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05 Oct 2022
by Elizabeth Howlett

Rahul Ramaswarmi of Standard Chartered Bank on the link between company purpose and benefits

Elizabeth Howlett explores how Rahul Ramaswarmi, head of benefits at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), is making the link between company purpose and benefits

A mixture of the cost-of-living crisis, the extreme tightening of the labour market, changes in working patterns and long-term shifts in skills needs have resulted in talent becoming more selective about where they work. And the values of the businesses they want to work for. 

In line with these factors REBA’s Benefits Design Research 2022, in association with Howden Employee Benefits, predicted “unprecedented change” as employers focus on aligning their reward and benefits strategies with wider business goals. Our research found that three fifths (60%) of employers' benefits strategies are currently not aligned with business goals.

The shift towards more inclusive and sustainable benefits continues alongside pressures to deal with the current pressing economic situation. 

ESG and purpose

Speaking at a recent REBA webinar on benefits redesign Rahul Ramaswarmi, head of benefits at SCB, described the firm's benefits as a “public declaration of company values”, and revealed that sustainability-focused benefits have been a key focus.

“Sustainability and the idea of purpose and profit resonates with us,” explained Ramaswarmi. “We need to be driven by more than just making money. That’s obviously key, but we also need a higher purpose in the profit.” He added that SCB publish “many reports” to hold themselves accountable, but that it is a journey that will constantly evolve. 

Talent and benefits 

Ramaswarmi highlighted that organisational perception of critical talent has shifted since the pandemic, especially for those in the banking sector. “The critical talent during the pandemic was our retail branch staff who had to be there to keep the banks going, so there is a fundamental shift in redefining what you would consider critical talent to be.”

Eight in ten (80%) of respondents to REBA’s research said that retaining talent was one of the top five influences behind changing their benefits strategy, and 75% cited attracting talent. Ramaswarmi added that SCB now looks at talent from the standpoint of “everyone is critical and has a role to play, and we want to empower them”. 

Dealing with change

Changing and redesigning benefits can sometimes provoke a level of resistance from your workforce, said Ramaswarmi. “In a large organisation, you’re always going to have a spectrum of people who embrace the change, or are indifferent, and those who are resistant to change,” he said.

“It touches on a point of how you can create a culture that allows change to thrive and be embedded in your organisation. One of the things we try to do is make sure it comes from the top. 

“Often, if you see your manager represent a certain behaviour then that behaviour gets replicated downwards. We tried to do with some of the initiatives is ensure we have senior sponsors within the business. 

“Typically, when you have that really senior level buy-in, it’s a lot easier to sell it across the organisation, as opposed to just rolling out a policy.” 

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