Diversity in the Global Banking Sector:

How the World’s Leading Banks are Shifting Diversity Reporting up the Agenda 

White Papers | February, 2016

Promoting diversity has long been a key component of both modern HR policy and good corporate governance- in banking as elsewhere. Businesses around the world increasingly recognise the importance of a workforce and board which encompasses a wide range of talents and perspectives from a broader spectrum of backgrounds. But how central are banks’ efforts in this field to their overall strategy? And how well is this strategy communicated to shareholders and key stakeholders who are increasingly using diversity as a measure to assess how well an organisation is structured and managed? 

To gain an insight into how seriously diversity is being taken amongst the world’s leading banks, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the latest Annual Reports published by the Top 20 Global Banks by size of balance sheet. Our aim was to determine whether – and how much – diversity information is featured in these reports - the flagship document through which banks communicate information to stakeholders.

Our findings reveal an industry committed to driving this critical issue up the agenda, with the vast majority actively managing and reporting on staff and board diversity. Yet there are notable gaps between the best performers and the weaker performers and the overall level of disclosure to shareholders. There are differences between European banks and their American counterparts, as well as discrepancies between investment banks and retail and commercial banks.

From our research it is becomingly increasingly apparent that banks across the market are now taking very active steps to improve diversity across all of their senior executive levels. But since diversity is increasingly seen as a core HR issue by shareholders, policymakers, and the media as well as employees and customers, banks may need to be more voluble about the steps they are taking to improve diversity.

Executive Summary

  • Two-thirds (65%) of the top banks now include metrics/measures on the diversity of their workforces in their latest Annual Reports.
  • One-fifth (20%) of the Annual Reports of the Top 20 Global Banks do not mention diversity at all.
  • Just over half report on the proportion of women at senior level - suggesting there is still more work to be done on diversity mapping.
  • One-thrid (35%) compare women in top posts to previous years’ levels, allowing shareholders to monitor progress in this area– an encouraging sign.
  • European banks are far more likely to refer to diversity or report on it than their North American peers.
  • Retail and commercial banks outperform investment banks in terms of diversity reporting.


We found that the majority – two-thirds - of the banks we studied are now measuring how diverse their workforces are and reporting this data in their Annual Reports, showing a keenness to demonstrate that this is a priority issue and one which they take seriously.

Thirty percent included specific information about their targets for diversity- demonstrating a high degree of commitment given that they are effectively holding up their success in this area for scrutiny.

However, 20% of the Annual Reports we analysed did not mention diversity at all. This doesn’t necessarily mean that diversity is not an issue to them. More likely it’s a communications issue as banks try to keep ever-lengthening Annual Reports under control given the extent of the financial and regulatory information that they are required to cover.

Nevertheless, failure to cover diversity in Annual Reports could be misinterpreted as either that it’s not seen as important, or that the numbers don’t reflect well. Reporting can help to demonstrate they are taking a lead in this area. Even if there is room for improvement, showing that this is being recognised and focused on is essential.

This is not about buzz-words and box-ticking – stakeholders expect to see diversity improved, as a means of improving recruitment and retention, minimizing the risk of reputational damage and ultimately boosting corporate performance. Our research flagged up several interesting examples of best practices – shown in the chart.

Percentage of Top 20 Global Banks Reporting on Diversity in Annual Reports


Delivering Diversity at the Top

While reporting on overall organisational diversity is important, communicating how diverse banks are at the top should also be a key priority. Highlighting how balanced the workforce is may be all well and good, but the benefits could be undermined if this is not reflected at senior management or leadership level. Shareholders are well aware that being able to map the internal make-up of an organisation is key to understanding whether decision making has the potential to be hampered by a lack of fresh perspectives.

This is an area where our research suggests that although progress is good, there is still some way to go. Our analysis reveals that more than half (55%) of the banks studied measured the number or proportion of women occupying senior positions (director level and upwards) in their Annual Reports, with over a third (35%) comparing it to previous years’ levels. Although two-thirds of retail and commercial banks (63%) report on this, just half of investment banks do.

Many banks may have come a long way in boosting female representation at board level, particularly in Europe, where several countries such as Norway, France and Italy have mandatory quotas for female board representation. Others countries, such as the UK, have increasingly ambitious voluntary targets. Those banks that do not report on this area could benefit from doing more to celebrate their achievements, and also to show that this goes far deeper into their organisations.

European Banks Leading the Way in Diversity Reporting

Interestingly, our research found that European banks are typically far more likely to refer to and report on diversity than American and Canadian banks. All the European banks in our study made at least some reference to diversity in their Annual Reports, but just slightly over half (55%) of American and Canadian banks did so.

However, the difference between those who actually reported on their own diversity was even greater. Ninety-one percent of European banks measured diversity in their Annual Reports compared to 33% of their North American peers. While almost two-thirds (64%) of European banks reported their diversity targets, none of their US or Canadian counterparts have yet included this within these documents.

Diversity in Annual Reports: European vs US/Canadian Banks


With intense political pressure a powerful driving force behind the corporate boardroom diversity agenda in Europe, as noted above, it is perhaps not surprising that the overall depth of information provided tends to be greater there.

It is also worth noting that UK banks tend to provide more information than their continental European neighbours on metrics and targets.  All UK-based banks measured diversity in their Annual Reports (compared to 83% of European banks), and all measured the number of senior women this year (for European banks this fell to two-thirds). Four out of five UK banks compared this to last year and the same proportion included their diversity targets, compared to just one-third and one half respectively on the continent. 

Drilling Down: Diversity Reporting Now the Norm at UK Banks


Percentage of Women on Boards: UK Banks Ahead by a Nose


Also leading Europe in diversity reporting, and in some cases outperforming the UK, are German banks. DHR International studied all German Banks with assets over €200bn and while all European Banks reference diversity in their annual reports, German Banks (100%) outperform European rivals (83%) in terms of measuring diversity.

Alike the UK, all German Banks measure the proportion of women at Director levels in their annual reports, compared to just 67% of European Banks. In terms of reporting the proportion of female Directors in previous years, German Banks (83%) outperformed both UK (80%) and European rivals (33%).

On the other hand, 67% of German Banks provided a future internal target of diversity in their annual reports, placing them ahead of the European average (50%) but just behind UK banks (80%).

Our research also showed that the Board of Directors of the German Banks in our study included one female Director.

German Banks in Comparison to their UK and North American Rivals


Global Top 20 Banks Best Practice Spotlight: The North American Bank
The Royal Bank of Canada takes a highly pro-active approach, even producing its own standalone Diversity and Inclusion Report. It has a Diversity Leadership Council and produces a Diversity Blueprint which sets out priorities and measures progress. It also has a wide range of “employee resource groups” designed to help employees drive diversity and inclusion within the organisation by providing support, coaching, mentoring and networking to share interests and best practice as well as raise awareness.

Global Top 20 Banks Best Practice Spotlight: The European Bank
In the UK, Lloyds Banking Group includes targets and performance measures for different kinds of diversity as part of a traffic light system for key metrics. In its Annual Report, these are ranked alongside other business-specific measures such as mortgage provision to first-time buyers and SME lending, highlighting their importance.

In Germany, Commerzbank AG initiated the “Women in management positions” project in 2010. Specific measures were developed with the aim of increasing the proportion of women in management positions such as holding workshops to raise awareness of the issue and to challenge managers to increase the proportion of women when hiring new talent. An Internal Mentoring scheme has also been launched, where at least half of those mentored must be women. Six-hundred women have taken part in the scheme since its launch and so far the project has boosted the proportion of women in senior management positions to over 28%.

Commerzbank has also launched the “Keep In Touch” programme to help employees stay in contact during parental leave and the “Comeback plus” programme to help parents return to work, in order to help staff combine family life with a career.

Investment Banks Lag Behind Retail and Commercial Counterparts

Global Top 20 Banks Diversity in Annual Reports: Retail and Commercial vs Investment


Our research found that retail and commercial banks are generally more open than investment banks when it comes to addressing diversity in their Annual Reports.

Whereas all the retail and commercial banks in the Global Top 20 made at least some reference to diversity in their Annual Reports, this fell to three-quarters for investment banks.

Half of investment banks measured diversity in their Annual Reports, compared to 88% of retail and commercial banks. 25% of investment banks’ Annual Reports contained a diversity target - half the proportion of retail and commercial banks that reported their targets.

Percentage of women on boards: Retail and commercial banks versus investment banks


Global Top 20 Banks Best Practice Spotlight: The Investment Bank

Deutsche Bank holds an annual Global Diversity Week in which 20,000 staff took part last year. It has also committed to a voluntary undertaking to increase the number of female senior Director and Officer titles to 25% and 35% respectively by 2018 and is actively increasing its recruitment of women at top level. 

Global Top 20 Banks Best Practice Spotlight: The Retail and Commercial Bank

Standard Chartered runs specific “Women In Leadership” and “Women’s Development” programmes with more than 500 participants as well as other diversity-focussed initiatives such as “Project Employability” for those with disabilities.


Our findings reveal that at the world’s biggest banks, diversity reporting is not only noticeably moving up the agenda - it is rapidly becoming the norm and setting a standard for others to follow.

There is increasing recognition that measuring diversity within Annual Reports is no longer optional: shareholders and other stakeholders are increasingly expecting to see information on diversity included, since these are the flagship communications documents through which banks convey key information to them.

Given its value as a means of improving recruitment and retention through inclusivity, creating a more representative and well-balanced workforce, fostering greater innovation and ultimately boosting performance, diversity is now seen as a key indicator of corporate health. Failing to demonstrate effectively how this is monitored and measured risks raising questions about internal organisational composition and structure.

Furthermore, those that go the extra mile and include specific information on how they actively promote and foster diversity present themselves as forward-thinking and pro-active.

Key to turning the desire for greater diversity into reality is often the openness of an institution’s approach. By measuring progress and communicating plans for continuous improvement in their Annual Reports, banks can show themselves as leaders, attracting talent from a broader pool of candidates, and creating a virtuous circle as a result.


DHR International reviewed the Annual Reports of the following banks for this research:

  • Banco Santander
  • Bank of America
  • Barclays PLC
  • Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB)
  • BNP Paribas
  • Citigroup Inc
  • Commerzbank AG
  • Credit Agricole Group
  • Credit Suisse Group
  • Deutsche Bank
  • DZ Bank Group
  • Goldman Sachs Group 
  • HSBC Holdings
  • JP Morgan Chase & Co
  • KfW Group
  • Landensbank Baden -Wurttemberg
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Societe Generale
  • Standard Chartered Plc
  • Toronto- Dominion Bank
  • UBS Group AG
  • Wells Fargo