can. He also enjoys creating crossword puzzles and, before the outbreak of COVID-19, was an active member of a public-speaking club.

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