Profile: Stephen Jones and the start of something new

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, explains how the institution is focused on rebuilding trust in the financial services sector
text by Bethan Rees; photography by Charlie Surbey

UK Finance has a significant role to play in financial services. The institution, formed by a merger of six individual trade bodies, represents close to 300 firms in the UK that provide credit banking, markets and payment-related services. Stephen Jones, former executive director and chief financial officer of Santander, is the head. 

Stephen’s role at UK Finance has evolved since its inception. Initially, he managed the integration of the six trade bodies: the British Bankers’ Association; Payments UK; the Council of Mortgage Lenders; the UK Cards Association; Financial Fraud Action UK and the Asset Based Finance Association.  

UK Finance was created after a 2015 review – the Financial Services Trade Association Review – found that a single body representing the financial services sector would have more of an impact and act more efficiently.

“The primary role of UK Finance is to help our members ensure that the UK retains its position as a global leader in financial services and to this end offers outstanding global, national, regional and rural coverage and infrastructure,” says Stephen.

UK Finance’s behaviour is a priority too: “We aim to be inclusive, collaborative and to act with one voice and integrity at all times. We are operationally efficient, results-driven and accountable, engaging only where we can make a difference.”
Creating the teamThe 300 (or so) members of UK Finance cover a huge breadth of sectors, from personal banking to commercial finance and wholesale capital markets, to specialist groups covering fraud and economic crime. 

UK Finance also has two separate advisory groups that represent consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): the Consumer Advisory Group and the SME Advisory Group. Gillian Guy, former chief executive of Citizens Advice, is chair of the former and Teresa Graham CBE, former non-executive director of the British Business Bank, chairs the latter.

“[The advisory groups] essentially inform everything that we do in the policy space for our members. In the consumer space, for example, this could be inclusion, vulnerability or capability. In the SME space, an example would be access to finance and dispute resolution. It’s good to have a close dialogue on this,” says Stephen. 

For the executive team, Stephen has had to consolidate six trade associations and six chief executives into a single organisation and leadership team with just one head. “It’s important for me that I established a senior management team around me who trust one another and can act interchangeably, to represent the company externally,” he says.

In addition to this, the UK Finance board has been developed to ensure senior and fair representation across the sector. It will also ensure the consumer voice is represented via the inclusion of a strong, independent consumer champion, while significant overlap of board members with the Banking Standards Board will support a close cooperation with its work to promote high standards across the sector. 

These members include Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, leading on diversity, and Clare Woodman, recently appointed as Morgan Stanley’s head for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, leading on ethics.
An emphasis on diversityUK Finance has committed to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, which is a pledge to work together with HM Treasury to build a more balanced and fair financial services sector. The Charter was a recommendation following a review by Gadhia into harnessing the talents of women in finance, with a focus on fairness, equality and inclusion.

Stephen Jones’ CV

July 2017–present: UK Finance, CEO

January 2017–June 2017: Capital Home Loans Limited, chairman

August 2016–June 2017: Cerberus Global Investment Advisors, senior adviser

2012–2015: Santander UK, executive director and chief financial officer

2012: Santander UK, director of strategy, corporate development and regulatory affairs

2009–2011: Barclays, head of investor relations

2002–2009: Barclays Capital, managing director

1987–2002: Schroders, various roles
UK Finance aims to have a 40% female senior management team within three years. “It’s not just about gender, but women in finance is a great first step. Diversity in general is important. If we make decisions that aren’t right for the wider community, we’re frankly cutting off our nose to spite our face in terms of the talent pool out there,” Stephen explains. Encouraging firms to bring gender parity to the forefront of discussion is also on the agenda. 
Improving the UK’s financial reputation One of Stephen’s objectives for UK Finance is to improve the image of the UK banking sector following the financial crisis in 2007–2008. “Banking, payments and finance is a trust business and trust has been, and is, dented by the banking crisis. I think all of the work we do has to be part of regaining or enhancing the trust that customers have in their banks, their institutions and the sector as a whole,” he emphasises. 

Leaving the EU will inevitably impact the UK banking sector in various ways, such as forcing relocation of operations, but Stephen doesn’t believe Brexit has affected the reputation of the UK banking system. 

“In the eyes of many people outside the UK, its reputation as a safe, stable and predictable place to do business may have been damaged. As a sector, we are part of helping those people who previously came to the UK to do business feel that we’re still a good place to do business,” he says. 

The months until the UK leaves the EU will be a testing time for UK Finance, and it’s likely we will hear much more from the finance and banking trade body ahead of Brexit.

The original version of this article was published in the Q2 2018 print edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'. 

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Published: 21 Jun 2018
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