By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse has carved out a new role to lead its handling of sexual harassment claims and examine group-wide policies, as Switzerland’s second-biggest bank seeks to boost equal opportunities and create a fair treatment environment.
The appointment of Antoinette Poschung to the new role of Conduct and Ethics Ombudswoman comes after Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam tasked the bank’s conduct and ethics board to review the bank’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.
In particular, Thiam in March vowed a “thorough review” of the bank’s handling of a former employee’s sexual harassment case, related to a 2010 incident the woman said had been mishandled under previous management.
That case will be further reviewed by Poschung.
“A few months ago, I had asked Lara Warner, Peter Goerke and Romeo Cerutti to review our global approach to the handling of claims of sexual harassment at Credit Suisse,” Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam said in an internal memo seen by Reuters, referring to the co-chairs of the bank’s conduct and ethics board and its general counsel.
“Having concluded their review, they have made clear recommendations which we will be implementing with immediate effect.”
The initiative comes as the financial industry seeks to boost workforce diversity under growing awareness of adverse conditions that have held back women and minorities, and as more women step forward with accounts of misconduct.
Most banks do not have a dedicated person dealing with sexual harassment claims but deal with them through their human resources departments or confidential internal hotlines.
Banks such as UBS and Citi have senior roles and teams responsible for broader issues related to diversity and inclusion.
Poschung, currently Head of HR for Corporate Functions, will be responsible for reviewing all sexual harassment claims as well as conducting a bank-wide review of training practices and global policies.
“Her role is to serve as a point of immediate escalation when sexual harassment claims arise and to ensure there is appropriate senior management awareness of and attention to such claims,” Thiam said in the note.
“From now on, all cases of this nature will be managed and heard at the Global Conduct and Ethics Board before any final decisions are made,” Thiam said in the note. “Our goal is to ensure fair and consistent treatment of all employees across all our geographies and activities.
(Additional reporting by Emma Rumney and Maiya Keidan; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Kirsten Donovan)