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From 1 July 2017, the finance and banking industry operating in the UK will be represented by a new trade association, UK Finance. It will represent around 300 firms in the UK providing credit, banking, markets and payment-related services. The new organisation will take on most of the activities previously carried out by the Asset Based Finance Association, the British Bankers’ Association, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, Financial Fraud Action UK, Payments UK and the UK Cards Association.x
As part of its new Strategic Report for UK companies, introduced in time for 2013 year-end reporting, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) put in place requirements for companies to report on the gender breakdown of their employees. This requires, as a minimum, the disclosure of gender ratios relating to main boards, senior managers and total employees. The BBA supported the disclosures as they provided a natural complement to initiatives such as the Davies Review and the 30% Club, both of which have high levels of support from within the banking industry.
We therefore thought it would be interesting to see what these disclosures told us about gender diversity in the banking industry in their early years and how the banking industry performed when stacked up against other FTSE 100 companies. Our research showed that the banks – and our major companies generally – were firmly on course to meet the targets set by Lord Davies so proving the point that progress towards good governance can often be made within a voluntary framework providing it is given a big enough push. It has come as no surprise to us that the target set by Lord Davies for 25% of all FTSE 100 board positions being filled by women has now been met – a doubling of their number in a little over five years.
In conducting our research, it quickly became clear that banks took diversity and inclusion very seriously and that this was not limited to gender, but focused upon opening up opportunities for all their employees irrespective of background, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.
We also could see that banks sought to reflect the diversity of the communities in which they operate and that there were good initiatives aimed at breaking down barriers faced by some of their customer groupings. Therefore, we thought a short chapter profiling some of this work should also be included.
Much of what you’ll find in this report is in the public domain. Bank annual reports, however, tend to be lengthy, complex documents these days and you can easily be past page 100 before you even reach the balance sheet. We therefore saw value in picking out what we viewed as some of the most innovative approaches in order to profile the industry’s commitment to becoming more inclusive and representative. We were assisted in this by the Heads of Diversity in not only the UK banks, but some of the US and European banks with operations in London and across the UK.
That the current Government plans to keep the foot on the pedal when it comes to diversity and inclusion is illustrated by their commitment to making further progress on gender and policies intended to enhance skills within the workforce generally.
Harriett Baldwin MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, recently observed that she strongly believes “in the moral value of allowing every person to fulfil their career aspirations, regardless of whether they are male or female” and that she thinks that this is “the landmark of a civilised society”. I could not agree more.
There is certainly more to be done, but as this report shows banks are placing a great deal of weight behind policies and initiatives intended to create more open and inclusive workplaces. This is an integral part of the policy of industry leaders to improve culture within their organisations.