NatWest Group CEO Rose on Equality in Business, Finance

by birtanpublished on October 1, 2020

be joined by allison rose natwest group
chief executive also the first woman to
lead a major
uk bank thank you so much uh for joining
us allison there's a lot to talk about
because we're trying to discuss
in 20 minutes striving for equality in
business finance and society i feel like
we need four hours but unfortunately we
just don't have
the time for that um are you
disappointed that in 2020 we still have
to talk about diversity and equality
or actually you know have we really made
progress over the last five years
yeah i'm always going to be disappointed
that we have to talk about it because
i think although we have made incredible
progress if i think in
in my career from when i started to now
um where i am there's been an amazing
progress but it's just not fast enough
and i think um we'll need to continue to
talk about
it from a gender perspective and just
more explicitly from an inclusion
perspective until we don't have to talk
talk about it again so i'm always going
to be impatient that the progress isn't
fast enough
what does covet actually mean for
equality and diversity and fairness in
society is it almost a great equalizer
or does it just accentuate the
well i think in some ways it is a great
equalizer it's
it's forced us to really look at what's
going on and
there are a number of things happening
both in terms of demographics
in terms of um diversity um and
inclusion and you have
other issues happening and and i'm sure
we'll talk about it around black lives
as well so kavit has really forced i
think a rethink and a restart and an
opportunity for us to address
some of these issues do you think that
the pandemic is also
almost like a you know a way of making
sure that businesses
feel like they have a purpose do you
think that's reinvigorated that in that
i think it absolutely has but i mean i
announced a new strategy in february
which seems a lifetime ago now
pre-covered and we
launched a new strategy about being a
purpose led bank and i think
it's really critical for businesses to
have a purpose we talked about
creating a purpose that would create
long-term sustainable value for
shareholders absolutely we've got to be
a business that contributes but also
that thinks more broadly than just
single shareholders about all of its
stakeholders and we've
focused on wanting to unlock the
potential that exists in families
and businesses right the way up and down
the country of
our customers that we support and for me
i think every business has to think
about its
impact and the difference it can make we
actually focus the three focus areas i
um launched in february where i'm
focusing on
enterprise helping entrepreneurs and
businesses in removing the barriers that
affect them
financial education and inclusion and
and so i think that becomes even more
in a covered environment and for me it's
really helped determining
our response to covert as well it's been
a real north star for people
is that because you just want to do a
bit of good in the world because you
want the next generation
to you know be on a better footing or
does it just make business sense
it makes business sense i think it's a
fundamental imperative for
having uh sustainable businesses i think
you have to think as a business leader
more broadly around your customers and
the communities that you support as well
the environment you're creating for your
colleagues and i think that creates
value more broadly than just short-term
value you want to create long-term value
it's absolutely good business sense but
you know big businesses have a
responsibility to recognize their
impact um in the communities that they
live and work that's that's how
all of my bankers think and i've seen
when you don't think like that you can
do harm and you've got to be
multi-dimensional think about all your
so at the core it's good business sense
and it's about creating long-term value
and it has repercussions for how the
value that you create more broadly than
shareholder value in your business
uh given you know okovid is going to be
pretty tough um i don't know what will
happen like a couple of months or the
next couple of years but
you know it looks like we could have a
massive recession at the end of the
um given some of the things that you've
outlined and that other business leaders
have outlined do you think we'll have a
and greener society i think we have to
there is a real opportunity here to and
it's a phrase that we've used around
building back better i think as
as we come out of this pandemic what
you've seen
is actually an acceleration of some
underlying trends that were already
so we know that climate is a massive
challenge for our generation for
businesses and globally and actually
this is the opportunity
to see how we can support that but but i
think what you're seeing is an
acceleration of trends and an
opportunity to build back better
and i think balancing for me being a
purpose-led organization means balancing
those needs
across all your stakeholders and we
should all be embracing that so that we
can make a difference and create more
sustainable and equal value
so concretely what does that mean
allison how are you going to hire
differently how are you going to treat
your talent within the organization
yeah well i think for me talent is is
really important and any
any business any organization should be
thinking about how do i get
the most diverse talent within my
because if you if you're bringing in
that diversity of thought that
that constant learning you're going to
get better better results
and i think you know one of the things
that we're seeing from
the recession that's coming from some of
the early signs it is the younger
generation who
are going to struggle more coming out of
covid and so
making sure we're hiring good diverse
talent young people from
diverse backgrounds to grow the next
generation of talent and
contribute to the organization is is
i mean we've really focused on making
sure we're continuing to recruit
our graduates we're we're welcoming 260
graduates who
are joining us next week we kept our
internship program
going albeit we did it remotely during
the summer
and we focused on hiring um
apprentices from uh different economic
backgrounds that would not normally
be attracted to banking or captured in
the normal way so i think you've got to
think really differently about your
and recognize the demographic and this
younger generation who are going to be
affected by kovid more and making sure
we reach out and do more
to help them and that's on recruitment
and then i think more broadly one of the
things we're doing is
how can we help people start businesses
i've got a real focus on female
entrepreneurs but all entrepreneurs
and also how can you help people manage
their finances and have confidence
around their financial capability
because that's a core requirement so we
can do more to educate around that as
um i know also you've done a lot of work
you know to try and understand some of
under representation like you know why
do do a lot of business don't have a
more diverse workforce
is it at entry level do people drop off
after you know a certain while like
what's the secret sauce to retaining
good people from different backgrounds
yeah look for me it's all about the
culture of the organization you create
um you've absolutely got to have the
policies in place to hire and recruit
in a very diverse way so you know my
graduate intake
this year um we've got 57
female but we've also got 40 pain coming
in so you've got to attract
diverse talent but then you've also got
to nurture them through the organization
address unconscious bias remove the
that that will be there in an
unconscious way
and create an environment in a culture
that talent can thrive regardless of
their background so
you know that's that's one of the
challenges there's no one silver bullet
that will fix anything
so you've got to put interventions in
place but fundamentally you've got to
have a culture of an organization
that is really going to embrace
inclusivity and talent and have the pull
and push factor
to allow people to thrive i know you
also set out a goal i think to help
create some 50 000 new businesses that
are led by either females
or being you chief executives also
outside london
why are more organizations not doing
yeah well i'm encouraging as many uh
organizations as i can when i
launched the rose review which was
looking at female entrepreneurship and
we took a broader view
i think it's incumbent on everyone who
can help should help and
it's good business sense so more more
support that we can put in to encourage
entrepreneurs and help entrepreneurs
survive through that difficult
period when they're starting out
businesses then you're creating new jobs
you're contributing to the economy i'm
really pleased actually the result from
the rose review is we now have
67 organizations signed up to the um
banking code to help entrepreneurs and
our council
um that was set up to really encourage
more vc investment has set an ambitious
target to get 30 percent
um of uh investment to female
founders or co-founders by 2030. so
i think that's a real sign that people
are willing
to help and to do more and laying out
what you can do
to really make a difference i think
should encourage people to get involved
and and help remove barriers that will
encourage enterprise
and enterprise doesn't just exist in the
big cities it exists everywhere
and and what we've seen from previous
um recessions is as unemployment goes
goes up people may that may be the
trigger to encourage people to start
their own businesses so
there's a real opportunity to try to
not just the barriers to enterprise but
also helping people back into employment
as well
um if they're if they want to start a
and allison what will you do to increase
gender diversity at
natwest group so we're um
we're very clear that we've set um
targets i'm a great believer in
if you don't measure it it doesn't get
done so we have
a very broad program around helping
encourage women coming into banking
encouraging girls to
think about banking i have a program
called dreambrigger which goes into
and encourages girls to think about
finance as a career to think about
entrepreneurship as a career
to work on resilience and really
encourage more people into the pipeline
but we set targets at our top four
levels we have a fully
diverse represented board my executive
team now is over 30
female and we have targets at our ceo
four level right the way through the
organization to encourage
all elements of diversity and
and all of my team are encouraged to
embrace it um as well as broader
elements of inclusivity but
i think you set targets um you put
interventions in place
um and you create a culture that
hopefully will encourage
people and allow that talent to thrive
why do you think not enough females
actually join banking in the first place
is it a good
you know cultural thing is it a
is it seen as too aggressive
i think historically it you know the
financial sector has been very male
dominated when i
when i started my career you know i i
joined areas where i was the only woman
um in the room and that was you know uh
for a long time part of
the environment i operated in um so i
think it sort of starts from
having a perception of being like that
but the culture of banking has changed
enormously we need to bet to do a better
job of explaining the fact you can have
you know a thousand different careers in
one organization and
and what a exciting environment it is
and then create the culture
that people can really be them hold
their whole selves when they come here
increasingly seeing more women come into
banking what we need to do is now get
more women through into executive
so that they really can um make a
difference so that you've got a really
diverse workforce
i know certainly being part of diverse
teams is fantastic because you get
different perspectives different
challenge different creativity which
makes you
more competitive so um making sure we
really articulate the attraction of this
industry i think will encourage more
women to join
do you ever get pushed back with some of
these initiatives or some of the things
you're trying to do and change
um no i mean i a lot of what i get when
certainly when i've driven diverse
debates and
the cultural change it is a ask for help
from people why
why am i not attracting more women why
do i have an inclusivity problem
you know what what how how do we address
and a lot of it is unconscious bias you
have to look at talent in a very
different way rather than through
the lens with which you would typically
look at it so
generally i don't i don't get pushback i
get and ask for
how can i get the best talent how can i
get help and i think explaining the
business case explaining the imperative
this isn't a nice to do this is an
absolute business imperative
and so it's asking for help for
um so no i'm very lucky my team are
fully on board about creating
an inclusive culture we've got very high
in our top four layers so that's good
lots lots more to do i'll continue to be
and i'll continue to drive the targets
i think nobody's got one silver bullet
to fix this so
everybody's looking for help and sharing
best practice is one of those areas
where it's a non-competitive environment
so we're all looking to learn from each
um how has the black lives matter
movement actually changed the way you
look at diversity and inclusion
at now west yeah i mean i think the
black lives matter
um issue has really been
you know a tough environment and a tough
conversation for lots of people to have
but what it's done is it's brought the
to the fall and it's it's been a pretty
emotional experience for a lot of
my colleagues from the bane um
background and particularly my black
colleagues and understanding
the experience they're going through the
in their own personal lives and and and
what what's happened to them and what
this means to them has really brought
it to the forefront we have um
i've asked my employee-led network to
run a task force within the organization
and we're having
some pretty uncomfortable conversations
to understand
you know the challenges that our black
colleagues have gone through in their
lives and in their careers
and really what it means to be an
inclusive environment
um so it's really stimulated the debate
it's a lot
it's it's challenging us to think
um it's making us think about how
we should be supporting you know not
just our colleagues but our customers
the broader communities
who we support every day but to
what's happening from their perspective
and really taking a look at whether
we truly have a progressive and
inclusive culture and that everyone
feels that way and until everybody does
we know our job's not done
so have you taken extra action to
support you know specific
causes on on black lives matter
yeah well we've we've had um a target a
bain target in our organization
for a while but the specific action that
we've taken is we
launched a task force led by our
and ran a cultural survey um to ask
what should we do to really make a
difference and actually
that team are coming back to the
executive team
this week to talk about the
recommendations and measures we have 10
recommendations and actions we're
specifically going to take
to improve the culture inclusivity
very specifically through a bain lens
do you believe that big business needs
to have a point of view
on on all of these issues
i do think we need to have a point of
view because
we are dealing every day with
thousands of our colleagues and our
customers and communities where
this is impacting their lives and so you
know when you're
dealing with that and have such a broad
representation i think it's important
that that your organization is seeing
your colleagues see you
and understand what you represent so i
think it is important that we have a
view because we can have an impact
is that for your customers or is it for
you know the people that work for
or both for both i think it's for both
um you know my organization is dealing
with customers and if we
are not reflective of the customer base
that we serve then we're going to be
out of touch for our colleagues they've
got to feel that they have an
where they are recognized and can thrive
and their home life is as important as
their work life so
i think it's really important across our
customer base and our colleagues
when you look at some of you know the
government schemes put in place
you know furloughs but i'm also thinking
of apprenticeships do you feel like
they understand you know what needs to
happen the next
12 to 18 months to to really make sure
something changes after this you know
pretty harsh 2020.
yeah i think there is a real
understanding of the challenging times
ahead and undoubtedly
you know everyone's wrestling with what
has been a health crisis that's
triggered an economic crisis and there
are consequences
um that you know we still don't know yet
the real
long-term damage to the economy and the
underlying damage isn't yet
known but i think some of these issues
that we're now talking about which i
think it's it's
really important that we do talk about
around inclusivity
around the challenges in terms of social
around the impact that business can have
more broadly or important issues
that we should be talking about and so
in in the discussions that we're having
with government when we're talking with
our colleagues about planning for the
future we're thinking about
how those issues should affect our
recruitment how we treat our customers
what sort of products we need
so i think it's a very it's very
important it's on the agenda
as we're thinking about the recovery of
the economy and the support we need to
put in place
what's the best piece of advice you
would give to someone who says you know
sometimes when i see
it you know inequality or injustice
someone being treated unfairly or not
in the workplace or elsewhere i want to
speak up but i don't really
know how to find the right tone i mean
i'm sure you've had you know deal with
that many
i mean all of us really have but what
kind of advice would you give
i think everybody i would always
encourage everyone to
have a voice one of the things i say
within our organization is that
everybody has a voice so
even if you are not the victim of that
inequality walking past it means that
you are
silently endorsing it and a lot of the
time we talk about
the destructive nature of
microaggressions the everyday
that can wear people down so i think
it's really important that we
we are all allies to each other and and
therefore we should
we should speak up on behalf of the
culture we represent and the inequality
that we see and i think it's really
important to create a culture where
people can have those uncomfortable
and we've been talking you know with my
i've i've been participating in some of
them talking about
you know white fragility and white
supremacy those are uncomfortable topics
for people to talk about but i think
building understanding
understanding the language allows you to
have those uncomfortable conversations
and i think it's really critical
this isn't particularly on black lives
matter this isn't
up to our black colleagues to talk about
it it's up to all of us to talk about
it so we can build understanding and

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