COMMONWEALTH Bank chief executive Ian Narev said he has been pursuing equality and diversity throughout all of his workplaces. He spoke to the Star Observer about what drove him.

For Narev, his personal story has had a significant impact on his views on equality, diversity and inclusion.

“My parents were survivors of the Holocaust and migrated to New Zealand after the Second World War,” he said.

“Three of my four grandparents were killed in the war because of their religion, and my parents were lucky to make it through alive. Growing up in a family which had come through that experience taught me that discrimination — in any form — is intolerable.”

The impact of his family’s history has done more than just affect him as an individual. It has also impacted his workplace — he’s the boss of one of the biggest banks in Australia — especially when it comes to LGBTI inclusiveness.

“In the financial services industry, like any industry, the key to success is getting the best people and making them as successful as they can be – statistically that means there will be many very talented people from within the LGBTI community,” Narev said.

“I want to encourage those people — like all other talented people — to come and work here and to feel inspired to give their best.”

But his aspirations have not been without pain. CBA’s head of retail banking Matt Comyn previously told the Star Observer about how the company nearly lost a fortune over an employee named Jay.

“Jay started his career with the bank in a small branch in a regional town. Starting as a teller, Jay worked hard and showed ability and skill with customers and the community,” he said.

“One day Jay was given some very poor career advice: getting ahead will be limited by the fact that he was clearly gay.

“Fortunately… Jay didn’t follow this advice. He applied for a transfer.”

Comyn had said it was an experience that helped shape the bank’s leadership around equality.

When Narev spoke about his moral responsibilities both as an employer and a member of the corporate community, he reflected that beyond the talent pool and commercial metrics, there was something far more important.

“People with good values, talent, and a good work ethic should never be limited by their gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, age or by any disability,” he said.

“Our job as leaders is to ensure inclusion and celebration of diversity is the standard practice of any workplace.”

To help CBA achieve some of their LGBTI supporting initiatives, they became a member of Pride in Diversity, an organisation that helps workplaces achieve true equality and with former High Court judge Michael Kirby as its patron. The LGBTI employees and allies network at the bank is called Unity.

“This has had widespread impact — from making sure our banking products don’t inadvertently discriminate, to educating our staff around how to engage with respect and understanding with LBGTI customers,” Narev said.

The CBA is the principal sponsor of the international gay rugby union tournament, the Bingham Cup, which Sydney will host in August. In light of this, ABC’s Fran Kelly asked Narev about his views on marriage equality in a recent interview.

“Commonwealth Bank is sponsoring the gay Rugby World Cup competition… More broadly are you, as Ian Narev, (who) happens to be CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, are you a supporter of marriage equality?” she asked.

Narev responsed: “Look, on the topic of marriage equality I speak for myself and not for the Commonwealth Bank. And I am unequivocally in favour of it. But that is my view as an individual and not as a chief executive.

“The sponsorship of the Bingham Cup is unrelated to my personal view, it’s related to the fact that we’re proud to be supporting a really important event and I want to create the environment for moral reasons where regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, people want to come and work here and feel empowered to give it their best.”

On the Bingham Cup, Narev joked with the Star Observer about his secret motivation for New Zealand to win it: “It’s also the only Rugby Trophy Australia has in the cabinet… but as a New Zealander and All Blacks supporter I really can’t comment any further on that point.”


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