Thursday, 25 November 2010

Australia lead 1-0 and it's not in the Ashes (yet!)

When Robert Peston of the BBC said that the appointment of Ana Botin as the CEO of Santander in the UK was a 'cultural' revolution, It's a Financial World pointed out that he was wrong (see the posting on  November 3rd 'Women in Banking').

Across the world Australia appears to be leading the UK, once again,  in ensuring that women have a place at the table in banking. Gail Kelly has been running Westpac, one of the 'four pillars' since 2008, having previously run St George's Bank, one of the challenger banks until it was acquired by Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). Now each of the Australian banks has come out with a target for the percentage of women who should be in senior management positions. CBA has targeted increase the number of women in senior management positions to 35 percent by 2013, while Westpac Banking Corporation is targeting 40 percent by 2014, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group aims to have 40 percent of women in management by the end of next year, while NAB says 28 percent of its management positions are currently filled by women.

In the UK we saw last week the launch of the 30% Club who's aim to see women having 30% of the seats at board tables.

The fact is that there is clear evidence that increasingly women are in senior positions within banks across the globe. However this is not really the point. What is most important is that there is a diversity of views on the senior management teams and that those views can be expressed freely and openly. There is little doubt that if a number of the banks had had  a more open, less alpha-male culture on their executive committees and boards that many of the mistakes that brought about the global financial crisis could have been avoided.

So whilst the aspiration of the Australian banks by setting targets is to be praised, these targets should be broadened beyond simply women and to ensuring that a broader set of perspectives, whether it be based on race, experience or gender are actively brought onto the senior management teams and boards of banks across the globe and that discussion and disagreement is actively encouraged rather than shut down by a culture of fear. By doing this a repeat of the global banking crisis will be far more effectively avoided than by simply relying on draconian regulation.

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