Alan Hartley is commercial director at Bank of Ireland. He tells ThinkBusiness about the bank’s commitment to being a prominent advocate for greater gender balance, not just within the company but throughout the country.

Tell us a bit of background about yourself and your career?

I qualified as a chartered accountant but most of my initial career was as an interest rate trader in the dealing rooms of firstly KBC, and then Bank of Ireland. I hung up the trading boots after nearly 20 years and moved into group treasury and then investor relations, before moving again late last year into Bank of Ireland’s retail business to run its commercial office.

How did you come to be involved in inclusion and diversity in Bank of Ireland?

I have three young daughters and have a natural interest in ensuring they get the same opportunities to achieve their goals and ambitions as I did. Andrew Keating, the group CFO, and I were discussing the topic by chance a couple of years ago and he was looking for opportunities to bring inclusion and diversity (I&D), and gender balance in particular, higher up the agenda within his division and the wider bank. I asked to help and it’s taken off from there.

What does it mean for Bank of Ireland today?

Playing a prominent leadership role in promoting greater I&D within the bank and beyond is completely aligned with our strategic ambition to be Ireland’s national champion bank. In addition, it is also completely consistent with and supportive of the bank’s commercial objectives.  

“In Ireland, research suggests that household finances are increasingly being managed by women.”

Why do we need an I&D agenda and how successful is it as achieving its goals?

I think the moral and social imperative in today’s world is clear. What’s less focussed on are the commercial opportunities and challenges. In Ireland, research suggests that household finances are increasingly being managed by women, while in terms of diversity, the Irish workforce has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. To truly understand and to meet our customer expectations, we need to reflect that diversity across our businesses. To attract the best talent in a full employment economy, we need an inclusive supportive work environment.    

What have been the biggest challenges but also the biggest surprises in terms of your colleagues’ response and participation in I&D?

The biggest surprise in some ways has been the lack of challenge. The interest and enthusiasm has been inspiring for me, and we have clearly lit a fuse in the organisation. The challenge going forward is how to scale what works in a large office in Dublin across our network in Ireland and across our businesses in the UK.

“The interest and enthusiasm (in I&D) has been inspiring for me, and we have clearly lit a fuse in the organisation.”

Change is hard – especially for large organisations – how are you tackling this change and accelerating?

Bank of Ireland is in the midst of a significant change programme, transforming our technology, our business model and our culture. I&D is part of that cultural transformation and while we are still on the journey, great progress has already been made. What gives me great confidence is how colleagues across the bank have embraced these changes and are committed to collectively delivering on our change programme.

Bank of Ireland is celebrating women all week. What will colleagues and customers gain from International Women’s Day?

We are acknowledging our gratitude to our female colleagues, our female customers and women in all the communities we serve. But we are also highlighting our commitment to driving greater gender balance in the bank and our commitment to be a prominent advocate for greater gender balance in Ireland.

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