Jessica Chu

Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Santander UK
Creating workplace harmony
Measuring is key – you won’t know when you’ve been successful if you don’t have a picture of what you are trying to build.
Jessica Chu

Jessica joined Santander at the start of 2016 and is the first senior person to solely focus on diversity and inclusion for the bank. Santander’s D&I strategy focuses on four main pillars to drive activity.

Accountability and commitment. Engaging with the executives to ensure they are accountable and committed to the D&I programme.

Awareness, education and training. Assessing how training is delivered to ensure robust development and embedding for future success.

Talent alignment. Aligning the talent programme to the diversity agenda in order to recognise talented employees, which in turn helps retain and progress career paths. Also, it enables utilisation of these talented employees to help drive the D&I agenda at Santander.

Reputation enhancement. Assessing the results of the D&I programme both internally and externally to deliver competitive advantage. The bank has also signed up to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, which seeks to improve gender diversity in financial services.

Tone at the top is critical. CEO Nathan Bostock is wholly committed to the initiative. In addition, gender, LGBT, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and disability each have an executive committee member directly responsible for them. There is also a D&I forum, which convenes every two months to assess progress and direction.

The team recognises the need for detailed diversity information which is key to building the foundation of the D&I programme, so over the next three months, it will be a priority to ask employees to selfdisclose their diversity data so that the team will have a much clearer idea of the bank’s composition.

Once they have the information, they will be able to chart the bank's diversity journey as the culture continues to evolve.

In order to support Santander UK’s gender balance ambitions, 'Accelerating You' is a six-month programme for women in the organisation focusing on confidence, brand, networking, honing the elevator pitch and identifying their competitive advantage.

Created by the talent team, it is now run in conjunction with the business which ensures buy-in by the line manager and helps track progression of females post graduation of the programme.

Better-gender-balanced shortlists are another focus. The Resourcing team now asks for 50/50 shortlists, rather than one in three female and male candidates. It is acknowledged this is sometimes difficult to achieve given the supply of senior women in the current market, and providers are asked to provide rationale if they are unable to deliver a balanced shortlist.

Although it is early days, Jessica firmly believes this will help deliver sustainable change and progress over time.

Reverse mentoring has also been very successful.

Junior colleagues from a diverse range of backgrounds have been mentoring an executive committee member. This has been enlightening, a real eye opener, giving the executive committee unique insight into the reality of working in the bank. These insights will be included in the ongoing strategy and embedded into the organisation.

Over the next 12 months, the team will be developing a returners programme, aimed at the huge pool of talent standing at the school gate. This will be a modular programme covering confidence building, networking and the skills each individual will need to get back up to speed.

This multi-pronged strategy will help deliver sustainable cultural change and an inclusive working environment.

Jessica’s advice

  • Have a clearly defined strategy – what are you trying to achieve, what is it going to look like and what impact will it have?
  • Determine who is going to own it – unless the CEO and executive team are bought in, it makes it a very difficult path to tread
  • Review the outputs – what planning is needed, assess the operational delivery needed to facilitate change

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