British banks Lloyds and RBS set ethnic targets for top roles

By Emma Rumney

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's two biggest banks have set targets for ethnic minority representation in top roles after criticism of some of the country's largest companies for being opaque about diversity.

Lloyds Banking Group said its targets marked the first time a FTSE 100 company had publicly laid out goals for ethnic diversity. The Royal Bank of Scotland followed up with the release of targets it gave internally in December.

RBS hopes to nearly double the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in leadership roles, which include about 4,000 employees, by 2025. At RBS this would increase the figure from 8 percent to 14 percent, while Lloyds is targeting a rise from 5.6 percent to 8 percent by 2020.

Twelve percent of the British labor force and 14 percent of the country's total population are from a BAME background. At RBS 15 percent of its customer base identify as BAME, while the figure among Lloyds clients is 10 percent.

"To serve our customers well we need to truly represent the diversity of the communities we operate in," Marjorie Strachan, head of inclusion at RBS, said in a statement.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association said in November that only 15 percent of FTSE 100 companies provided details of the ethnic diversity of their workforce.

Fiona Cannon, Lloyds' director of responsible business and inclusion, said the bank was committed to rapid change.

"Our data shows that while we are making good progress, we think this rate of progress is too slow," she said.

Omar Khan, director of race equality think-tank the Runnymede Trust, welcomed the moves.

"It is essential banking becomes more representative of its customer base," he said. "The private sector has shown that targets can be an effective tool, and we would like to see this best practice rolled out across the private, public, and charitable sectors."

Lloyds' goals come as part of a three-year strategy due to be set out alongside its annual results next week.

The bank declined to comment on a Sky News report on Sunday that said the strategy update would include an investment program costing roughly 2.6 billion pounds and potentially as much as 3 billion pounds.

Analysts are expecting it to concentrate on digital innovation, but it could also include a renewed push to ramp up the bank's insurance and wealth businesses.

RBS is due to report its full-year results on Feb. 23.

(This version of the story corrects to "nearly double" from "more than triple" in paragraph three.)

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Alexander Smith and David Evans)

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