What the advertising industry can learn from the banking sector

Afua Kyei, CFO of the Bank of England shares leadership tips at the IPA’s Talent and Diversity Conference.

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


The banking sector and the advertising industry may seem like worlds apart, yet both industries play a pivotal part in the lives of consumers and influence the day to day running of society as a whole. Where the banking sector is reliant on public trust, the advertising sector

At the IPA’s Talent and Diversity conference Creativebrief’s Editorial Director, Nicola Kemp sat down with Afua Kyei, CFO at Bank of England to learn about her journey into leadership. A conversation which focused on what the advertising industry can learn from the banking sector when it comes to creating a better, more inclusive workplace.

Kyei's impressive CV is filled with a list of enviable achievements. From studying chemistry to going on to become a chartered accountant. She smashes the stereotype that women become less ambitious after they have children, having met the Chairman of the Bank of England and making the decision to take on the role of CFO as her maternity leave came to an end. Aged 36 she was the youngest executive on the team, the only person of colour and the first black executive the bank had ever appointed in its 329-year history. 

It comes as no surprise that Kyei’s to-do list is long and so Kemp asked about what’s on her ‘to-be list’ in terms of vision. In terms of her approach to talent and leadership Keyi’s goals are equally as ambitious as her achievements.

We need role models, to make it so there is no glass ceiling - show people like me progress, seeing is believing.

Afua Kyei, CFO at Bank of England

Kyei shared that her attraction to the banking sector grew from a love of doing purposeful, impactful work. Where her first passion for chemistry flourished from a desire to be a doctor and wanting to help others, this same passion for people is evidenced in her work at the Bank of England. She notes that the Bank holds a huge amount of public trust and the responsibility of having decisions that can impact society; a responsibility which she does not take lightly. 

The Bank of England is present in some of society’s most testing moments from tacking a time where inflation reached a 40 year high, a cost of living crisis and war in Ukraine that saw the bank freeze the assets of Russian banks. “We have the ability to respond to crises, during Covid we were making judgements on monetary policy to maintain financial stability” she shares.

To take on work that has such a real-world impact and takes a huge amount of public trust, Kyei must first build up trust with her team. This is done through a leadership style that is open, accessible and present. “Anyone can put time in to talk with me. Speak openly and freely” says Kyei. By creating this environment of trust, teams are able to be versatile and adapt quickly to challenges. 

Inclusive leadership

In her remarkable career, Kyei is no stranger to being the ‘only’ in the room, and is a champion of diversity in all forms. At the Bank of England, 50% of the executive team identify as women and this has been imperative in creating a leadership team built up of what Kyei describes as ‘complimentary’ traits. “Leaders need to have a mix of both processes; being results-driven and compassionate,” says Kyei, underlining the fact that stereotypically masculine or feminine traits cannot work in isolation and that well-rounded leaders are able to be multifaceted.

A large part of Kyei’s to-be list is ‘getting under visible and invisible diversities’ to create a team that reflects the society it aims to serve. To do this, Kyei says “We need role models, to make it so there is no glass ceiling - show people like me progress, seeing is believing.”

In a post-covid world, Kyei is aware that work is not just about getting the job done. “People care about lives and want purpose. They come into work and want to be themselves,” she says. Modern leadership is about more than building up a team and monitoring productivity, health and wellbeing are priorities. 

Learnings from another industry

The advertising industry has a lot to learn from other sectors, as other sectors can learn the power of communication and from advertising. Kyei remarks on the strength of stepping away and taking a macro view of industry to see that there is so much to be learnt from one another. The Dove real beauty campaign is an example of impactful communications and the strength of promoting a positive narrative. Seeing the way the campaign enabled people to embrace the best version of themselves from body positivity, hair positivity and breaking down damaging social media beauty standards has been inspiring for Kyei in her own work.

Equally, Kyei shares the way in which the advertising industry can learn from the banking sector. As part of her role, Kyei has spent time working at the banks in branches and seen first hand the international community the bank serves each and every day. At these branches, the staff wear badges labelled with the flags of the country that each staff member is able to speak the language of, which quite literally enables them to communicate and help customers. Connecting the needs of customers in a practical, actionable way shows how diversity and inclusion works in practice. Kyei urges the advertising industry to also make DEI a strategic priority to ensure work can reflect the community it serves. 

Pay, progression, promotion

Where industry leaders continue to face challenges motivating teams, learning and development and progression and promotion are Kyei’s simple solutions.

In thinking about learning and development opportunities she urges businesses to think carefully about who is given what opportunity, reminding leaders that what is easy isn’t always what is right. Approaching progression and promotion through a more inclusive lens means thinking about the things that might impact the performance of an individual and then working to create the conditions where people are able to thrive. Networks and mentorship is a great way of doing this and looking to the bank’s parent network to listen to their needs has helped shape policy such as harmonizing parental leave for all. 

Leading with passion, listening to create policy and approaching leadership through an inclusive lens means that Kyei’s impressive achievements are not entirely out of reach for all leaders.


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