IMPACT20: The National Conversation Report: An interview with António Horta-Osório

Antonio Horta-Osorio

The outgoing CEO of Lloyds Banking Group speaks out about his own mental health challenges and why Britain’s biggest high-street bank will be publishing its first ethnicity pay gap report this year.

On mental health

As the country’s largest retail and commercial bank, our purpose is to help Britain prosper – and mental health is a crucial component of that. Studies show that one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year – and unfortunately the huge social and economic uncertainty associated with COVID-19 has exacerbated feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression. This doesn’t just impact individuals and their families, it also affects the economy, with studies showing that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45bn each year. As we approach winter, I’m afraid we have even more challenging times ahead of us; it’s critical for business and political leaders to motivate and care for people over the months ahead. I’m really proud that we’ve raised more than £11m for Mental Health UK, and we’ve extended our charity partnership to the end of 2021, with the aim of raising an additional £4m to support young people’s mental health right across the UK.

On opportunities

There are bright spots in this new world of work. Out of the 65,000 employees at Lloyds Banking Group, 15,000 are working in their “normal” environment, be it a call centre or a bank branch, and 50,000 are working from home. In some cases, that has given people greater flexibility and a better work-life balance by cutting out commutes. I’ve noticed a more empathetic tone, deeper conversations, a more human touch.

On leadership

I’ve been very open about my own mental health challenges. I joined Lloyds in 2011, when it was in severe financial difficulty: I lost sleep due to stress, which became so bad that I suffered from serious exhaustion and had to take eight weeks off work to recover. As a business leader, I’ve tried to de-stigmatize mental health by talking about the issue publicly, showing that you can recover, and instilling a culture at Lloyds that allows for open and honest conversations. We don’t want employees to say “I’m fine” if they’re not. We want them to talk about how they feel and understand that it’s okay not to be okay. We’ve launched a programme of improvements to support our employees to manage their mental health, such as our senior leaders’ resilience programme and an online resilience portal that gives access to tools and articles on maintaining wellbeing.

On digital inclusion

The Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index uses the behavioural and transactional data of one million consumers to build a view of digital engagement in Britain. Our 2020 Index shows that a quarter of the population aged 15+ feel they lack the skills to bank online in their personal life, and around half lack the digital skills needed in the workplace. So while much of the nation has pivoted their work and lives online, for a large proportion of the UK, this is untenable. We must keep on focusing on digital inclusion, inspiring people with how the internet can be an enabler and making sure organisations are creating accessible services.

On inequality

The Black Lives Matter movement prompted us all to pause and reflect on what we can do to create a more inclusive society. At Lloyds, we held “listening sessions” with many of our black colleagues to help us understand their specific issues and challenges. Quite frankly, those conversations brought home that we have not made enough progress. As part of our new “Race Action” plan, we’re working in partnership with external experts to develop a race education programme; setting a target to increase black representation in senior roles to at least 3% by 2025; focussing on recruiting and developing black colleagues and publishing an Ethnicity Pay Gap report this year. And that’s just the beginning. We have to keep challenging ourselves to do better.

To create a more inclusive society, I would...

...make sure every single person has access to a great education. When you see someone who is hungry, you can give them a fish – but it’s far better to teach them how to fish.