CBA, Macquarie Bank, Mortgage Choice lead by example on DEI

Industry leaders discuss actions taken to reflect diverse customer bases

CBA, Macquarie Bank, Mortgage Choice lead by example on DEI

Senior mortgage and finance industry leaders, representing two of Australia’s largest banks and one of its leading broker networks, have explained the measures their organisations are taking to boost diversity, equity and inclusion.

CommBank general manager third party banking Razia Khan (pictured above left), Macquarie Bank head of broker sales Wendy Brown (pictured above right) and Mortgage Choice CEO Anthony Waldron (pictured above centre) took part in an industry panel at the inaugural MFAA’s 2024 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit, held in Sydney on May 7.

Hosted by journalist and author Mimi Kwa, close to 70 key industry figures attended the event.

The summit featured a broker perspectives panel, plus small group sessions and the findings of the MFA’s DEI survey.

Speaking to the audience before the panel discussion, Khan said it was great for the industry to be having a conversation about the important topic of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I think we can all agree that the mortgage industry does not discriminate,” said Khan. “We work with clients from all different walks of life – different cultures, different religions, single parents, working parents.

“It’s so important as an industry that we try and match the communities which we serve.”

Khan said she started her career at CommBank 16 years ago, being a woman of colour in a senior role representing diverse communities, including a diverse broker team.

“One of the things we’ve done at CommBank is really look at how do we foster talent that looked different to how talent might have looked like 20 years ago in a corporate setting,” she said.

Khan said she was proud of CBA’s sponsorship program that identified diverse talent.

“It could be gender, religion, race, … talent that looks different to what we usually identify as talent,” she said. “Senior leaders in the organisation then sponsor these talents to really give them a platform to showcase their voice.

“Often we expect talent to be quite extroverted – that they can get up and present in front of a group of people quite confidently but actually that’s not always the case. They  may be able to deliver a really technical piece of work that people don’t always get to see.”

Khan said the program was designed to nurture talented staff from early on in their careers so that “we can get to see different types of leaders in senior leadership roles over the next five to 10 years”.  

MFAA DEI Summit host Mimi Kwa said Macquarie Bank had some fantastic DEI initiatives and asked Brown to share some of them.

Diversity, equity, inclusion measures

Wendy Brown, Macquarie Bank

Brown said the bank looked at delivering diversity, equity and inclusion through two approaches – structural and inspirational.

“From a structural component, everything from recruitment to employee network groups is all defined to make sure we are inclusive,” said Brown. “Interviews, we must have set people on panel – this is now part of the structure we expect and appreciate.”

Brown said there was an assumption out there that diversity was just about gender.

“The people on our interview panels are diverse – it’s not just about having a woman on the panels for a process,” she said. “It’s actually looking at what does the job need, and what’s the diversity and making sure those people are on the panel.”

In terms of inspiring DEI, Brown said Macquarie Bank’s employee network groups had made the most impact. The groups included represented neurodiverse people, older people, gender equality, First Nations people and others.

“I’m on the family and carers [group] and I absolutely love being part of it,” she said.

Brown said the groups were designed to help people learn about diversity but also be involved in it and understand it.

In 2023, the theme for the carers network was “A Million Reasons to Care” and staff were encouraged to share their stories.

“I think we all think people’s lives are perfect and the truth is anything but,” she said.

Brown said she talked about her mother having Parkinson's and her daughter having dyslexia and then others came forward and shared their stories.

“One of our staff members talked about her 15-year-old daughter who was committed during COVID because of anxiety,” she said. “That’s unbelievably daunting and if we hadn’t shared that story, then people with that diversity aren’t going to share theirs.”

Razia Khan, CommBank

Khan agreed with Brown and said DEI was the “foundational way that we must do business.”

She said CommBank was recognised as one of the first organisations to be certified as a family-friendly workplace.

Khan said this meant offering workplace support for [those suffering] domestic and family violence, up to 18 weeks’ paid leave for primary carers, up to nine weeks’ paid leave for secondary carers, 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days for employees on unpaid parental leave, support and wellbeing guides for new and single parents and guides to assist those navigating miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss.

“While diversity is much more than just gender inclusion, we’ve made a statement that we aim to have 50% gender equality executive manager – that’s leaders leading leaders of leaders,” she said.

“We’re also targeting 3% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in our workforce.”

Anthony Waldron, Mortgage Choice

Waldron said, in 2020, Mortgage Choice started a program called Aspire, which focused on recruiting women brokers into the network, and now featured many functions and events.

“That’s where it started but we wanted to make it much more about what’s the action that comes off the back of it,” Waldron said. “We really wanted to focus on making our network representative of our community.

“Last year, about 42% of all recruits into the broking network were female, so that’s a start.”

Waldron said he when he started in his current role at REA Group (the parent company of Mortgage Choice) 80% of his leadership team were male.

“It’s the only leadership team in our organisation that was like that – our board is 50/50, our executive team is 50/50. My team is no longer 80% male, it’s now 50/50. What you can control and take action on is important,” he said.

Waldron said the breadth of diversity was also important – he is on the board of, a two-sided marketplace for people living with disabilities.

“Not everybody with a disability can actually work or wants to work but they should all have the right to work,” he said. “Every role we do is advertised on that site as well as our other sites, encouraging people with disabilities to apply for roles.”

Educating staff on DEI

Kwa asked Waldron how the DEI message was communicated within the organisation.

Waldron said REA Group was a very inclusive place to begin with but when the teams gathered for events diversity was put into practice. One example is the company’s twice-yearly hack days, with inclusion being one of the key topics.

“Inclusion is a core to the way the business operate, so that just becomes a way of doing things,” he said.

Khan said while it was CBA policy for staff to be in the office 50% of the time for those who needed to work from home, there were certain practices to make sure everyone felt included on Teams calls, such as raising your hand before speaking.

Brown said education at Macquarie Bank was staff-led. “Whether it’s a morning tea or a panel, it’s actually what the staff want to hear and want to buy in.”

The bank also ran reverse mentoring, where junior staff reverse mentor a senior executive.

Brown relayed an example of how much the industry had changed. One of Macquarie Bank’s Victorian state managers, a grandfather in his 60s had taken the day off to care for his sick granddaughter.

“Now I cannot imagine 10 years ago, a male 60-year-old state manager taking the day off to look after his grandchild, not only that – telling everyone,” she said. “That’s actually when you get change, when some of these people in senior positions of power role model it.”

Tackling DEI challenges

Asked by Kwa to talk about someone of a diverse background who had overcome challenges, Khan spoke about her mother who migrated to New Zealand and then Australia 40 year ago.

“To this day she still has an accent and often people  have looked at my mum and think that she lacks a level of intelligence because of her accent,” Khan said.

“She’s got a master's in mental health, she's incredibly intelligent and inspiring. She probably needs to work a little bit harder to prove to society, that she deserves her voice around the table.

“It’s one thing we should all be conscious about in the workplace,  because we've got multiple people of diverse backgrounds.”

Khan said, early in her career, CBA rolled out the Champions of Change program for men, designed to educate men on the role they can play to make women feel more confident and comfortable about speaking up and moving into different roles.

The bank has also introduced a program called Respect Lives Here highlighting “microagressions”, often occurring when conversations people have in jest.

Khan said each quarter CBA staff are given a series of DEI topics to have a conversation about.

Brokers engaging with diverse clients  

Asked about how Mortgage Choice reached out to its diverse customer base, Waldron spoke about Adelaide broker Smita Vira,  who can speak eight languages.

“Being able to speak eight different languages, and the way she can make customers feel comfortable and typically many of those customers their backgrounds mean they come in a little bit nervous,” Waldron said.

“It’s all about knowing within our network if I can’t help, who can? It’s about not being afraid to ask for help.”  

Practical tips

Brown said organisations should look at their leadership teams as a puzzle.

“If you have six of the exact same parts, you can never make a total picture,” she said.

“Looking at that puzzle of what your customer base is, whether that’s divergent language, or background, or culture, or the way they approach things, have that diversity at your leadership table, multiple pieces of the puzzle.”

Brown said the bank’s customer base was diverse so this should be reflected in the staff.

“The other thing I keep telling myself is ‘try harder’.”

Brown said she always used to talk to the same sort of people at professional development days, now she “tries harder” by talking to someone she didn’t know.

Khan said it was up to leaders within organisations to encourage those around them to buy in and work together to solve problems.

Wrapping up, Waldron said the goals were pretty clear – “to make people feel included” and “care about them”, putting in measures to ensure this happened.

The MFAA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit 2024 was supported by major partner Commonwealth Bank, gold partner Mortgage Choice and event supporters, ANZ and Westpac.

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