Build Your A-Team: Why NAB is banking on climate-change education
National Australia Bank is putting its bankers through a bespoke course to help them – and their customers – lead the way on emissions reduction.
Katharine Bingham, Michael Lambden, David Gall, Jessica Maglio and Peter Stephens from NAB.
Climate change is the global hot topic for businesses. It's a must for the planet but also for the bottom line as customers and governments demand a cleaner, greener future.
With a commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions across both its operations and lending portfolio by 2050, National Australia Bank is going a step further. It's building a team of "climate bankers" to help business customers navigate their own carbon transition plans.
In a project led by David Gall, Group Executive for Corporate and Institutional Banking, NAB has partnered with the Centre for Sustainability and Business to upskill its team, especially those who work with customers in high-emissions industries.
"It's critical that our bankers are confident in their ability to help our business customers find sustainable solutions that will last the test of time," says Gall, "as opposed to something that might sound good but doesn't have the depth needed to achieve that long-term transition."
A recent PwC report showed climate change is top of mind for business leaders. More than 70 per cent of Australian CEOs see the effects of climate change as a serious threat to their organisation's growth prospects in 2021.
Katharine Bingham is NAB's Associate Director of Energy, Utilities and Infrastructure and works with clients in high-carbon-emitting sectors.
"Our focus is on supporting our clients with their business transition plans," says Bingham.
"We believe in a fair and equitable transition and we're not shying away from things that are difficult. We're there to help them every step of the way and the MBS course has helped us to reframe the conversation to look at opportunities."
Given it's a new and unique situation for bankers to find themselves in, education was key. Gall says NAB turned to MBS because of its reputation as "a leading tertiary organisation with fantastic cred and great history", as well as the school's willingness to create a fully bespoke course.
"MBS worked with us to build a program specifically tailored for NAB bankers. And the way we've designed the program gives us the capability to continually evolve it."
The MBS program will give NAB bankers the skills and the confidence "to have the right conversations with the C-suite of these organisations, which now often includes a chief climate officer, chief transition officer or chief sustainability officer, who could well be a peer of the CFO," says Gall.
"Our customers are focusing on their role in transition, so upping the ante from our perspective means our bankers know the right questions to ask and can connect them with our in-house experts. We believe finance has an incredibly important role to play in the broad range of transition solutions that our clients can apply. The MBS program plays a critical part in helping us to build those pathways."
Michael Lambden, the bank's Associate Director of Climate Solutions and Social Impact, worked closely with NAB executives and MBS to make sure the program was finely targeted.
The Centre for Sustainability and Business at MBS melds climate change knowledge with corporate strategy, "enabling us to develop a framework to help our bankers discuss climate change with their customers as a strategic business conversation", says Lambden.
"We want our bankers to be valued connectors to key information around transition planning and to be able to put it into that financial context for customers."
Jessica Maglio, NAB's Associate Director for Diversified Industries and Technology, says MBS identified key drivers and developed a mapping tool to work through "the risks and also the opportunities" of transition.
"We can apply that structure to each of our clients and open the dialogue with those who may not yet have sustainability at front of mind."
The first cohort to go through were genuinely excited about earning the informal status of climate banker.
"We've brought what we've learnt straight into what we're doing," says Peter Stephens, NAB's Director for Real Estate, Consumer and Health Care.
"We can talk confidently to our customers with the same message around all the great things NAB is doing and be a knowledgeable conduit to help them."
Gall says while 100 bankers were first tapped for the course, his "strong desire is to see multiples of that go through the program". Indeed, he's had a lot of bankers asking him how they can get on board.
"This is all pervasive – we need our broader client base to be building their plans around what transition looks like for them. It's not a burden – there's enormous opportunity here."
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This article originally appeared in Qantas magazine as part of the Build Your A-Team series.