The Latest Headlines From Across The Banking Sector – March

2021-04-08| Ben Dineen

Here in the UK, there is increasing cause for optimism as the second wave appears to be passing and early indications are that the vaccination programme is proving to be effective. With this in mind, two key themes we wanted to focus on this month are future ways of working and the continued focus on climate change, which has been a silver lining in the whole pandemic (if there ever can be a silver lining to a pandemic!).

Future ways of working

  • With the roadmap out of the pandemic revealed at the end of February (and on track for the next step on April 12th), we saw a lot of organisations communicating their return to work plans.
  • Nationwide and UK Finance became the latest organisations to announce their adoption of a flexible working approach.
  • By now most firms will have their plans for a return to work agreed; however, we recommend that firms think about their future ways of working which is related but distinct. This goes beyond office space and flexible working as is highlighted by the report that supported Nationwide’s decision.
  • These decisions will then have an impact on operations, as demonstrated by Natwest assessing the need for a disaster recovery office.
  • At PEN we have been helping many clients think through their future ways of working by looking at seven key themes. These include looking at the office (i.e. the need for collaborative spaces, the role of the office on culture), employees (i.e. work location, managing wellbeing) and infrastructure (i.e. technology, operational resilience).
  • If you would like to talk to us about this then do get in touch.

The increasing influence of ESG

  • The investment management industry has long had ESG as one of the primary trends in its industry. Increasingly, ESG is influencing decision-making in the banking sector too as the topic gathers momentum.
  • As with the investment management industry, this starts with stakeholders making their thoughts known, with shareholders raising concerns over Barclays role in financing fossil fuels, and HSBC announcing a phase-out of coal financing due to investor pressure.
  • Nationwide has taken the latest step in its ESG agenda by securing 3rd party help to assess its supply chain.
  • As ESG becomes a greater factor in industry thinking – which we are convinced it will – focusing internally on operations and mechanisms to manage and offset emissions is but one part of it. ESG requires a broader shift in mindset; to be a key driver of decision making in every aspect the organisation touches.
  • For more of our thoughts and insight on this take a look at our ESG Assessment Framework Report.

And in case you missed it…

  • March signalled 1 year since the first UK lockdown, and with that anniversary a lot of businesses feeling video call fatigue – something Citigroup are counteracting with Zoom free Fridays.
  • The FCA announced criminal proceedings against Natwest, the first enforcement of the UK Money Laundering Regulations on a City-based bank since they were introduced in 2007, and it could be the first of many this year.
  • The FCA has also finalised its rules and guidance on new requirements to strengthen operational resilience, which requires firms to have identified their critical business processes, set tolerances and tested them by 31 March 2022.
  • We’ll soon see shared branches opening up, an initiative to provide areas of the UK with access to branch facilities.

Each month we send out a regular email summary of the latest headlines from across the Banking sector that have caught our eye. If this sounds like something that interest you, please sign up to our monthly Banking Headlines here.