A message from Ian Jameson
General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer and Chair of the EMEA Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee
SMBC Group is committed to diversity and inclusion (D&I). We recognise that diversity of our people, opinions and perspectives is vital for the sustainable growth of our organisation and benefits our customers and stakeholders. Our aim is to build an inclusive work environment where everyone feels able to be their authentic self.
As the chair of our EMEA diversity and inclusion steering committee, I am privileged to work with colleagues across the region on numerous D&I initiatives. I am proud of the progress we have made since the establishment of our steering committee in 2016.
Achievements include signing the Women in Finance Charter in 2017 and more recently becoming a signatory to the UK Race at Work Charter in 2021. We were selected for the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index in 2021, 2020 and 2019, and became a global signatory to the Valuable 500 initiative in 2020 to promote disability inclusion in business.
We launched a new phase of our D&I strategy in April 2021 with a four-year approach to evolve our culture and embed inclusion into our business strategy. Since then we have accelerated our progress on D&I by:
We work closely with our employee-led diversity networks which operate under the umbrella of DRIVE, which stands for diversity, respect, inclusion, value and equity. The networks provide a psychologically safe community for employees to share their experiences, provide support and raise awareness. This year we launched our fifth network, UNIQUE, to support SMBC Group in promoting a greater understanding of mental health, neurodiversity, and visible and invisible disability. Our four other networks each focus on a key aspect of diversity and inclusion, namely Balance (gender), Black Employees & Allies (race and ethnicity), Niji EMEA (LGBT+) and Collaborate (inclusion).
We also work with a select number of external partners who help us deliver on our D&I strategy and to ensure that SMBC Group continues to be an engaging and inclusive workplace for everyone.
We encourage our people to be their authentic selves at work every day
Our aim is to build an inclusive work environment where each employee feels able to be their authentic self. We have implemented a number of initiatives to support our diversity and inclusion strategy.
DRIVE is the SMBC Group umbrella for employee-led diversity networks. Its mission is to drive the sustainable growth of SMBC Group in the EMEA region by fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.
An acronym formed from diversity, respect, inclusion, value and equality, DRIVE was launched in 2016 to bring energy and focus to SMBC Group’s diversity agenda in order to foster an inclusive workplace. The initative aims to foster a corporate culture that respects diversity and makes it a key strength of the organisation.
Through its networks, DRIVE provides colleagues at all levels access to development and networking opportunities to leverage and build on the cumulative experience of individuals to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. It also advises senior management on practical measures to enhance the recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse workforce.
Diversity, respect, inclusion, value and equality
Balance is part of the employee-led DRIVE diversity network. It advocates and supports SMBC Group in achieving gender balance and a more inclusive and representative workplace to drive our continued success.
With an understanding that greater balance benefits everyone, our focus is on promoting this concept more broadly, helping staff gain the mindset to achieve a more sustainable balance in work and life.
Balance aims to empower all female and male employees at SMBC Group by providing opportunities to learn from leaders and network with colleagues from across SMBC Group, as well as a forum to share experiences and best practice with colleagues.
When we signed up to the Charter in March 2017, we had 22.7% senior female representation across EMEA. As of July 2023, we have achieved 30.3% female representation for Director level and above. While we are proud of our progress, there is no room for complacency and increasing senior female representation remains a key priority for SMBC.
In recognition of its importance, and in order to further accelerate our progress, we have now set a new target at the more senior level of Executive Director and above of 30% by 2027. To ensure our approach is sustainable, we are adjusting the population covered by our Women in Finance Charter target to focus more directly on building a strong pipeline for senor leadership roles in the future. Progress towards this target is linked to Executive performance and compensation.
In parallel, we will continue to focus on increasing female representation at the Director level, and in all parts of the bank where women are currently under represented, and remain committed to attracting, developing and progressing female talent at all levels in SMBC.
SMBC Group welcomes gender pay legislation and the increased transparency it brings. In the UK, all companies with 250 employees or more are required to publish their gender pay gap under legislation that came into force in 2017. In France, companies with 50 employees or more are required to publish their gender pay score under legislation that came into force in 2019.
We are proud to run Elevate, a leadership development programme specifically for females in senior roles to enhance diverse leadership across SMBC Group. The core focus of this programme is on understanding and exploring leadership identity, influence and networks, supplemented by a 12-month mentoring programme.
Niji is the Japanese word for rainbow and is our employee-led network for LGBT staff and their straight allies. Niji EMEA was launched in 2018 and is led by a diverse, collaborative and friendly committee comprising a cross-section of staff as part of the bank's DRIVE diversity network. They enable Niji to deliver its mission of creating an open and welcoming workplace for all employees – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – fostering an environment that allows everyone to reach their full potential.
Niji EMEA has hosted several events with engaging and authentic external speakers including an international sports professional and executives from large multinational corporations. Such events help to raise awareness, educate, increase visibility and help enable LGBT colleagues to be their authentic selves at work.
Work With Pride has awarded SMBC Group a gold award, its highest level in the LGBT index, for a fourth consecutive year. The Japanese organisation recognises that the source of SMBC Group's competitiveness is in its culture, where employees from diverse backgrounds can work together in an environment of mutual respect to realise professional fulfilment and growth. It noted SMBC Group's efforts to establish inclusive workplaces for LGBT individuals and where all employees can feel authentic and included.
The Black Employees & Allies Network promotes racial equality by advocating for better representation of Black employees and a more inclusive workplace. It is seeking a shift from an exclusive focus on the business case for diversity and inclusion, to a position that embraces the moral case.
The network hosts a number of events throughout the year to engage with colleagues across the EMEA region, raising awareness of the lived experience of Black people and the need for change. It is also focused on our impact in wider society and is developing a programme to engage with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Finally, the network seeks to promote the professional development of its members to ensure the bank benefits fully from its diverse talent base.
We are committed to attracting the best talent to SMBC Group and ensure all employees have the right workplace adjustments in place to ensure they can reach their full potential. We are currently working with a specialist organisation to build greater inclusion for current and future employees with a disability or health condition and build knowledge and awareness internally for colleagues and line managers.
SMBC Group understands the impact that mental wellbeing can have on an individual’s daily life. We have therefore taken steps so that we have the relevant resources to appropriately guide any employee who may be suffering with mental health to ensure that they receive the correct advice and guidance.
The recent introduction of trained mental health first aiders (MHFAs) is an important part of our wellbeing framework. These individuals have volunteered from across the business and have all successfully completed a two-day course accredited by Mental Health First Aid England. MHFAs are not trained to be therapists or psychiatrists but they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance.
A further vital tool offered to all employees is our employee assistance programme, which is a confidential helpline available 24/7 offering assistance, support and face-to-face counselling when required by our employees. In addition to this, regular stress awareness and mental wellbeing workshops are being rolled out to employees and line managers.
We operate across a number of countries and our wellbeing framework may vary across these locations depending on local requirements and partnerships.
We support mental wellbeing
SMBC Group is committed to supporting employees in different roles, environments and life stages. We realise that juggling the demands of work and family, changes in life can be difficult at times and will sometimes require extra support, particularly in an emergency.
We offer a number of inclusive core and flexible benefits to employees
In the UK, SMBC Group partners with My Family Care, a specialist provider of family friendly employee benefits, to provide employees with support and resources. We operate across a number of countries and our core and flexible benefits may vary across these locations depending on local requirements and partnerships.