Q. Why is doing business responsibly important to Lloyds Banking Group?
Trust in the Banking sector was hit hard through the financial crisis. As a leading UK Retail and Commercial Bank, we were affected. Now we are committed to strengthening our reputation as a simple, reliable, customer-focused business and, consequently, regaining the trust of our customers and other stakeholders, including colleagues, shareholders, regulators and politicians.
Doing business responsibly is core to our strategy. We are committed to putting customers at the heart of everything we do by building a culture in which colleagues instinctively put the customer first. In 2015 we marked the 250th anniversary of Lloyds Bank, which has served customers diligently since 1765 and will continue to do so in future.
Q. How does the Group manage responsible business activities?
In effect, every colleague in the Group is personally responsible for doing business responsibly in their everyday activities. In terms of our management structure, the Responsible Business Committee (RBC) now acts on behalf of the Board, overseeing our strategy and enhancing our corporate reputation.
During 2015, we have defined the role of the RBC more clearly, reassigning responsibility for delivering responsible business actions to a new executive level body, the Group Customer First Committee (GCFC). As a result, the RBC is now able to play a vital monitoring, challenging and assurance role – assessing the executive’s decision-making and effectiveness in embedding responsible business across all our activities. The GCFC and RBC provide two distinct points of view, enhancing our understanding of what responsible business entails.
Q. What do you see as the responsible business highlights of 2015?
The change I’ve just explained is a significant one. In terms of delivery, there have been other important steps forward. One is the incremental improvement in the percentage of women in our senior roles, which has increased from 29% to 31% this year, as we work towards our 40% by 2020 target. This may seem a small change, but I believe that trust is ultimately rebuilt on the basis of many small positive actions delivered consistently over a long period.
I am also very encouraged by colleagues’ support for our Charity of the Year, BBC Children in Need. Raising more than £5 million to transform the lives of vulnerable children in just twelve months is an amazing achievement; and I am humbled by the efforts of colleagues and the backing we have received from our customers for our fundraising efforts.
Q. In what ways does the Group need to do better?
Our desire is to make the Helping Britain Prosper Plan more outcome-focused and to accurately measure the impact of our actions on people, businesses and communities through the Plan. This is by no means easy, so we have done, and are still doing a lot of work, on what is effectively a traceability issue. For example, we are working even more closely with our Foundations, to find out more about the charities they support, the people these charities help, and the opportunities to involve colleagues in their activities, through skills-based volunteering.
Colleagues already make a huge contribution to local charities and community groups by volunteering their time and expertise. They help young people become more employable through their roles as school governors; we have the second largest number of governors in the UK and we are looking at how we can do more in this area.
I hardly need to say that colleagues’ involvement in fundraising and volunteering sends out an incredible clear and direct message that banks are run by people who want to make a positive difference.
Q. Are the responsible business risks the Group faces changing as Britain changes?
The simple answer is yes. And one example of this is the shift towards digital banking. We are committed to retaining a leading presence on Britain’s high streets through our branch network, but at the same time, we anticipate that around 90% of our customers’ more simple transactions will be completed digitally by 2017.
This shift gives us many opportunities to get closer to our customers and give them tools to enable them to manage their money better. Reaching customers via their laptops, tablets and mobile phones enables us to offer them real time services and advice. At the same time, we must not exclude customers who for whatever reason are not currently shifting to digital.
We are also increasingly focused on the needs of vulnerable customers. We have a Financial Inclusion Steering Group that looks at this issue and this year the RBC has discussed ways in which we can address the needs of vulnerable customers.
Q. Has the Helping Britain Prosper Plan lived up to expectations?
The Plan has been operating for two full years now. In that time, we’ve made progress and met many of our core commitments, for example in maintaining and strengthening support for first time home buyers and for smaller businesses which need finance to grow. We've also raised millions of pounds for charities that support those in need, given £17m to our Foundations who support charities working to help individuals overcome disadvantage, and supported one in four customers in the UK who have a social banking account.
The Plan is embedded in our business. We measure its performance and report on it publicly in a transparent and very visible way, so others can judge its effectiveness. But Britain doesn’t stand still and the Plan needs to evolve to stay relevant. Consequently, we are refocusing our goals, targeting where we can make the biggest positive difference and setting even more stretching and measurable targets to achieve more for people, businesses and communities.
So, for example we remain committed to lending to SME and mid-market businesses, helping start-ups, and supporting social entrepreneurs. We are creating opportunities for young people from less advantaged backgrounds through our Lloyds Scholars and apprenticeship commitments. And through our donations to our four charitable Foundations we aim to support 2,500 charities in 2016, who will reach thousands of people facing disadvantage.
Q. Is the Plan easier to communicate to stakeholders than in previous years?
My sense is that investors understand the thinking behind the Plan, and the development of our Environmental, Social and Governance Bonds has been very positively received. In some respects, as the Group has become more stable, so investors’ interest in its future has made the Plan more relevant. It helps us to show them that we are building a simpler, responsible, reliable, low risk business.
As far as landing the Plan with customers is concerned, our view is that we start to talk about it more vocally when it really starts to make a difference for Britain. Our more immediate priority, for 2016, is to engage more colleagues with the Plan, to communicate it in ways that are simple and easy to understand. We are in no doubt that our 75,000 colleagues are ultimately the best advocates for the Helping Britain Prosper Plan.
Q. How would you sum up 2015?
It has been a positive, effective twelve months. We have continued to put the business right from the ground up and responsible business is now embedded in all parts of the Group. The improvements in our Net Promoter Scores suggest that this rebuilding process is making a positive difference for customers. As I have said many times before, we are on a long journey, but we are getting there.