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How NatWest bank is developing female talent

ADVOCATE: Heather Melville

I’VE BEEN at the bank for 14 years, and through that time I’ve seen the best and worst that the banking sector can offer – from working for the biggest bank in the world through to the 2008 financial crisis.

It’s not been an easy journey but I’m pleased to say that the industry I work in now couldn’t be more different. At NatWest and RBS our priorities reflect our customers’ needs, and our actions are based on earning back their trust, trust that we lost so badly in the lead-up to the financial crisis.

But that isn’t the only significant development I’ve seen throughout my 30 year career in banking. The way BAME women are supported and the opportunities available to them has also transformed.

I can say that with real confidence, and real experience.

I’ve been a passionate and long-time advocate and campaigner for this often under-represented part of society, and I can see the advances we’ve made, both as a bank and a sector. One area we’ve made great progress in is our support for the BAME business community where we’ve introduced facilitated personal development workshops, peer to peer networking and connecting mentees to mentors. These advances, championed by NatWest, have helped women across the BAME business community, from those in corporate offices, to single-handed entrepreneurs and heads of small businesses.

We know that supporting these women isn’t just morally the right thing to do. It makes sense economically too; helping to develop careers, in turn, supports the growth of the overall UK economy.

And that’s incredibly important.

You might not know this but NatWest supports more British businesses than any other bank in the UK and that includes BAME led businesses. It’s estimated that there are in excess of 300,000 BAME businesses in the UK, and together they contribute more than £30billion to the economy, while the 1.1 million female led businesses increase this by another £75 billion.

And that’s why supporting these women, whether we work with them as colleagues, or for them as customers, is so important.

Part of my role means I meet with many of these clients and customers, from those who have the beginnings of a great business idea, to those looking to expand, and others who already head up fully-fledged businesses. I’m always interested to know how they started, and it constantly amazes me that so many BAME women channel their energy into creating successful businesses, often after feeling frustrated with the lack of opportunity to develop their own career elsewhere.


Getting the opportunities to advance and develop shouldn’t be exclusive to those who can brave it alone. During my time at NatWest, I’ve experienced first-hand the incredible power that good mentors and sponsors can have. Some of the most fantastic opportunities I’ve had have been as a direct result of their and the bank’s focus on my development.

At NatWest we’ve made a public commitment to grow our own female talent right across the organisation; this is a key part of our overall business strategy. Quite simply, we need the best, diverse, and most talented individuals to achieve our goal to be the UK’s number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy.

Being specialists in business banking there’s a wealth of support we can offer customers looking to start their own business. In fact we’ve just opened even more of our enterprise hubs in partnership with entrepreneurial spark. These are specifically designed to support entrepreneurs and start-ups. Last year we supported over 660, helping to raise £45million in investment, and create almost 2,000 new jobs.

The point I’m really trying to make is, we help women advance in business matters. Whether it’s working within a huge organisation like a bank, or running a business, we want to support them.

Over the next couple of months, we are going showcase a whole range of BAME women doing extraordinary things; some from inside the bank here at NatWest, and others from the wider business world. Each will share their experiences, advice, and personal stories from those leading technology, to the most innovative entrepreneurs, and those right at the top of their careers.

We want to showcase the many BAME women who really do encapsulate the best in our sector.

Heather Melville has won a number of leading industry awards, recognising her commitment for supporting Women in Business. She is a Non-Executive Director for a Government Enterprise Agency , focused on supporting the growth of small businesses, and also serves on the corporate Advisory Board for Everywoman. She is a judge for the National Diversity Awards, We Are the City Rising Stars awards and the UK Fashion & Textile Awards.

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