Best for line manager support

UBS won this year’s Best for Line Manager Support Award at’s Top Employer Awards, demonstrating the importance of line managers in the pandemic.

Female manager


UBS won the 2021’s Top Employer Best for Line Manager Support Award. We spoke to one team about their manager and about the support UBS provides for line managers when it comes to diversity & inclusion.

Nasreen Kasenally is the Chief Risk Officer of UBS Asset Management & UBS EMEA and recently became the Head of Sustainability Risk for UBS. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, leading the UBS Asset Management Diversity, Equity & Inclusion stream. As a senior leader she tries to model the kind of leadership she would like to see – accessible, flexible and empathetic.

Not only does she herself get very involved in promoting best practice and mentoring others, but she encourages the line managers below her to do the same. Indeed, her Chief of Staff Joe Lih-Hui is a global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambassador and works closely with line managers and employees to discuss their diversity-linked challenges and support them in how to overcome them.

In 2020, UBS launched a new Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ambassador Programme, where 209 employees were given the title of Ambassador by the end of the year. The Programme recognises employees whose role in the bank makes them more readily approachable to employees who wish to talk through challenges or concerns in connection with their individual identity. The Programme connects Ambassadors with tools and techniques to support employees through coaching or allyship.

Flexible working

Nasreen has been a strong advocate for flexible working from before the global pandemic and for other initiatives which support the recruitment, progression and retention of diverse employees, for example, UBS’ Career Comeback programme for employees who are returning to work after a career break of two years or more.

In early 2020, as the pandemic took hold of the world, UBS launched an internal microsite with resources to increase the health and connectivity of its global employees. The online pages are updated regularly with relevant tools and resources, including those to support working from home, teambuilding in a virtual set-up, thriving at home and at work, keeping your mind and body fit and relieving stress and anxiety. There have been over 37.8K unique visitors globally, representing half the UBS workforce. In addition to this, line managers were given direct access to specialised resources covering key topics such as leading virtual or flexible teams.

During the pandemic Nasreen has adopted an initiative called ‘Take 2’ whereby her team have been encouraged to take a couple of hours out of work for themselves, with no questions asked, if they need them. In addition, she has been very open about homeschooling her children and speaks often about her role as a working mum.


UBS’s senior leadership team has promoted an internal forum where people can talk in small groups about their mental health during the pandemic in order to remove stigma and focus on building resilience. Fatima Manaa, a business manager at UBS who is line managed by Nasreen, says: “For Nasreen it is very important that we all learn from each other about how we deal with the pandemic and discuss what possible things can make it easier. It’s not just about the current situation either. It’s about how we can support each other better, generally. We have had in-depth conversations across the regions about this.”

UBS has a range of support available to boost mental health, including employee assistance programmes and mental health champions. UBS has also offered free access for all of its employees to a mindfulness app which gives helpful advice on physical exercise and healthy living, improving sleeping habits and increasing energy levels overall.

In recognition of the vital role that line managers play in creating company culture they are required to undertake regular training and refresher courses to ensure their effectiveness. Given the impact of Covid on well being, UBS created a new line manager toolkit featuring resources to help them cultivate spaces where team members can speak freely and ensure their employees stay energised and build resilience, including a focus on mindfulness leadership and support to create positive mindsets.

Manager visibility

During the pandemic, communication has been more important than ever. At the peak of the Covid pandemic Nasreen did a weekly blog, sharing her experiences as a working mum as well as information about toolkits. In addition, she introduced herself personally to new joiners, setting up virtual meetings if anyone needed to talk to her and encouraged all team members to get to know each other. Although Nasreen has always been a very hands on manager, she has made a concerted effort to be even more visible during the UK lockdown.

For Fatima, who has just returned from maternity leave, Nasreen’s leadership both as a manager and as a fellow working mum has been inspiring. She says: “Working with Nasreen has shown me how important leaders are in creating the right supportive culture.”

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