Barclays’ Shared Growth Ambition: Q&A with Diane Eshleman

Barclays’ Shared Growth Ambition: Q&A with Diane Eshleman

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 11:20am

CAMPAIGN: Access to financial and digital empowerment

CONTENT: Article

Diane Eshleman is Barclays’ Head of Citizenship and Reputation. She is responsible for citizenship, corporate social policies and related strategic initiatives that drive value for all of Barclays’ stakeholders. 

The questions I am asked most frequently are “What exactly is ‘Citizenship’ and why is it important to Barclays?”. First and foremost, Citizenship is not about philanthropy. And nor is it a moral quest. Quite simply, Citizenship is about establishing the right culture and leadership, considering the impact of our decisions on society, and driving commercial success while also delivering the best results for all of our stakeholders.

Healthy economies need strong banks to drive economic growth and social progress. And in this day and age, progressive market-leading companies are rightly expected to deploy their business activities in a way that delivers a net positive benefit to society, while also demonstrating how doing so is an integral part of their purpose and business model.

From the very beginning, Barclays has consistently played a role in driving economic growth and social progress. Our history can be traced back to two Quakers, John Freame and Thomas Gould, who established a business based on what many would consider to be the very concept of Citizenship. They relied on their own hard work and moral code to become trusted and respected figures within their communities – and they conducted their business always with the benefit of wider society front of mind.

Today, Citizenship is critical to the future success of our business. When embedded in the right way, with the right approach and partnerships, Citizenship can improve the lives of people in the communities in which we serve, while at the same time providing commercial benefit and competitive advantage. But it’s not good enough to think, wish and hope. You must have an ambitious plan, and then act with both integrity and consistency to deliver that plan. This is why we have just announced our Shared Growth Ambition.

What is Barclays’ Shared Growth Ambition?

Our Shared Growth Ambition is about doing business that provides our clients, customers, shareholders and the communities which we serve access to a prosperous future.

This is a very simple concept. When our customers and clients do well, so do we. When the communities where we live and work thrive, we do too. And when society prospers, we all do. To make this a success, each and every person at Barclays will contribute, working together with our network of clients, partners and other stakeholders to realise our ambition.

What does this mean for Barclays as a business?

It means that by using our skills, resources and commitment we will drive and deliver the best results for everyone; by seeking fair, ethical and open solutions to problems and by always striving to leave things better than we found them. Our ambition is to create and grow a collection of products, services and partnerships that address unmet societal needs, providing access to jobs, banking services and finance. At the same time we will deliver commercial benefits and competitive advantage, thus stimulating new innovation and growth.

Our ambition has three areas of focus: 

Access to employment

Access to financial and digital empowerment

Access to financing

How did Shared Growth evolve?

Shared Growth is based on the concept of Shared Value, created by Professor Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer from Harvard University Business School. It emphasises the connections between societal and economic progress, showing that they are mutually dependent, and when unleashed can stimulate substantial global growth. Companies can, and indeed should, develop deep links between their business strategies and CSR.

When considering how we approach Citizenship at Barclays, we realised that embedding this new way of thinking could help bring about profound results, not only for the communities in which we operate, but for us as a bank.  

What can Barclays learn from its heritage?

Citizenship has always been a part of our DNA, from our Quaker roots and efforts in supporting colleagues and communities throughout two World Wars, to our previous Citizenship programmes of work.

Our Citizenship plan

Throughout our history, we have backed pioneers and a number of ‘firsts’; including rolling out the first ATMs, appointing the first female board director in the UK and being the first financial services firm to have a website in the UK. Across the Atlantic, Lehman Brothers (acquired by Barclays in 2008) was engaged in the financing of a number of key railway projects during the late 19th century and early backers of the entertainment business and Hollywood, including Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox. 

What does the future look like?

The important thing about the past is to learn from it and use it to build a better future. For us, this means being the best bank we can be in every sense, achieving a commercial edge and driving long-term competitive advantage while facilitating inclusive, shared growth for all. Our plans will evolve and we won’t always get it right, but this is an exciting time for Barclays and I’m looking forward to reporting back on the progress we are making.

Read more about Citizenship at Barclays