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Fighting racism and protecting wellbeing are two sides of the same coin – NatWest video debate

by: Victoria Hartley
  • 04/08/2021
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Speaking in a Mortgage Solutions-hosted video debate, Harpreet Butoy, wellbeing and inclusion champion at NatWest said racism is so hardwired into the fabric of society that workplaces have an obligation to protect their workers.


“I believe it’s really interwoven into the fabric of society and it either affects you directly or indirectly, so workplaces have an obligation to acknowledge it exists and do something about it to protect their staff members,” said Butoy.

In the first part in a series of four videos in association with NatWest, entitled Making mental health and inclusivity working practices in the mortgage advice market’ Butoy said: “I do not believe that racism and wellbeing are cards.”

“Sometimes you hear the race card, the wellbeing card. The main thing I do is move away from that terminology because by calling it a race or a wellbeing card it equates with a debit card which means you pull it out when you’re going shopping or whenever you need it.”

People must be viewed as individuals and not just employees alongside the acknowledgement that racism can be destructive both from the perspective of microaggressions and career progression, he said.

Butoy added: “If I’d been having this conversation six years ago, I might have felt a bit isolated. People like me perhaps didn’t have a voice because that was the norm across the industry.

“Now, NatWest has done an amazing job of making every staff member feel valued as part of their vision, championing potential and by doing that, you actually bring your real self to work and have real conversations so you find real solutions to the actual problems that exist.”

Alan Ferguson, senior corporate account, manager at NatWest, said the bank has launched a variety of employee-led networks for a raft of minorities – disability, gender, rainbow, multicultural – because it recognises that for positive wellbeing, it’s important to feel included, not excluded.

Ferguson said: “What the volunteers do is become the voice for awareness raising, education and influencing the bank’s strategy.”

He added that 1900 people signed up to be ethnicity allies within the bank which involved training from third-party,, and re-delivering the learnings back to their colleagues across the business.


Enshrining a culture change


Group editor of Mortgage Solutions Victoria Hartley asked the panel how hard it was to push such a deep-rooted culture change when club members and independent firms are not on staff.

Martin Reynolds, chief executive of Simplybiz Mortgages, said being a service provider brings its own challenges as directly authorised (DA) firms can choose completely how they run their own firms.

“We’re there to provide support and guidance and frameworks for them – we’re getting a lot more information out and diversity and inclusion sessions have become a lot more regular at all our events, both online and offline.

“As a key support provider, it’s for us to put the information out there to offer a framework and ask what help do you need?” he said.

Michele Golunska, CEO at Sesame Bankhall Group, (SBG) said: “Outside of what’s set within regulation and law, we’ve adopted an approach of education, awareness and practical assistance, particularly with our network members and the broader advisory clients that we have.

“This mirrors the journey we’ve been on in SBG for the past year. We’ve benefited too from the knowledge and experience of others in the market,” said Golunska, adding that the firm was a great advocate of allyship and fairness for minority groups and sharing learnings directly with its business partners.”



This is the first in a series of four weekly video debates. Look out for the next chapter on 11 August.




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