Barclays makes a good start with its report in trying to earn back the trust of stakeholders
How much do you trust Barclays? Not very much, as the UK-based retail and investment bank admits in its Citizenship Report. It’s a conventional report published online alongside the annual report. It’s also available as a PDF and iPad app.
The report opens with the sombre faces of “real customers” and the slogan “tough questions, honest answers”. The same unnamed “customers” and their mugshots appear throughout the suite of corporate reports, asking different questions.
There is a strong whiff of a PR tactician at play here, which is a pity because the no-nonsense attitude is welcome. But why not be honest and name the customers?
Questions cover critical areas identified in Barclays’ materiality assessment: the London interbank offered rate (Libor – a benchmark interest rate used to reference a range of financial transactions, which Barclays was fined for fixing), taxes, remuneration, customer complaints and mis-selling, the financial crisis, lending, and regulation.
The answers provide some insight into what Barclays is doing to respond. A Q&A format makes the most relevant material directly accessible to customers in a way that many reports fail to do.
One “customer” asks: “Bankers are overpaid and don’t have society’s interests at heart. It’s that simple, isn’t it?” Barclays explains the issue, clearly and transparently, accepting that it has been “justifiably criticised” and is taking action.
The new remuneration policy is aligned to the “purpose and values” set out in the strategy, and it is reducing remuneration in the investment bank and bonuses across Barclays. This answer links the reader to relevant places to find out more.
As these questions highlight, customers are looking to Barclays to take responsibility for its failings, and to change the way it does business. The report acknowledges this, reporting good and bad news, and looks to the future. It’s a positive outlook.
The bank’s 2015 citizenship plan sets out strong commitments, with a solid purpose and values to back it up. The strategy focuses on three areas – “the way we do business”, “contributing to growth”, and “supporting our communities”. Each of these has defined commitments with measurable targets.
Barclays is changing the way it does business:
- It’s committed to implement a global code of conduct, setting clear and consistent expectations of behaviour for employees.
- The second pillar, “contributing to growth”, acknowledges the bank’s role in society, as part of which it has launched a social innovation facility to invest £25m in developing products and services for both commercial return and social benefit.
- The third pillar, “supporting our communities”, focuses on the bank’s philanthropic role in communities, separate from the core business activities. In 2012 it committed £250m in community programmes.
A listening bank?
Barclays claims to be “listening more than ever before, to our customers and clients, our employees and to all of the people our work impacts”, and this is reflected in the extensive stakeholder engagement section.
This is a useful way of pulling out the bank’s achievements in response to the concerns raised by each stakeholder group, but it’s a shame that this wasn’t used more to guide readers to the relevant sections of the report.
Despite this, the report makes great use of the web. Each section has a clear structure, opening with a summary of the key activity in that pillar of the strategy, and dividing subsections into approach, progress against commitments and a more detailed performance and commentary.
This makes it easy to navigate and understand how sections relate to each other, and their relevance to the business. In this tight structure, case studies and videos have been pushed into separate areas, linked to the text. This gives the reader control over the level of detail they read.
The report can only do so much to change perceptions of the bank and regain the trust of customers and other stakeholders. To achieve this trust, the corporate culture change and values referred to throughout must be effectively implemented at all levels.
And that includes naming the customers.
Follows GRI? Yes, self-declared GRI G3 level B.
Assured? Yes, by KPMG.
Materiality analysis? Yes, annual analysis.
Stakeholder input? Yes
Seeks feedback? Yes
Key strengths? Great use of web, with clear format.
Chief weakness? Unnamed customer photos undermine no-nonsense approach.
Pleasant surprise? Well-targeted at key stakeholders.Barclays CR Reporting sustainability reporting
May 2014, London, UK
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