Understanding the views, perspectives, concerns and ideas from in and outside of the bank is vital to ensure our products, services and operations meet the changing needs of customers, society and the environment. We aim to listen and adapt. Our stakeholders are wide-ranging from customers and advocacy groups to government, media and investors.
One of the key features of our external stakeholder engagement programme is holding regular roundtable meetings between our Sustainable Banking Committee and key external stakeholders from NGOs and civil society, academia, customers and business leaders. During 2016 we aimed to maintain the level of robust attention on our activities and strategy and ensure we kept abreast of new ideas, thinking and good sustainability practice.
To mark our progress and the importance of external stakeholders to our journey towards becoming a sustainable bank we held a reception for all participants from the past three years in December 2016, and gathered views on where we should direct our attention next.
During 2016 we held four stakeholder engagement sessions. The topics focused on some of our core priorities. These were:
Beyond the start-ups – what next after Entrepreneurial Spark? This session focused our attention on the need to support the scale up of businesses, and identified the needs of growth businesses. What we are doing to improve productivity and growth:
- Creating a network of local Business Growth Enablers to support SMEs
- Supporting ‘Growth Builder’, an in-depth programme for ambitious UK businesses
- Increasing the number of Women In Business Specialists
- Training our people through the Entrepreneurial Development Academy
- Partnership with ‘RocketSpace’ to support growing technology businesses
Future of sustainable banking – Recommendations from this session included looking at our societal value, being bold and rigorous and focusing on building a culture based on trust and relationships. The recommendations are:
- Helping us develop our future strategy to become a sustainable bank
- Informing our progress towards integrated reporting, highlighted in our Strategic Report 2016
Financial capability – This year the Sustainable Banking Committee held a stakeholder session in Dublin involving key Ulster Bank executives. During this roundtable alongside experts on developing good financial capacity sat a panel of young consumers, who outlined their perspectives about the financial needs of young people. This included providing simpler and clearer products and information and the use of new technology.
During 2016, our financial capability activities included:
- MoneySense, our flagship financial education programme reached over:
307,000 young people
- A new pledge to teach another 1 million young people about money by the end of 2018
- Piloting innovative technologies ‘Tokbox’ to make mortgages more accessible
- Supporting ‘Friends Against Scams’ to raise awareness of fraud
What does Sustainable Banking mean for our culture, our behaviour, our people and our customers? Trust, values, high levels of engagement with colleagues and a culture of care towards customers were considered vital ingredients to building a sustainable organisational culture. This session reinforced the need to have a clear purpose and to ensure colleagues are empowered to speak up, and to ensure leaders are held to account.
During 2017, we will:
- Work with the Banking Standards Board to assess our culture
- Focus on embedding and reinforcing Determined to lead (our core management programme) tools
- Connect our people to our purpose, context and customers
- Make sure we are open to feedback and challenge
Our assessment of the most important influences in our operating environment which have the potential to influence our ability to serve customers and create value for the long term.