May 16, 2016

Michael Cole-Fontayn: On the business case for strengthening mental health support

Michael Cole Fontayn

Michael Cole-Fontayn

Mental health challenges represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with one in four people experiencing a mental health issue during their life.  In light of these alarming figures, there is growing awareness across society of the need to help each other manage the stresses of modern life.

With the start of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK today, I want to highlight not only the strong social reasons for addressing mental health issues, but also share what I see as the important business case for businesses to invest in the mental wellbeing of their employees.

Every year, according to the OECD, the UK economy loses as much £70 billion, around 4.5% of GDP, due to mental health issues.  UK-based employers lose £26 billion per year, an average of £1,035 per employee. The health challenge underpinning these figures threatens our ability as businesses to maximise performance and manage risk as well as attract and retain talent.

In London, talent is a core reason why we are among the leading financial services centres in the world. A recent study from Deloitte found that London’s ability to attract and develop leaders makes it the most internationally diverse global city, with business leaders from 95 nationalities. If we agree that talent is a key differentiator, then nothing could be more important than enabling our employees to thrive at work and in their personal lives.

Empowering our employees to bring their best selves to work means caring for their whole selves. Financial services is a rewarding and challenging industry. We attract professionals who want to tackle the biggest problems and reach the highest levels of professional service.  Still, we know that stress accounts for 35% of all work related health cases across the UK and that a stigma persists around the discussion of mental health and how it impacts our personal and professional lives.

Research from the Priory Group found that 71% of people fear a negative response if they tell their employer about a mental health condition or challenge. Nobody wins in this environment, but businesses also stand to lose more than we currently concede if we do not face up to the challenge that mental health poses.

At BNY Mellon, emotional wellbeing is one of the four main pillars of a global wellbeing strategy which we will launch later this year across our global network. This is a further step in our efforts to drive greater openness around mental health and offer our employees the tools and support to proactively and effectively manage mental health.

This week, I am hosting a breakfast with leaders of the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), a collaborative venture supported by City businesses, including BNY Mellon, and two leading UK mental health organisations, Mental Health First Aid and Mind. Together with the other businesses in CMHA, we are working to build a culture of good mental health for City workers, share best practice and increase mental health understanding.

At our breakfast, I plan to speak with these leaders about the strong business case for the investments we are making in mental health prevention and the need to share success stories to further grow investment in mental health across our industry. We cannot expect to realise the full potential of our employees and our businesses until we do so.