By Noor Zainab Hussain and Esha Vaish
(Reuters) – Virgin Money <VM.L> on Thursday appointed former HSBC <HSBA.L> executive Irene Dorner as chairwoman, creating a rare female duo at the top of one of Britain’s FTSE 350 listed companies.
Virgin Money had said in October it was in talks to hire Dorner, who will join Jayne-Anne Gadhia who is the first female CEO of a listed British bank.
Dorner joins Virgin Money’s board as chair elect and takes over from outgoing Chairman Glen Moreno on March 31.
Dorner held many roles at HSBC, including chief executive of HSBC USA, and has also been a non-executive director at French insurer AXA <AXAF.PA> and British engineering group Rolls Royce <RR.L>.
“Irene brings a wealth of experience and expertise in banking and financial services … I am proud to be leaving a strong and diverse board,” Moreno said.
Gadhia has been an advocate for greater representation of women in senior roles in Britain’s financial services sector, where the four big banks all have male chief executives and chairmen.
Women directors are still relatively few in Britain despite government efforts to encourage companies to appoint more.
Dorner’s appointment would make Virgin Money the only FTSE 350 company to have an all female duo at the helm.
Gadhia oversaw the creation of the government’s Women in Finance Charter in 2016, which had 162 signatories as of November, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch <BAC.N> and Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE>. http://bit.ly/2o0LNps http://bit.ly/29niise
Theresa May, who became only the second female British prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, has criticized the finance industry for failing to promote and retain women and the government has a voluntary target for FTSE 350 companies to have 33 percent women directors by 2020.
There were only 38 women in executive directorship roles in 2017 across FTSE 250 boards, accounting for just 7.7 percent of the overall board representation, according to a report by Cranfield University and University of Exeter.
Based on the information in that report, Dorner would be only the fifth female executive director of a FTSE 250 finance company.
Other senior women in finance include Ana Botin, who is executive chairman of Santander <SAN.MC> and Inga Beale, who is CEO of Lloyd’s of London .
Last December, London Stock Exchange Group <LSE.L> appointed Val Rahmani as an independent non-executive director to its male-majority board.
Britain’s finance industry has also faced criticism for lack of transparency about ethnic diversity in management. Britain’s two biggest banks, Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L> and the Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> having recently set diversity targets.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jane Merriman)