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Recent graduate Yihong joined Lloyds Bank as a graduate analyst in 2019 and wasted no time diving straight into a load of extra-curriculars, all supporting the LGBTQ+ agenda that’s close to his heart.

As well as getting involved with the Rainbow Network – the bank’s employee network for LGBTQ+ people and allies, he’s found that his work as charity manager with Switchboard (one of the key charities the bank works with) has been a really meaningful way to contribute to the LGBTQ+ agenda and help him forge a meaningful path in the organisation.

To celebrate Pride month, we had a chat to new Role Model Yihong to find out about his passions, and how he’s “giving back to a community that has given [him] so much”.

As a new graduate, how did the Rainbow Network help you throughout the first years of joining the Lloyds Bank?
Because it was my first full time job, I was nervous about the transition – it was daunting to go from being a student where you’re told exactly what to do, to a young professional where you have to take full control of your life. The Rainbow Network has become a really important part of my working identity. It’s more than a community, it’s my ‘golden source’ where I can turn for help, ask questions and hear similar journeys that others have been on.

Why was it important for you to join the Rainbow Network?
How did the Rainbow Network keep you connected during the pandemic in 2020?
I was involved in lots of LGBTQ+ charities at uni, so I didn’t have any doubts about wanting to continue to contribute in that way. The community has given me so much, I always want to give back to it. Rainbow has helped me find my own identity at work. I was lucky to have been in the office for 6 months pre-Covid, to meet most of the members in real life. It was more difficult without that face-to-face interaction during the pandemic, but they did really well at keeping us connected, moving the events online. It was interesting to see more allies joining Rainbow during the pandemic. Maybe before, people had felt they had to be LGBTQ+ to attend, or they didn’t know anyone. It’s more of a safe space, where it’s just so easy to just dial in. At our recent ally event, it was great to hear all those questions they’d been too afraid to ask.

What does it feel like to be chosen as a Lloyds Bank Role Model?
I’ve looked up to so many role models in the bank, so it’s hard to get my head around the fact that someone now labels me a Role Model. I feel incredibly honoured by the title. But honestly, I joined the Rainbow Network to figure out my own identity as a young professional, and help me carve out my own career path. I’m overwhelmed by the title – but I want to live up to it!

How do you continue to support LGBTQ+ charity Switchboard?
Switchboard is one of seven charities we work with. It’s the smallest one as it only has two full time employees. As their charity manager, I speak to the trustees to help guide them in terms of business strategy. Because they’re the smallest charity, they’re sometimes afraid to ask for resources. I’m always telling them that we’re here for them, no matter what they need. For example, their volunteers had always worked onsite due to caller confidentiality, so when the pandemic hit, we had to transform the whole set-up. It was a very big deal for them. We also sponsor their events (like their Pride and Christmas events). Soon, we also want to give them training on digital skills, and interviewing.

What advice do you have for new LGBTQ+ graduates looking for careers in the financial sector?
I’m fairly near the start of my journey – but I’ll try! Before I joined, we’d heard rumours about the financial sector and how many graduates had to get back in the closet. Coming to the City for the first time as an intern, I pictured everyone in suits, and being quite serious. But I was lucky that my Managing Director at the time was a big advocate for inclusion and diversity. Seeing how everyone operated, that intern experience really changed my life. People talk about how they have to come out over and over, many times in their life. Graduates might find that especially daunting – you don’t imagine you can turn up and announce it. But I found it came naturally. Bringing my authentic self is really important to me – I really can’t leave any part of myself at home. What would I say to a new LGBTQ+ graduate? The journey can be difficult, but it’s worth it. Carve out a space for yourself. Build your image. And be yourself.