Jim McEleney Chief Operating Officer of BNY Mellon speaks with Ethical Corporation about the company’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Jim McEleney is Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA), based in London. He took on the role in October 2011 and oversees the regional governance framework on behalf of all BNY Mellon businesses and operations in the region. His role also includes responsibility for BNY Mellon's relationships with EMEA regulators.

McEleney joined BNY Mellon via The Boston Company as a financial analyst in 1987. He relocated from the U.S. to London in 2006 to establish the first European office for BNY Mellon Wealth Management. Immediately prior to becoming COO, he served for three years as Chief Administrative Officer of the company’s global asset servicing business.

Ethical Corporation: It’s interesting to be speaking to a Chief Operating Officer (COO) on corporate social responsibility issues (CSR). It’s not an issue that falls into the brief of most of your COO colleagues. How does your role relate to corporate responsibility?

Jim McEleney: CSR is certainly important to us in terms of our role as a major global institution. Part of my role as COO is to coordinate our efforts across all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). CSR is about the wellbeing and strength of our workforce, our role in local communities, as well as the day-to-day service that we provide to our clients. These are all a key focus of my role and in my work with our CSR team.

One of our corporate priorities has been around driving excellence. This really comes down to what we do as a provider of investment management and investment services. We’re working across the region to improve risk management, productivity, the quality of our operations – so these are all things that I spend my time on.

And more and more we’re linking things up to our own CSR agenda. For example, we’re simplifying our delivery platforms, investing in technology and so forth, but all in the most resource efficient way possible.

Ethical Corporation: What do you see as the big issues for the financial services industry as a whole?

Jim McEleney: The big issues continue to be the health of global markets -- issues related to market integrity are therefore important – and no one institution can solve for the health of the global markets on its own. Fortunately, there are industry forums in the space of financial services that we participate in, so we exchange views with peer firms there.

Ethical Corporation: And how about for BNY Mellon: what are the big CR issues for you specifically?

Jim McEleney: In the past year, we’ve introduced an approach to CSR, which concentrates on materiality and three main areas: first, market integrity; second, our people; and then third, the world.

We’ve found these are the areas that are most important and relevant to our stakeholders. And more and more we’ve been linking them into the future of our business.

Within the category of market integrity, for example, our view is that the industry really needs to continue to address issues around governance, ethics and transparency. This could involve addressing regulation, helping to inform and educate others, particularly our clients, on these evolving global regulations, and also how to respond to regulation across the investment lifecycle.

We also really need to focus on operational resiliency for our clients. In our company, we’ve had several examples of having to focus on resiliency and why the benefits are paying off for us.

We have a pretty major presence, for example, across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic seaboard in the United States. Hurricane Sandy proved the importance of resilience and BNY Mellon showed very well in that. We definitely link that into our CSR agenda.

Ethical Corporation: How do you address CSR issues at the executive committee level for the EMEA region?

Jim McEleney: The discussions we have focus around strategy and progress on a number of topics.

For example, we may go through the common themes from an employee engagement survey and look at those comments in conjunction with our overall strategy and programming. We might be looking at our diversity and inclusion as priorities, for example, both in terms of education and awareness as well as measuring our continuing progress.

At a personal level, I am going to be the regional EMEA chair for our regional diversity and inclusion council. This provides me with an opportunity to hear the perspective of all of our locations in EMEA. For example, I’ve learned that diversity means different things in different locations for different constituents within our own workplace.

Ethical Corporation: Do you feel financial institutions are contributing enough in their immediate communities?

Jim McEleneyIn our case, yes, I believe so. Our employees overall are passionate about supporting charities in the cities and neighbourhoods where they live and work.

In fact, we had over 80,000 hours volunteered by employees last year. We see this as a way we can really make a real difference for youth and the people who need it most. It also gives us an opportunity to be role models and enable young people in our communities to consider new possibilities -- potential roles or careers -- that they hadn’t thought they could aspire to, for instance.

Ethical Corporation: Looking at the bigger picture for your industry, do you think structural reforms are required to ensure standards and ethics are met or has enough been done already?

Jim McEleney: I think when we look back, we will see that the industry is undergoing a major transformation. We can all cite areas where we think the industry needs to evolve in order to meet what society and clients expect, and certainly BNY Mellon wants to be part of that positive transformation. What we’re doing is making sure that we’re applying the lessons of the economic crisis.

We focused a lot on setting industry standards to reform critical elements of the capital markets infrastructure. We’re really working to create an environment that encourages healthy dissent and helps employees to raise concerns.

I think BNY Mellon has a unique role in our industry. Given our size, we’re sometimes a natural leader in helping to set the standards.

We work with investors along every stage of the investment lifecycle. So there’s a role for us given that our clients have different challenges and with our services and expertise we can help them see this through a different lens.

We’ve seen that we can play a role – one that helps to contribute to the relief from all of this turbulence as well as to help restore trust.

Ethical Corporation: Can you provide a concrete example of how this kind of client engagement works?

Jim McEleney: Sure. In the past year, for example, we’ve actually reconstituted and created a global collateral services business. Part of why we created this business comes from the recognition that our clients really need help to recognize and address risk. We saw an opportunity to provide a solution to this need that would really aid them around the levels of transparency and resiliency that regulators and others are now asking for.

Ethical Corporation: You talked earlier about risk management structure. How do you break down vague notions such as trust into practical steps for management?

Jim McEleney: We spend a lot of time in our company making sure the ‘tone at the top’ is consistent and that it’s evident. When I say ‘at the top’, I am not suggesting at all that it needs to be from one individual. We also ensure that this cascades down through goals and expectations that we place on our executive committee and our operating committee.

In addition, ‘managing risk’ is a discreet and deliberate goal in the performance management process for all 50,000 BNY Mellon employees around the world. In addition, we’ve launched a global training and development programme for employees that’s specific to this topic through BKU, which is short for BNY Mellon University. These are some of the ways that we have prioritised risk awareness and risk management throughout our workplace.

We’ve also re-launched our brand. Part of what we emphasized with our employees was not so much about a new logo or a trademark, but really -- our values – about what we stand for and about the behaviours that we expect within the company.

Ethical Corporation: Going forward, what changes do you think are required to create a better culture among the most senior levels of the financial services?

Jim McEleney: Among other things, greater diversity at the top ranks would certainly help. We named our first female president, Karen Peetz, and we’ve been around for more than 220 years. It’s those kinds of changes that are not only set the tone, but bring new ideas and fresh approaches to problems. This is ultimately going to affect the culture around what’s accepted, what’s acceptable and how decisions are made within the organisation.

Ethical Corporation: When it comes to CSR and ethical behaviour, are there any specific lessons that you would draw from other sectors?

Jim McEleney: Food and retail industries have a long history of responding to stakeholders demands for more transparency about where their products come from, how are they sourced, how are they transported, even who is working on them. I think there are absolutely lessons there for our industry. We see investors and other stakeholders seeking increased transparency about their investments and about financial services practices. As an industry, we have to respond to this by being more open and transparent.

Ethical Corporation: Is it really possible to balance your duty to society with your financial duties to your shareholders?

Jim McEleney: Definitely. Financial services really do serve a purpose in society.

With the right behaviours and controls in place, I think this industry absolutely has a role to play in not only providing global stability, but also in helping to create prosperity.

Bringing it back to BNY Mellon, we touch nearly a quarter of the world’s assets on any given day. So we’re absolutely a player in this. We welcome the opportunity that comes with that role, but it is a big responsibility. We believe this whole question extends beyond pure economics, and we treat it as such.

BNY Mellon is a global financial services company operating in 35 countries and serving more than 100 markets. It has $27.6 trillion in assets under custody and administration as of December 31, 2013. Much more information on BNY Mellon’s social responsibility is available online at bnymellon.com/csr.

BNY Mellon  CSR strategy  Management spotlight 

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