Standard Bank’s purpose is to drive Africa’s growth. But how would this altruistic goal benefit the continent’s largest bank by assets, and how does it plan to do it? Brett Wallington, Senior Manager in charge of sustainability reporting, has the answers.
According to Brett, who has a BSc in Industrial Psychology and an Honours degree in Ecology from Wits, for the bank to achieve its purpose, it must stay true to its vision: to be the leading financial services organisation in, for and across Africa, delivering exceptional experiences and superior value.
“We cannot drive growth if client experience is not the best, or we are not considered a leading financial services organisation – we will lose relevance and our legitimacy, which is, essentially, our licence to operate.”
Brett explains that delivering value comes in many forms; value to the client, value to societies in which the business operates, and value for the business itself. Integral to achieving this value is Standard Bank’s SEE Framework, the implementation of which Brett is leading.
The SEE Framework was created in 2016 when Standard Bank realised it needed a better approach to communicating its sustainable impact to staff and other stakeholders. It combines two other global frameworks that consider impact, the concept of shared value and the concept of true earnings.
Essentially, “shared value” looks at how Standard Bank can create value for society while creating value for itself using capital and expertise to solve social problems. The concept stresses that a business does not have to sacrifice financial returns to make a sustainable impact. The “true earnings” concept helps Standard Bank consider the social, economic and environmental returns or costs when financing a project.
First, SEE means that Standard Bank literally has to “see” or be conscious of the impacts the projects it finances or the transactions it makes have on society. This means asking new questions and effectively measuring these impacts on its value chain. Second, SEE is an acronym for society, economy and environment, making Standard Bank aware that what it finances or how it operates effects at least one of these elements. By embedding SEE into Standard Bank’s value driver, it will form part of its culture of “doing the right business the right way.”
“By moving Africa forward, we move ourselves forward,” Brett says. “This links back to shared value. We cannot grow our business if we don’t grow Africa. Business and economic development require banks to grow to provide specific services. For instance, providing new, inclusive digital platforms open up banking to people on the continent, which further enables economic prosperity, but also broadens our customer base and, hence, our bottom line.
By growing Africa, we grow ourselves. It’s a win-win.”