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Anna Lane

President’s Message – January 2024

news published date 5 January 2024
  • News
As we return back to work after the new year, Anna Lane reflects on the importance of DE&I policies and practices and why they are essential to the wellbeing on a business.

Welcome to rainy 2024!

Happy New Year to all our members and wider Women in Banking and Finance community.

As we usher in 2024 under grey skies, it feels timely to highlight the undeniable commercial benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the financial sector.

Let’s dive right in. There is a huge and ongoing  debate about the success of DEI, part of the broader ESG efforts. Critics have called 2023 the year when “woke corporatism” faltered, arguing against initiatives like DEI as mere virtue signalling. We at WIBF, however, stand firm in our conviction that genuine efforts in DEI are not just societal obligations but also key drivers of commercial success.

In December, I had the privilege of presenting at a conference where a profound quote was shared by David Stillwell, Professor of Computational Social Science, Cambridge University Judge Business School:


To my mind, this brilliantly captures the essence of what effective DEI should look like – it’s about action, metrics, and persistence.

Let’s face it, the narrative around DEI often gets muddled in superficial debates. However, I cannot think of a more brilliant example of DEI’s commercial advantage than Amanda Blanc, recently appointed Dame Commander. Her leadership at Aviva has been extraordinary, not just for her focus on gender equality and net zero, but crucially also for her significant contribution to shareholder value.

Under Amanda’s tenure, Aviva’s share price has risen by about 60%, generating returns of over £5 billion for shareholders. This recognition for enhancing shareholder value is a RARE accolade in honours citations and underscores the profound impact that effective leadership and DEI can have on a company’s financial health.

This focus on financial impact is also mirrored in the broader business world. McKinsey & Company’s research highlights that gender-diverse teams are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability, and this number jumps to 36% for ethnically diverse teams. These findings are consistent across various countries, including the UK and the US, and across different industries.

Yes, there’s much work to be done. We need to shift from viewing DEI as not simply a societal fairness issue to recognising it as a critical component of business sustainability, competitiveness, and innovation.

The financial sector, in particular, stands to benefit immensely from diverse perspectives. Just 19% of executive positions in banking, capital markets and payments are held by women; 89% of senior roles are held by people from higher socio-economic backgrounds; over 100 of the FTSE250 either have no ethnic minority representation on their boards, or are unable or unwilling to provide data. And we have the largest gender pay gap of any sector. I could go on…

As we continue to navigate 2024, let’s take inspiration from leaders like Amanda Blanc – embracing DEI is not just the right thing to do; it’s a strategic business decision that leads to tangible success.

Here’s to a year of impactful leadership and rewriting narratives, not just in words, but in measurable successes.

Anna Lane 

WIBF CEO & President