PIC © Andrew Lloyd
NatWest Group sets out its commitment to racial equality. Here Alison Rose, CEO of the bank, explains to Style of the City readers why it is so important that NatWest challenges the inequalities faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in Wales and the rest of the UK.
Our purpose as a bank is to champion potential, helping people, families and businesses to thrive. It is a clear call to action for all of us in the bank as we break down barriers that get in the way and fight inequalities that hold people back.
This includes inequalities and barriers faced by people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds. These inequalities and barriers persist, and I believe we at NatWest Group have a substantial role to play in tackling them. Simply put, it’s not enough to recognise the problem; organisations like ours must be a part of the solution.
In June, following the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests across the world, I established a Taskforce led by the co-chairs of our 5,000 strong multicultural network and members of my leadership team. The Taskforce’s role was to help us listen, learn and better understand the issues we are facing, and consider the key actions we can take to tackle inequalities for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority customers, colleagues and communities.
Throughout the summer they collaborated with people from all backgrounds right across the bank and beyond. They spent time listening and learning, including conducting a bank-wide survey on race, diversity and inclusion which drew over 21,000 responses from our colleagues. They carefully analysed all that they heard and learnt. And from there they planned for action.
This autumn I was proud to share their report: ‘Banking on Racial Equality: A Roadmap for Positive Change’. Informed by the Taskforce’s findings, this report outlines commitments from NatWest Group designed to make meaningful, positive change for our Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority colleagues, customers and communities.
We’ve also introduced a new target to have 3% Black colleagues in senior UK roles by 2025. We’ve introduced this target because we have a higher under-representation of Black colleagues in senior roles than other Ethnic Minority groups, relative to the UK’s working population.
Getting to this point has been a joint effort. There have been many open and honest conversations taking place across all teams and levels of the organisation. Though these conversations have at times been difficult and uncomfortable, they have been absolutely vital in the Taskforce’s work. I’m extremely proud of my colleagues for the courage they have shown in speaking up, asking challenging questions, and sharing their views and different perspectives.
The commitments we’ve launched build on the progress we’ve made in the last five years to become a more inclusive and diverse organisation. Alongside targets to increase Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority representation across our workforce that have been in place since the beginning of 2018, our Executive team and senior leaders across the bank have taken part in a reciprocal mentoring programme with Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority colleagues. We’ve shared inclusion learning resources in our NatWest Group Academy and are making important progress with our early careers initiatives, such as our Social Mobility Apprenticeship programme – a first of its kind in banking.
However, we know that we still have a long way to go. The purpose of the Taskforce’s work was to intensify the focus and accelerate progress. The commitments we have launched will set a new standard for how NatWest Group engages and champions those from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.
And that includes businesses and entrepreneurs. We are committed to helping create an additional 50,000 new businesses across the UK by 2023, through inspiring and supporting over 500,000 people to consider enterprise as a career option. The focus will be on underrepresented populations, with women making up at least 60% of those we support and crucially more than 20% being Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic-led businesses.
We know that there are barriers within the communities we serve that we have to challenge too, and we take our responsibility to tackle them seriously.
We will therefore partner with the Sutton Trust, an educational charity in the UK which aims to improve social mobility and address educational disadvantage, and the Social Mobility Foundation, a charity which aims to improve social mobility for young people, to reach communities where we have the opportunity to make a positive impact for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic audiences. And we will further commit to researching the barriers holding back Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic entrepreneurship and acting on that research.
We have also launched a new partnering scheme to match ethnically diverse entrepreneurs with our experts for tailored 1-2-1 business sessions. Business owners will gain unique access to professional support and guidance on the topics that are important to them as well as talking through their challenges.
Given the role that banking plays in the lives of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic customers, it is time for us to invest more in improving our understanding of the biases in our service delivery to customers.
We have acknowledged that we must change our way of working in light of this and build on previous work. To help us we will partner with organisations like the Runnymede Trust 12 who have a history of listening to and working with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and releasing data on their experience. To have an impact, we must act on the understanding that we gain and be prepared to innovate and change to serve Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities more fairly and effectively.
I am fully committed to building a culture at our bank that will embrace inclusivity to allow everyone to thrive. At our best, we are an open, inclusive, progressive organisation, but until that is everyone’s experience – every time – we have more to do. And that is what we will strive to achieve each day.