Gay Huey Evans
Chairman, London Metal Exchange
Gay Huey Evans is the first woman to be appointed chairman of the London Metal Exchange (LME), taking on the role in 2019. She holds a number of non-executive director positions including Standard Chartered and ConocoPhillips. Evans has over 30 years' experience working within the financial services industry, capital markets and financial regulation.
Could you say a little about your own career?
I graduated with an Economics degree from Bucknell University and my first job after university was with PaineWebber. After being transferred to London by Bankers Trust in 1991, I went on to hold numerous roles within banks and financial services. In 1998, the newly formed FSA (now the FCA) approached me and asked me to join them as a regulator. One aspect of my role at the FSA, which I enjoyed very much, was the oversight of London exchanges, and that included the LME. I was and continue to be fascinated by what it means to have and maintain a fit and proper market. We all want a market that is accessible and transparent and not open to manipulatio – one that we can trust.
What do you consider your greatest achievements and ambitions?
I am, of course, hugely proud to be chairman of the LME, although my daughter would tell me my job can't possibly be one of my greatest achievements! My ambitions include supporting [the LME's] major technology infrastructure rebuild that we're currently undertaking, which involves the launch of a new electronic trading platform. Being at the forefront of technological innovation is more important than ever – not only for the purposes of market protection but for market development. Sustainability is another area where the LME has really thrown down the gauntlet with its responsible sourcing work and I am hugely ambitious about what we can achieve to push the agenda further.
How do you view the level of gender diversity and inclusion generally in the metals industry, and at the LME?
It's clear that across the industry, there is a gender imbalance, but also an overall lack of diversity. I am passionate about bringing not only more women into commodities but more diversity. The LME has been doing a lot of work internally on its diversity and inclusion strategy. We now have a diversity and inclusion forum and networks run by employees that focus on building and championing a diverse workforce – including race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, social mobility, disability and mental health. We became Stonewall Champions last year – which means we actively participate in driving accountability for the delivery of the LGBTQ+ agenda.
How have these concepts progressed at the LME?
Our gender pay gap in 2019 was 19.4% at the LME – lower than the average in financial services, but certainly still higher than where we want it to be. The LME has three key areas of focus when it comes to rebalancing gender within the business – attract, retain and promote. We have succeeded in attracting more women to the business over the past few years, particularly in the last year, where 48% of new hires were female (up 6% on the previous year). We've implemented new interview practices to ensure fair gender representation on all interview panels, and all senior management have had unconscious bias training, which we';re now rolling out to all managers company-wide.
We've partnered with the organisation CodeFirst: Girls, to sponsor a group of women to undertake IT coding courses, which addresses issues around attracting women to what have come to be considered as more "male" roles.
Finally, there's promotion, which is key in getting more women into senior roles. More than half of our senior management promotions last year were for women and I hope to see this trend continue. Currently 33% of our senior leadership team are female, which is up 6% on the previous year, but we are committed to driving this higher.
What did your experiences working in regulation teach you about creating cultural change and lifting standards in an industry?
One thing I learned early on was how technology, properly harnessed, can be immensely helpful in lifting standards. Technology allows us to track improper behaviour and inaccurate information, but we have to understand how to use it properly because technology can also be used to manipulate the very markets we strive to protect.
I see the protection of the marketplace not just as the job of the regulator but as a collective effort that market participants want to be part of. So I'm really supportive of the market conduct work the LME is doing right now – particularly the working group that's being set up to look at how market abuse may arise in the metals markets and how we and our members and end-users can remain equipped to manage this.
In the years since the global financial crisis, people's awareness of reputational risk has clearly changed. Businesses are now far more aware of reputational risk and how powerful this can be – and we can see that at play in the ESG movement right now.
I do believe that greater diversity in senior management teams will have a positive impact on decision making – how could it not? Every company should be asking themselves, "Where is the diversity in this conversation"
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
We took the decision early on to adopt a working from home policy, and we won't be asking staff to come back to the office until it's safe to do so. I've been really impressed with the way people have adapted over this period – it's very encouraging to see staff so invested in their work and in maintaining the orderly functioning of the market.
It was no mean feat to switch from Ring to electronic pricing in the space of a week, but the transition was remarkably smooth. We completed an electronic price discovery trial last year on our nickel contract, but we didn't realise at that point that we'd have to implement it across all of our metals so soon afterwards! So we are extremely grateful to our staff and to our Ring dealing members for enabling such a seamless transition, and we're really looking forward to reopening our open outcry floor once it's feasible to do so.
What are some of the LME's current projects?
One of our most significant new projects is our trading infrastructure refresh programme, which forms part of the wider HKEX Group strategy to leverage technology to modernise the core business.
Following introduction of our responsible sourcing requirements in October last year, we are expanding our focus on environmental sustainability – particularly in respect of aluminium - and supporting the global transition to a low-carbon economy, including the possible introduction of a scrap aluminium contract to support risk management.
We're exploring ways to enable customers to procure metal with their required characteristics, such as low carbon, through the exchange of warrants on a spot trading platform. Earlier this year we signed an MOU with the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) to underpin collaboration on responsible aluminium value chains.
It's clear that all of us in the metals and mining industry have to start planning for a sustainable future if we haven't already begun. There's a need for challenge in order to innovate, and I'm glad to be chairman of a company that embraces these challenges and I'm excited to see where we will go next.
Interview by Diana Kinch