While many UK banks and corporates are strong in this space with huge steps taken forward in recent years, the aim is to help encourage further positive engagement as a step change to improving accountability and leading to better outcomes.
The initiative stems from a consultation event held in September bringing together senior treasurers from several FTSE 20 companies and representatives from a cross section of banks. ACT corporate members attend hundreds of bank meetings every year and they observe a wide disconnect between the diversity aspirations of banks and the reality of the coverage teams that represent them.
Attendees were enthused by the open exchange of ideas, the desire to drive change and that by acting together, we can make a difference. As a first step, the ACT have set out below guiding principles for interactions between corporate treasury teams and coverage teams in banks. These principles articulate behaviours they encourage corporate members to adopt – and expectations they should have of their banks. They emphasise the importance of corporates and banks holding each other accountable for a continued focus on diversity.
Alongside this, the ACT will champion and support this work through a combination of events, awards, the exchange of best practice and clear commitments from our members.
A number of corporate treasurers from the UK’s largest companies have already committed to their banking partners that they will adhere to this approach. The ACT will be encouraging all their members, both corporates and banks, and the wider treasury and banking community to use these principles as a basis for open discussion, and to make similar commitments to one another.
Annette Spencer, Chief Executive, ACT, said: “The Association of Corporate Treasurers is committed to the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion across all participants in financial markets. This applies to our own teams, to the treasury teams of our corporate members, and to teams in the financial institutions they work with. We believe that, over time, increasingly diverse teams across the market will provide better advice. This leads to better outcomes for our members – and by extension the UK economy.”
The guiding principles are that members are encouraged to:
Make diversity a standing item on all interaction between corporates and their banking partners, encouraging open conversations to progress the diversity agenda across the market.
Conduct bank meetings in a way which supports inclusive participation. This includes encouraging, and being receptive to, attendance of junior team members from both sides at client meetings, recognising they may be more nervous, or less knowledgeable, than their colleagues. Their attendance can be to learn, observe, or participate.
Understand the institutional policies, aspirations and targets of their banks around diversity, and the timelines involved. Conversations around progress against these should be included in periodic review meetings.
Recognise that developing diverse teams also applies in the corporate setting and work towards developing and retaining diverse teams, whilst recognising the considerable challenges arising given the small scale of many treasury teams.
Where appropriate, provide challenge and constructive feedback to banks around diversity. When doing so, they should assume good intent – and should expect a constructive response.
Where members choose to include diversity as a metric in Request for Proposal or other documents, they should be clear with participating banks on their expectations.