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ARE YOU READY FOR PSD2 AND STRONG CUSTOMER AUTHENTICATION?

ARE YOU READY FOR PSD2 AND STRONG CUSTOMER AUTHENTICATION?

By Brian Gaynor, Executive Director for European Product Solutions at J.P. Morgan. 

Let’s start with the basics, The Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) was officially published by the European Commission in December 2015 and follows on from the First Payment Services Directive (PSD1), which was implemented in 2009. PSD2 will go live from 13thJanuary, 2018and will have implications for all companies in Europe that deal with payments, ranging from how to regulate the emergence of Third Party Providers (TPPs) to the need for strong customer authentication (SCA). 

Brian Gaynor

Brian Gaynor

Rapid changes in the payments sector have heralded the upgrade of PSD1. Technological advances in areas such as cloud and mobile applications have opened up the banking sector to a swathe of new competitors. These TPPs are offering new ways for customers to access their bank accounts to make payments. Over three quarters of Europeans now use mobile devices to keep track of finances and to make payments,[1] compared with just 18% in 2015.[2]

Another major change has been the continuing rise in online shopping. According to a recent survey, one in four Europeans with internet access shopped online at least once a week in 2016.[3] Unfortunately, the rise in eCommerce has resulted in a concomitant rise in cybercrime; both in data breaches and online credit card fraud. In 2016, nearly £309 million was lost to credit card fraud in eCommerce transactions in the United Kingdom. This compares to just £13.6m in 1998.[4]

It’s against this background that the European Union (EU) is implementing PSD2. There are generally two elements to European law; the need to encourage competition among financial providers, as well as the need to enhance consumer protection.

PSD2 at a glance

  • Update of First Payment Services Directive (PSD1) driven by continual rise of eCommerce and technological innovation in payments sector.
  • Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will be implemented from 13th January, 2018. The earliest date that member states are expected to have implemented Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) is August 2019.
  • PSD2 includes 112 articles and 11 mandates (specific topics that the regulators asked the European Banking Association to examine).
  • One of these mandates is around strong customer authentication (SCA) and includes guidance around exemptions and challenges.
  • Another key area is the regulation of Third Party Providers (TPPs) which could help stimulate a new generation of financial companies.

The emergence of TPPs 

Presently the main way for customers to access their bank accounts is through the products and channels provided by their banks. Under PSD2 two new regulated entities will emerge:

  • Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISP) – This allows third party companies to initiate payment on behalf of a consumer without them having to visit their online bank’s portal. PISPs offer consumers flexibility when it comes to payment.
  • Account Information Service Providers (AISP) – This will allow third party companies to access a consumer’s bank, as well as display information relating to their account. For example, this could allow a consumer to aggregate information from multiple accounts in a single application giving them an overview of their financial situation.

In order to facilitate these new providers, banks will have to provide their APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to those that request it. This is quite a radical change that will provide a boost to the new generation of Fintech companies, fitting in with the EU’s desire to promote increased competition and innovation. The support for TPPs is expected to give consumers greater control and convenience as they will be able to centralise their account information and payment options on a single device.

This is anticipated to benefit the eCommerce market because it will give customers more flexible banking and payment options. There are also opportunities for merchants; for example, they could potentially utilise an AISP to get more information on a potential consumer, such as their account balance and payment flows and use it to make risk assessments.  Or they could use the information to identify and target their most high-value customers. Of course, merchants will have to radically rethink the way they obtain their customer’s consent to store personal data and ensure their processes and procedures comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

PSD2: Key implications for merchants

Creation of PISPsServices that can initiate credit transfers on behalf of account owners (digital or card based).
Creation of AISPsServices that can collect and consolidate data across one or more deposit accounts.
Limited surchargesMerchants will not be able to surcharge payment methods with regulated interchange (e.g., 4-party consumer schemes, Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) SEPA credit transfers).
SCATwo-factor authentication will be required for all electronic payments, although there are exemptions to allow “frictionless flow”.
3-D SecureeCommerce merchants will need to integrate dynamic authentication tools (e.g., 3D Secure 2.0).

SCA and the drive for increased payment protection

One of the major implications of PSD2 is the focus on improving security in the payments space by emphasising strong customer authentication. An important element of SCA is two-factor authentication. Most consumers are aware of this even if they don’t know it by that name. It’s for those situations where inputting the username and password by themselves aren’t considered secure enough, so additional steps are required. Obvious examples of such an approach are additional questions that only a consumer would know, such as “what’s my mother’s maiden name?” New approaches to two-factor authentication are emerging e.g., biometric recognition or fingerprint activation.

What is two-factor authentication?

This is authentication based on the use of two or more elements categorised as knowledge (i.e., something only the user knows), possession (i.e., something only the user possesses), and inherence (i.e., something the user is).

Within the cards space there is already a scheme in place to ensure SCA called 3-D Secure (3DS). This is a service offered by credit card providers that gives additional protection to card users by introducing another layer of password protection. The result of which is the message that customers sometimes see when completing a transaction, depending on the network upon which the card is operating.

However, there are drawbacks with 3DS in its current version. It deploys a pop-up screen which uses a different URL – thus looking rather similar to a phishing site. There’s the requirement to remember the password that has been used, something that may be problematic for a customer with several such cards. The first version of 3DS was primarily designed for PC transactions and is a clunky way of making a purchase for mobile phone users – and with smartphones increasingly deployed in eCommerce, this is a stumbling block.

3DS 2.0

To address some of these challenges a new version of 3DS has just been released. One major change of 3DS 2.0 is that it will offer the ability to authenticate a transaction using a biometric method, something that many mobile phones offer these days. By using finger prints or facial recognition the amount of fraud is potentially going to be greatly reduced while also increasing convenience for consumers. There are other upgrades too: the troublesome payment window will be discarded with and 3DS 2.0 will also allow mobile and digital wallet payment methods. This is a major change as previously only cards could be used (unsurprising, considering the origins of the technology).

Another major implication of 3DS 2.0 is that when a customer makes a purchase, the merchant will have the option of agreeing to ‘frictionless flow’ – where the payment is authorised without additional security measures. Alternatively, they can request that the payment is challenged resulting in the issuer making a risk-based authentication of the consumer and potentially asking for further security, such as two-factor authentication. Having frictionless payment is beneficial for customers and therefore merchants, as their payments can be made quickly and seamlessly. However, it can also increase the potential of fraud. One of the main implications of PSD2 is that it provides clear guidelines about how this process can be managed.

PSD2 and frictionless flow

Under PSD2 there are clear rules regarding the challenging of payments. Transactions that are under €30 will not need to be challenged, it is entirely up to the discretion of the merchant. For transactions above €30, a new procedure kicks in, one that depends on the reference fraud rates of the acquiring bank and the issuer – not the merchant.

Under PSD2, if the fraud rate is below 13 basis points (bps) there’s no requirement for a challenge for transactions of up to €100. But if the fraud rate is below 6bps that ceiling rises to €250. For those with a rate of under 1bps a transaction can be as high as €500 before there’s a need for a challenge.

There are a couple of caveats to this approach.

  • Not all low-value transactions will go unchallenged: every fifth transaction (below €30) will need to be challenged. This will also apply if the combined value of several unchallenged transactions goes above €100. This could present some difficulty for merchants who will have to deal with customers’ expectations of a frictionless process.
  • There’s also the issue of recurring transactions. If there’s a regular payment and it’s of the same amount every time, there needs only to be one challenge. However, if the amount changes for example, a mobile bill fluctuates and the amount is over €30, it would need to be challenged.

Although SCA methods can reduce fraud, they likely will also impact the speed and convenience of online shopping. However, PSD2 will not necessarily have a negative impact on eCommerce. The new regulations are predicted to drive acquirers and other entities in the payment processing ecosystem to improve their own fraud rate as that would mean they could offer frictionless flow at higher thresholds. Conversely merchants may start seeking out financial providers with a good record of fraud prevention, as this would allow them to offer more convenient payment options to their consumers with fewer challenge presentments.

With PSD2 the onus is on the many parties in the payments ecosystem to improve security and reduce their fraud rates. With the right solutions merchants can be compliant with the new regulations and help reduce fraud while still offering a frictionless, user-friendly experience for the majority of their customers. eCommerce is booming in Europe, but the number one reason preventing even further uptake is concern over fraud. By forcing improvements to payment processing, PSD2 could end up increasing conversion rates. 

Conclusion

The implementation of PSD2 is going to shake up the payment sectors. There are a number of potential advantages for merchants: purchasing processes will become easier, they will be offered more choice of financial providers (and consequently methods of payment) and there will be reduced risk of fraud.

But there will still be work to be done; merchants may need to change their systems to handle 3DS 2.0 or other SCA methods, as well as working on how to meet customers’ expectations. And because there will generally be more challenges, SCA needs to be handled in a way that minimises disruption to the purchasing process. In this sense, the regulations could spark a wave of innovation that may ultimately improve the online shopping experience.

Merchants will also have to pay closer attention to their partner acquirers and issuers. Some important differentiating factors will be the fraud rate, as well as the help provided in negotiating the PSD2 upheaval. 

PSD2 opportunities for merchants 

  • Reduced fraud rates in the industry and increased trust with consumers.
  • Innovation around two-factor authentication to make the process smoother.
  • A boost in eCommerce as consumers have more online banking and payment options.
  • Merchants can leverage new payment aggregators to increase their strategic information on consumers.

Chase Paymentech Europe Limited, trading as J.P. Morgan, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

 The information herein does not take into account individual client circumstances, objectives or needs and is not intended as a recommendation of a particular product or strategy to particular clients and any recipient of this document shall make its own independent decision. This document and the information provided herein may not be copied, published, or used, in whole or in part, for any purpose other than expressly authorised by Chase Paymentech Europe Limited.

© 2017, JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved.

[1] VisaEurope. ‘Mobile Money Takes Off as 77% of Europeans Use their Phones to Bank and Make Everyday Payments.’ Available at: https://www.visaeurope.com/newsroom/news/mobile-money-takes-off-as-77-of-europeans-use-their-phones-to-bank-and-make-everyday-payments. Accessed October 2017.

[2]VisaEurope. ‘Mobile Payments soar as Europe embraces new ways to pay.’ Available at: https://www.visaeurope.com/newsroom/news/mobile-payments-soar. Accessed October 2017.

[3]Mastercard, ‘Mastercard Index 2017 – Pan-European eCommerce and new payment trends.’ Available at: https://newsroom.mastercard.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Masterindex-2017.pdf. Accessed October 2017.

[4]FICO, ‘eCommerce Growth Drives Rise in UK Card Fraud.’ Available at: http://www.fico.com/europeanfraud/united-kingdom. Accessed October 2017.

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Trust matters more than ever in an uncertain world

Trust matters more than ever in an uncertain world 1

By Zac Cohen, COO, Trulioo

Trust in the time of COVID-19

Perhaps more than ever before, retail and investment banks the world over face a pivotal moment in their evolution, as banking transitions from a digital-first towards a digital-only landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic has put severe restrictions on traditional face-to-face or high street banking and forced sections of society that had previously been resistant to or unable to access digital banking to make the shift. This understandably brings with it significant anxiety and fear.

For an industry that has been striving to rebuild consumer confidence since the global financial crisis of 2008, COVID-19 presents a huge challenge. It needs to foster trust at a time when the world is facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and stands on the brink of an even more severe global recession.

Without doubt, a thriving digital economy will be critical for the global economy to bounce back quickly and strongly from COVID-19. Therefore building online trust has become critical to our very future.

A billion reasons to protect customers

The global banking system processes more than a billion transactions every day, from transfers and domestic and international payments, to loan approvals and the creation of new accounts. And each one of these transactions represents an opportunity for some sort of financial crime, whether that’s money laundering, identity theft, bribery or the financing of terrorism.

The global pandemic has only served to accentuate this level of risk, with new threats emerging on the back of COVID-19, and bad actors looking to exploit new opportunities. In particular, online fraudsters are looking to target people who are using digital services for the first time as a result of the pandemic, often the most vulnerable groups in our society such as the elderly.

Research that we recently conducted in the UK and the U.S. found that concerns about online security are higher within financial services than in any other sector, with more than half of people (51%) reporting that they are ‘very concerned’ about identity theft when using financial services sites.

Crucially, 90% of people believe that banks have a responsibility to reduce cybercrime through whatever identity verification is necessary.

Building trust from day one

Of course, customers want online banking services to be responsive, intuitive and fast, but it’s important to recognise that, first and foremost, people want to know that their money and their personal data are safe.

Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) practices are now essential in enabling banks to not only identify each individual customer, but to build trust across the digital ecosystem more broadly.

Identity verification technology during the onboarding process enables a bank to demonstrate to its customers that it is taking their security seriously from the very outset of the relationship. First impressions count — more than three quarters (77%) of consumers claim that the account opening process can ‘make or break’ their relationship with a financial services brand.

Banks simply cannot afford anything other than optimal onboarding and identity verification – fail to deliver this and trust is immediately eroded and in many cases, the customer walks away.

On the other hand, where banks do succeed in demonstrating their commitment to security during these first engagements, delivering a fast, secure and seamless account creation process, they are able to develop a more meaningful relationship with their customers. As many as  84% of consumers report having greater trust in financial services brands that use real-time identity verification during the onboarding process and 71% are more likely to share more personal data.

A layered approach to identity verification

In order to provide first-class onboarding processes and establish trust at the outset of the customer journey, banks need to ensure they can deliver relevant and compliant identity checks for customers, dependent on their geography and the type of service or product that they are looking to access. They need to move beyond a ‘one size fits all approach’ to identity verification, which can lead to cumbersome or unnecessary checks on the one hand, and increased risk on the other.

This is why a digital identity network is so powerful. This is essentially a marketplace of hundreds of data sources, verification processes and tools that leverage network data intelligence to verify and authenticate identities online.

This marketplace approach lets businesses get a more holistic view of risk and then apply whichever verification layers are needed to provide assurance and build trust.

Zac Cohen

Zac Cohen

For example, a bank may only need to perform a basic KYC check when onboarding a customer with an established government ID number or driving license. If that same customer then wants to take out a loan, the bank would need to run other verification checks to create a higher level of assurance. And if the bank wants to onboard a customer whose only form of digital identity is a name tied to their mobile phone number, it would likewise build up assurance through multiple verification and authentication layers — for instance, ID document verification, which captures images from a person’s ID document and assesses its validity, combined with biometric authentication, which compares a selfie photo (taken and sent through the mobile phone) with the photo on an ID document.

With such a layered approach to identity verification, banks have complete flexibility and choice to apply the most appropriate identity checks at every stage of the customer journey, meaning that they can manage and optimise customer experience while minimising risk and ensuring compliance against a rapidly changing regulatory backdrop.

Building a global ecosystem of trust for the digital economy

To build and maintain online trust in such a complex and diverse environment is extremely challenging for banks.

Indeed, despite rapid digitisation across all sectors and regions, the internet continues to suffer from a lack of a critical identity layer that would solve many of these complex problems. While there are layers of protocols and methodologies for transporting data over networks, there is no protocol for transporting assurance. In online transactions, then, there is no standardized way to establish that an individual is who they say they are — the essence of identity.

Clearly this needs to change in order to drive trust, digital access and financial inclusion.

A digital identity network provides banks with the assurance they need in these turbulent times, protecting both themselves and their customers from fraud and delivering seamless customer experiences. In particular, it allows banks to enter new markets and reach new customers who have previously been marginalised or excluded from the digital economy, with confidence. In this way, digital identity can become a great equalizer, enabling more people to access and enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, built on trust.

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Workforce Diversity Matters To Our ESG Evaluation

Workforce Diversity Matters To Our ESG Evaluation 2

We believe the limited representation of Black voices in key decision-making processes prevents companies from reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce. It also exposes companies’ reputations to allegations of discrimination, as shown by recent calls on social media to boycott certain businesses after apparently racist behavior of employees were captured on video and shared. As such, we believe companies need to be deliberate in how they recruit, hire, and develop Black talent if they want to achieve a sustainable and diverse workforce, thereby improving ESG performance.

As part of our social assessment in the ESG Evaluation, we assess how effective a company is at developing a productive and inclusive workforce. Key indicators include employee retention and turnover rates, labor standards, pay, benefits, and rewards. We also assess whether fair labor standards are entrenched across the value chain. Moreover, we evaluate an entity’s preparedness to respond to long-term risks and opportunities, including from changing demographics and social patterns. We assess the extent to which decision-making demonstrates the company’s commitment to its long-term strategy and sustainability, as well as its success at building an inclusive workplace culture. These practices are particularly important given the presence of systemic racism, which continues to disadvantage Black people in corporate environments, particularly in the U.S.

U.S. workplaces have yet to achieve equal opportunity for people of different races, and policies have so far not fully addressed the widespread issue of racism. According to the Center of Public Integrity and the Washington Post, from 2010 to 2017, one million discrimination complaints were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Office Commission. More than 30% of these cases related to racial discrimination.

Labour Market Outcomes Are Rooted In Systemic Racism

The Black community has long been subject to civil and human injustices that have contributed to a vicious cycle of low educational attainment, high unemployment, and concentrated poverty. This has made it difficult for Black people to enter the workforce, advance in higher wage work, and accumulate generational wealth. Poverty serves as a systemic hurdle to Black employees because it creates barriers to higher educational attainment, thereby limiting their ability to procure employment and financial opportunities that would enable wealth accumulation. In 2018, the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that Black Americans have the second-highest poverty rate in the U.S. (after Native Americans, another highly marginalized group). The study also highlighted a striking wealth disparity; while the median net worth of a white household in 2016 was $103,000, for Black households it was only $9,200 (see chart 1).

Chart 1

Workforce Diversity Matters To Our ESG Evaluation 3

Yet, structural hurdles and enduring biases have also historically disadvantaged Black jobseekers, regardless of educational attainment. In the U.S., only 31% of Black employees are in management or professional positions, and a low proportion is in upper management positions (see chart 2).

Chart 2

Black Employees are largely underrepresented in management and professional occupations
Educational attainment of the labor force, age and above in the U.S.

Workforce Diversity Matters To Our ESG Evaluation 4

What’s more, Black employees are often held to higher standards than their white counterparts. A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Black workers receive extra scrutiny in the workplace, leading to lower wages, slower promotions, and sometimes even job loss. This legacy may also create an additional barrier to career advancement, which is apparent in the low proportion of Black employees in upper management positions. Of the Fortune 500 companies, Black employees only account for 3.2% of executive and senior management and only 0.8% of CEOs (four in total) are Black (see chart 3).

Chart 3

Diversity And Inclusion Policies Are Only The First Step

Workforce Diversity Matters To Our ESG Evaluation 5

In our opinion, D&I programs are an important mechanism for improving racial equity in the workplace. They aim to link a company’s strategies, mission, and business practices in a way that supports demographic differences among talent and enables an environment in which all employees are empowered to contribute their unique views and perspectives. As D&I programs have evolved, they’ve begun to encompass initiatives such as targeted recruitment, diversity education and training, career development, mentoring, and grievance procedures. Done well, D&I programs offer several business benefits, from improved productivity to innovation, which help boost a company’s ESG performance by helping it anticipate changing consumer preferences and consumption patterns.

Several studies have investigated the link between diverse workforces and a firm’s financial performance. According to a 2020 McKinsey & Co study, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to show financial returns that exceed the national industry median. Another study by sociologist Cedric Herring, during his time at the University of Illinois, Chicago, found that companies with the highest racial diversity were able to generate nearly 15x more sales revenue than firms with the lowest levels of racial diversity. Herring suggests that racial diversity is the most important predictor of a company’s competitive positioning, and a better indicator of sales revenue and customer attainment than a company’s size, years in business, and overall employee headcount. Diversity has also been linked to increased innovation potential. Studies show that diversity supports, enhanced creativity, more informed decision-making, increased capacity for innovation, improved customer acquisition, stronger revenue-generating potential, and better talent management.

Analyzing Diversity Remains A Challenge

Where available, we analyze a company’s ethnic diversity metrics as one indicator for a diverse workforce. Businesses tend to focus mainly on the workforce composition and on recruiting employees from different identity groups, including race, gender, age, culture, cognition, and education. Social equality activists are increasingly demanding that companies release diversity statistics, thereby holding them accountable for persisting race gaps.

Although transparency practices are improving, the availability of data is a persistent issue. According to the U.K.’s Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work 2018 Scorecard report, only 11% of employers report ethnicity and pay data. In France, a race-neutral policy approach to education and employment stands in contrast to that in other European countries. It is illegal for employers or institutions in France to ask about someone’s race or ethnicity. The intent of this was to avoid discrimination. However, in 2006, more than 25 years after the 1978 law prohibiting the collection of ethnic data, a poll by research company TNS-Sofres showed that more than half of France’s black adults said they had experienced racial discrimination. Furthermore, companies more frequently report strictly on percentages of minority employees without commenting, directly or otherwise, on the positions they occupy. This can mask some disparities in terms of job level, promotions, or lack of diversity in certain roles.

We also take into consideration companies’ strategies to increase diversity including quotas, targets, or affirmative action policies. Over the past few years, several European countries have proposed or implemented diversity quotas for boards of companies, principally to increase female participation. The U.S. state of California followed suit in 2018, while legislation is pending in other states. Although still controversial, quotas have helped increase the number of women on boards. Similar policies on ethnic diversity are largely missing. In the U.K., the 2017 Parker Review set a voluntary target for FTSE100 boards to have at least one director from an ethnic minority group by 2021. The Review’s 2020 update shows some progress but not full compliance with the recommendations.

Regardless of the approach a company takes to increase workforce diversity, it is clear that quality data is a necessary ingredient of an effective diversity strategy. As such, we believe transparency at all levels of the organization is imperative for companies to solidify the trust and loyalty of their employees, suppliers, and shareholders. In turn, this will help boost productivity and strengthen the potential for innovation, thereby supporting ESG performance.

The Emphasis Must Be On Inclusion

Recruiting ethnic minorities does not necessarily translate into an environment that’s free of discrimination, allowing each employee an equal opportunity to advance. In our opinion, employers with a culture that tolerates discriminatory practices and microaggression are vulnerable to productivity lapses, decreased innovation, and lower creativity. Therefore, we believe the success of D&I initiatives appears to hinge on the inclusion side of the equation, which should ensure employees feel their contributions are appreciated and full participation is encouraged. According to author and inclusion strategist Verna Myers, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at

Netflix, “Diversity is about being invited to the party. Inclusion is about being asked to dance.” Analyzing inclusion practices could provide better insight into how companies manage more covert forms of discrimination associated with microaggression. In a U.S. national survey of over 3,700 office workers conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), 58% of black respondents said they have encountered racism at the workplace. According to the NORC, workplace prejudice often shows up in subtle ways, through microaggression, typically during employee interactions through comments that proliferate Black stereotypes. Examples include referring to Black employees as intimidating, or unprofessional because of their hairstyles, thus creating a situation in which these employees are perceived as “not right” for the job. Such a toxic environment can go undetected by senior management, particularly when people of color are underrepresented at the workplace and in management positions. Many instances of discrimination also likely go unreported, making it even more difficult to expose covert forms of racism in corporate culture. In some cases, microaggression could ultimately result in higher staff turnover rates, one of the factors that informs a company’s Social Profile in our ESG Evaluation.

Many corporate leaders have committed additional resources to D&I programs in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. However, the success of these programs lies in how they resonate with employees. Literature on this topic suggests that achieving true inclusion requires a shift in the organizational culture to acknowledge the value of different backgrounds, expose conscious and unconscious biases, and create an atmosphere of respect and empathy. Managers, in particular, play a crucial role in employee development and are therefore important stakeholders in supporting racial inclusion. However, many are not necessarily inclined to reflect on or talk about racial discrimination, and without a business culture that fosters inclusion, meaningful change is unlikely to result.

Companies have started promoting conversations with Black employees to better understand their experiences, which we believe is a starting point. Ultimately, achieving a sustainable diverse workforce and addressing system racism will require continued leadership and accountability. A 2018 Boston Consulting Group study of more than 1,700 companies in eight countries, across different industries and sizes, found that five key factors help diversity to flourish:

  • Participative leadership: managers support employee contributions;
  • Strategic priority: top management and the CEO clearly demonstrate support for diversity; – Frequent communication: free and open communication is encouraged within teams;
  • Culture of openness to new ideas: employees feel that they can express their perspectives without fear of retaliation; and
  • Fair employment practices: employees with equal roles achieve equal pay, and companies enact robust anti-discrimination policies.

Looking To The Future

The Black Lives Matter movement has ignited a broader awareness of racism in society that has put the corporate sector in the spotlight. We believe companies’ diversity track records will be increasingly scrutinized, making a diverse and inclusive workforce a reputational imperative. In our view, more corporate entities will treat the challenge of workplace diversity as they would any other existential risk, and therefore gather the right information, including opting into voluntary diversity initiatives, to make the most informed choices.

A Call To Action: The Race At Work Charter

In collaboration with the U.K. government, the BITC established the 2018 Race at Work Charter detailing five actions all employers, regardless of sector, could undertake to further support diversity and inclusion. Since the Charter’s inception, more than 100 companies have added their signatures, including the National Grid, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank. By joining this initiative, companies are committing to taking meaningful action against discrimination in the workplace. The five actions are to:

  • Appoint an executive sponsor for race.
  • Report ethnicity data metrics and monitor progress.
  • Commit, at the Board level, to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying.
  • Clearly state that promoting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all managers.
  • Take meaningful action to support the career progression of ethnic minorities.

The success of a company’s D&I efforts will be reflected in several indicators, including: the proportion of Black employees in the workforce overall, also in management and leadership positions; and the pay gap between employees in similar roles. Large, technologically advanced companies will likely be among the first to back their D&I commitments with meaningful targets and report regularly on progress. In the end, an effective, inclusive framework that supports long-lasting diversity and ESG goals depends on sound communication and ongoing commitment of employees at all levels of the organization.

Related Research

  • Environmental, Social, And Governance: Why Corporations’ Responses To George Floyd Protests Matter, July 23, 2020
  • The ESG Pulse: Social Factors Could Drive More Rating Actions As Health And Inequality Remain In Focus, July 16, 2020
  • Environmental, Social, And Governance Evaluation Analytical Approach, June 17, 2020
  • Environmental, Social, And Governance: How We Apply Our ESG Evaluation Analytical Approach: Part 2, June 17, 2020
  • How We Apply Our ESG Evaluation Analytical Approach: Part 2, June 17, 2020
  • People Power: COVID-19 Will Redefine Workforce Dynamics In The Post-Pandemic Era, June 4, 2020
  • The ESG Lens on COVID-19, Part 2: How Companies Deal with Disruption, April 28, 2020
  • COVID 19: A Test Of The Stakeholder Approach, April 21, 2020
  • The ESG Lens On COVID-19, Part 1, April 20, 2020
  • How To Navigate The ESG Risk Atlas, April 11, 2019
  • How We Apply Our ESG Evaluation Analytical Approach, April 10, 2019
  • The ESG Advantage: Exploring Links To Corporate Financial Performance, April 8, 2019

External Research

  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/discrimination-complaint-outcomes/
  • https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters#
  • https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000312240907400203
  • https://assets.ey.com/content/dam/ey-sites/ey-com/en_uk/news/2020/02/ey-parker-review-2017-report-final.pdf – https://assets.ey.com/content/dam/ey-sites/ey-com/en_uk/news/2020/02/ey-parker-review-2020-report-final.pdf
  • https://www.talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/BeingBlack-KeyFindings-CTI.pdf
  • https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation
  • https://www.bitc.org.uk/race-at-work-charter-signatories/
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What is loneliness and how can you manage it?

What is loneliness and how can you manage it? 6

By Iris Schaden Your Business and Personal Coach

A mere century ago, almost no one lived alone. Today, many do and it is not unusual. The recent lockdowns and isolation periods have amplified feelings of loneliness. But why do we feel lonely? Why do our bodies experience social pain? Learn about what we can do to improve our situation, prevent chronic loneliness and minimise the tremendous impact it has on our health.

Solitude and choosing to be alone can be bliss. Over the last sixty years the number of people living alone has increased in developed countries by more than 50 percent. In countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, it is very common for people to live alone. But this does not translate into higher levels of selfreported loneliness. Many people have friends or family they can interact with on a regular basis.

However, it is important to recognise that this choice is different to loneliness, which can be a state of profound distress. Loneliness is a purely subjective and individual experience that can be felt by anyone, no matter their social, educational, gender or age demographic. Humankind are social creatures by nature – we struggle without it – and social connections are important to our health and emotional wellbeing.

Loneliness is a problem when we feel that no place is home; when we are in a group and we still feel social separation; when we spend time with our family but we feel like we don’t belong; or when we lose a relationship and struggle to adjust. It is a growing phenomenon in modern times, a by-product of our individualism, long-distance study and career opportunities or time-consuming work commitments.

The pandemic, with its required isolation and social distancing, has added additional stress to many households, but feelings of loneliness or adverse effects of social isolation are particularly prevalent in one-person households and young people aged 12–25. According to a study by VicHealth, even before COVID-19 young adults and adolescents reported high levels of loneliness, social isolation, social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Additionally, it is men who tend to report higher levels of loneliness than women.

Reported loneliness is on the rise. In 2017 and 2018 former US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy declared ‘an epidemic of loneliness,’ and the UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness. In these two countries, one in five adults reported that they often or always feel alone; in Australia, it was one in four adults. And this was before COVID-19, which makes us realise the mental and emotional impact lockdown has on individuals.

What happens to our bodies when we experience loneliness?

Neuroscientists, such as John Cacioppo, identify loneliness as ‘a state of hypervigilance whose origins lie among our primate ancestors and in our own hunter-gatherer past’. Our ancestors needed to belong to an intimate social group to survive. Cacioppo explains that our bodies respond to being alone, or being with strangers, as though we were in a dangerous situation.

Separation from other people (the group) triggers a fight-flight-or-freeze response and we feel social pain. While physical pain is primarily a sensory experience, social pain is the emotional state that comes from the distress of being lonely. Like the bodily sensation of hunger, it alerts us to a need, but instead of food the need is social interaction.

Loneliness generates anxiety: our breathing quickens, our heart races, our blood pressure rises and we struggle to sleep or sleep well. If we don’t pay attention, over time we start to act more fearful, defensive and self-involved. All of these actions drive others away and tend to stop those experiencing loneliness from doing what would benefit them the most: reaching out to others. It is a vicious cycle and one that is especially challenging for older and younger individuals.  

Tactics to help cope with feelings of loneliness. 

To belong is to feel at home in a place or situation where you feel included, comfortable and connected with others. In his assessment, Vivek H. Murthy wrote, ‘To be at home is to be known … You can feel at home with friends, or at work, or in a college dining hall, or at church, or in Yankee Stadium, or at your neighbourhood bar. Loneliness is the feeling that no place is home.’ Having relocated to different cities and countries and re-establishing my life over and over again, I can certainly say that loneliness can be a challenge.

Iris Schaden

Iris Schaden

How can we combat the feelings of loneliness and the anxiety that comes with it, before it becomes chronic and we find ourselves even more isolated over time? 

The first step in moving forward is acknowledging how you feel. Give those feelings a name with a specific timeframe; for example, today I feel alone or since I’ve been in lockdown, I have felt alone or since I lost my partner, I feel disconnected and lost. By doing this, we focus on the present and do not label our entire existence as lonely.

My personal strategy is to go outside if the loneliness gets too ‘heavy’; connect with other people through looks and smiles (even under a face mask our eyes can smile); call friends and family regularly; or schedule a brunch or glass of wine with friends (in person or video chat).

Practising random acts of kindness and gratitude, for others and ourselves, is another very effective and very positive way of bringing us back into the present moment and improving our overall wellbeing. Energy flows where our focus goes. It takes effort and sometimes it is indeed easier to just give in and watch a light-hearted movie on the couch. And that’s fine too!

If you are ever experiencing loneliness, I recommend exercising your social muscles and also seeking support. Remember that your feelings are normal as we are biologically fine-tuned to being with and interacting with others. However, you will need to make changes to avoid jeopardising your health. Once loneliness becomes chronic it becomes self-sustained and you will begin exhibiting defensive behaviour. As a defence mechanism, loneliness makes you assume the worst of others and you (your brain) become hypersensitive to social signals that might be interpreted as hostile towards you, when in reality people might just be trying to help you.

Large studies have shown that feeling lonely has a tremendous impact on your health: it can make you age quicker, cause dementia to advance faster, weaken your immune system and lead to anxiety and depression. Many people turn to substance abuse which only serves to numb the symptoms, rather than treat the source. And while you can find so much information online, knowing is not enough. Remember that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but one of strength. So please reach out to your network, talk to your health professional or get in contact with me.

There are different ways to improve your overall wellbeing. Let’s discuss.

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