When picking its role model for Women in Banking & Finance to celebrate, NatWest were quick to come back with the name and details of Nikki Wells – an individual who has lead the NatWest Gender Network for six years and been involved for over eight more. Find out more about the development of the 13,000+ strong network.
After six years leading the NatWest Gender Network (and 14 years as an active committee member), Nikki Wells took the decision to step down as its chair at the end of 2021. Her work for the network is seen as having had a profound impact on gender equality within the bank on the back of the large-scale restructure of the network, which brought together five disparate groups and create one large vehicle for change with over 13,000 members managed by just 100 volunteers.
The network identified a lack of development opportunities within the Bank for women looking to move into managerial roles – and created a programme to address it specifically. Open only to junior level women in the organisation, individuals are given eight weeks to work collectively on a project that solves a business issue. Participants receive coaching and mentoring from previous programme alumni, as well as benefitting from targeted support to help build the specific skills needed to get their first promotion. The skills training includes everything from public speaking sessions through to people leadership advice. The programme concludes with teams presenting their solutions to peers and senior leaders from across the bank.
The programme – now in its seventh year – has tackled weighty topics, such as encouraging male engagement with the gender agenda, and how best to help improve the returners’ process following maternity leave. Run globally across 13 regions. 80% of women who completed the project said they felt more confident. In the 2019-2020 cohort, 60% of participants went on to secure a promoted or expanded role within the following year.
Nikki has described how humbled she has felt for being put forward as NatWest’s role model after 14 years of involvement in the network – her entire tenure with the bank. She signed up because until joining the world of work, she hadn’t thought she would face any different challenges in the workplace due to her gender. But, when seeing the lack of senior women in roles, the network enabled her to meet other like-minded women who were trying to change the ‘face’ of the bank.
Her efforts to drive gender parity have helped her in her own career given Nikki manages a team of six client relationship managers within the NatWest Trustee & Depositary Business, which is responsible for circa £35 million of client revenue, delivering outstanding client service and the highest-quality customer outcomes.
And while Nikki has loved being part of the change for women, she stated: “I hope I have inspired others to encourage more change, because we are not seeing progress happen quickly enough. Whilst much has changed for the better, we still lack diversity across senior levels of the industry and will do until we reach parity. Childcare and caring responsibilities remain a huge barrier for women rising up the career ladder and better support and recognition of this is still required.”
David Lindberg, the CEO of Retail and the Executive Sponsor of NatWest Gender Network, was quick however, to cite the change Nikki has introduced: “Nikki is truly someone who champions the potential of others at every opportunity. Nikki’s passion and drive in her work sets her apart from her peers. She’s played a leading role in transforming the Gender Network into a real vehicle for change. Through her leadership the Network has pushed NatWest to become a truly inclusive employer and she has been responsible for several initiatives that will have a long lasting impact on gender equality here at NatWest.”