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Change Maker: Liz Yiangou, business development manager vice president, Barclays

  • 04/12/2023
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Change Maker: Liz Yiangou, business development manager vice president, Barclays
As part of the Change Makers initiative, Mortgage Solutions spoke to Liz Yiangou (pictured), business development manager vice president at Barclays about her work with the Reach Network, championing disability, mental health and neurodiversity in the workplace and how she feels to have been nominated as a Change Maker.

Yiangou is business development manager vice president, Barclays. She has been with the high street lenders for almost a quarter of a century, starting her career in 1999 and rising through the ranks to reach her current position. She has also been a trustee for Home-Start UK, a family support network, for the past four years.

She is a champion for diversity in the workplace and has worked tirelessly to promote greater inclusivity in the workplace, as well as being part of mentoring programmes to help young people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

This drive for positive change led to her nomination as a Mortgage Solutions Change Maker.


What initiative or project saw you nominated as a Change Maker?

I believe this is for working closely with the Reach Network which is one of the 12 Employee Resource Groups (ERG) within Barclays, for the last three years supporting Barclays’ internal disability, mental health and neurodiversity network.

Over the last three years, I along with a few colleagues have actively been involved in setting up a unique mentoring programme for over 90 colleagues who were Reach members with individual coaching from an external source and one-to-one mentoring from senior leaders within Barclays. This included colleagues from the US and India last year. The feedback from some colleagues has been life-changing.

More recently in March this year, I was selected and invited to be part of the judging panel for the Diana Award, a charity I have previously supported with a 12-week mentoring programme involving a group of students aged 15-16 years old all with SEMH (Special Emotional Mental Health) difficulties from low socio-economic and diverse ethnic backgrounds. This opportunity was one of the most inspiring and rewarding.

Since 2020, I have also been an active member of the Diversity & Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF). This has proved invaluable in helping me to raise awareness of financial inclusion as well as sharing best practices to help create a more balanced and fair mortgage industry.

For the last four years, I’ve also been a trustee for Home-Start which is a charity supporting families who are struggling with challenges of family life, covering a wide range of difficulties such as isolation, low self-esteem, physical and mental health issues.

How have these initiative changed you?

Over recent years, I have been in a position where I have learnt so much, from so many influential voices across the finance sector. This has encouraged me to challenge the status quo as well as championing diversity of thought, learn, exchange ideas and these initiatives provide a great opportunity to do just that as well as supporting inclusivity and diversity within our culture.

I believe every individual should be able to bring their true selves to work enabling colleagues with disability or mental health conditions to flourish and be authentic, therefore I am constantly striving for change and equality.


Why did this project mean so much to you?

My daughter Yasmine, who is 17, is neurodivergent and has ADHD and quite often was misunderstood throughout her schooling years and labelled a failure due to the inaccurate, unfair, archaic education system as well as the ineffective ways of benchmarking success. Quite often, she felt like she had no voice and went through very dark times.

She has been very fortunate and is now working with a great employer towards an apprenticeship in financial services.

I have always been passionate about building safe spaces and platforms to allow those in employment from neurodiverse backgrounds to feel engaged, help build confidence which therefore helps improve the feeling of belonging and to be their true selves and continue to shine.

This to me is so important because when you are neurodivergent, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all especially for dyslexics and anyone with processing issues. I personally joined the Reach ERG so I could better understand as a parent how I could navigate through the lived experience as well as support my child to thrive in the best way possible. This is exactly what the Reach ERG is all about.


How did you go about bringing the initiative to life?

By actively being involved in the various Reach mentoring cohorts over the years. Reaching out to senior stakeholders, promoting the programme and actually getting involved via mentoring, this is very much a two-way learning journey. We have since got our CEO involved as part of the programme along with a number of key sponsors.

This year we have had record numbers of colleagues wishing to take part in the Reach mentoring programme, mentors have frequently commented on how much they have gained from the experience, realising the practical insights of working with a disability or mental health condition in Barclays.

Also in the summer, I was invited to represent Reach as part of a panel discussion with the other ERG representatives sharing experiences and raising awareness across the business.

What are the current or next steps?

I will continue to work with the Diana Award as well as our Reach ERG to help break down barriers within the DEI agenda. We are just in the process of starting a new cohort of 30 mentors and mentees on the mentoring programme.

I will continue all my work as a trustee for Home Start UK helping with recruitment from diverse backgrounds and supporting the fundraising strategy.  As a team, we are just in the middle of organising a two-day Home Fest fundraising event for the summer next year.


What does it mean to you to be nominated as a Change Maker?

Being a Change Maker is a real honour and a great way to demonstrate the steps we are all taking together working towards a common goal to make things better in the mortgage industry. I really love this initiative and really looking forward to sharing all the learnings and achievements.

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