As lockdown is gradually eased, we are all having to adapt to significant changes to the way we live and work.

The banking industry has a responsibility to help. Banks in the UK must do better than we have in the past. We will rightly be judged against our actions through this crisis and beyond.

By working at pace with politicians, regulators and industry leaders, banks have already delivered extraordinary levels of support in response to unprecedented demand.

We won’t always get everything right. But by demonstrating that we can play a positive role in society, we have an opportunity to earn back some of the trust that has been eroded in recent times.

For our organisation, changing our name from RBS to NatWest Group is an important moment as we build a purposeful bank that champions the potential of our customers, colleagues and communities. In good times and in bad.

Despite the change in Group name, our customers will continue to be served by the brands they bank with today. But we will focus on deepening our relationships to better support them at every stage of their lives.

Through this crisis, we have made more than three hundred thousand phone calls to vulnerable customers, used our premises to support foodbanks and raised ten million pounds by matching customer donations to the National Emergencies Trust. These are every bit as important to me as the billions we have provided in financial support.

Issues around equality, mental health and wellbeing are also causing us to challenge our thinking about what sort of business we want to be.

We have recently built on the targets we set in 2018 to increase BAME representation at senior levels across the bank and continue to make progress against them. At our best, we are an open, inclusive and progressive organisation. But until that is everyone’s experience, every time, we will always have more to do.

There are challenging times ahead for our country. We do not know what shape our economic recovery will take, or how long it might take. For some, things will get worse before they get better.

But we also have a unique opportunity to rebuild better. By promoting financial confidence, removing barriers to enterprise and playing a leading role in tackling climate change, NatWest Group is determined to help.

That is why we are providing £3bn of new funding to support our social housing sector, helping to build around 20,000 houses over the next three years

It is also why much of our support for entrepreneurs goes to those who face the highest barriers to entry.  A person’s gender or race should not impact their ability to start a business. But all too often they do. If we ignore these issues now, we risk losing an entire generation of entrepreneurs. Through COVID-19, we have migrated our UK accelerator hubs so they could be delivered digitally, with more than a thousand new entrepreneurs joining virtual programmes in April.

In the face of this crisis, it would be all too easy to put climate change to one side. But, if anything, it has highlighted the climate emergency to an even greater degree. Today, we have appointed Lord Stern as an independent climate advisor to guide and support us as we seek to deliver our ambitious targets and drive positive change on this key issue.

Our purpose is more important now than ever before. By championing potential, we will help to create a greener, fairer and more inclusive economy and help the people, families and businesses we serve to recover, rebuild and, ultimately, to thrive.

Because while what we are called is important, it is how we do business that defines us.


This article first appeared in The Times on Tuesday 21 July 

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