Diversity in Financial Services

Diversity 2.0 – it’s time to look at the bigger picture

Cat Ommanney
Director – Financial Services, MHP

It’s time to move the conversation on from focussing solely on gender diversity within firms to encompass ‘diversity’ in a broader sense.

Diversity 2.0 – Changing the face of Financial Services

MHP's 'Diversity in Financial Services' event speakers explore how we can secure real change
The role of communications in addressing diversity in financial services

Over the last two years, the conversation around the gender pay gap and gender diversity within businesses has been steadily growing stronger. And rightly so, with the historic imbalance between men and women in the workplace a critical issue that is finally  being addressed.

While much remains to be done, gender represents just one part of the diversity problem. It’s time to move the conversation on from focussing solely on gender diversity within firms to encompass ‘diversity’ in a broader sense. This should include ethnicity, education, (dis)ability and sexuality, to name but a few, to ensure that the firms that operate in the UK are truly reflective of the customer base that they are serving.

Research by MHP into the top 20 firms within asset management, banking, fintech, pension funds and wealth management in the UK has revealed that gender disparity is only the tip of the iceberg.

When it comes to the make-up of executive boards, the vast majority of members are white, went to university and are male. Some of the key findings show that:

  • Only 7% of executives on boards at the top firms are BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), in comparison with 13% of the general population in the UK.
  • 80% of executives on boards at the top firms went to university. Across the UK public, this figure is just 49%.
  • Those who went to Oxbridge make up 15% of executives, compared with just 2% of graduates in the UK.
  • And gender remains a big issue at the top table, with women making up just 21% of executives despite representing 51% of the British population as a whole.

Looking more closely at BAME representation, asset management, wealth management and pension funds are incredibly underrepresented at executive level, with just 5%, 4% and a mere 1% respectively on their boards.

And when it comes to education, asset management boards again come bottom in the diversity rankings; one-fifth (21%) of those on executive boards went to Oxbridge and  a further 25% went to a Russell Group University.

Identifying the state of the nation when it comes to disability and sexual orientation is incredibly difficult, highlighting the first problem when it comes to diversity in its widest possible sense: we do not have an accurate picture from which to benchmark, measure and improve.

It’s clear that just because more people are talking about diversity than ever before, we are struggling to match the scale of the issue with a level of action which will tackle this once and for all.

Irrelevant of industry, if businesses truly want to provide the best service to their customers, they need to actually represent the audience they serve. Starting at the top, a diverse board will encourage diversity of thought which, in turn, will deliver better outcomes for customers and improved performance for firms.

We need to move on from recognition of the issue and start a conversation about the action we should take to tackle these challenges head-on.

MHP invited a selection of senior voices to share their insight into diversity and provide suggestions as to how we can create a more inclusive industry:


Diversity means embracing whole identity – who are you?

Marisa Hall
Director, Thinking Ahead Group (an independent research team at Willis Towers Watson) & Executive, Thinking Ahead Institute

Not just a social requirement but a commercial imperative

Tracey Davidson
CEO, Heartwood Investment, part of the Handelsbanken group

The challenges of installing long-term change in asset management

Hardeep Tawakley
Content Director, Incisive Works

Let’s talk about disability

Diane Lightfoot
CEO, Business Disability Forum

A gender-non-conforming perspective

Georgie Mitton
Investment Writer, Nutmeg

Are We Hitting the Target?

Liz Field

Don’t skip Leg Day

Ally Owen
Founder, Brixton Finishing School

Citywire Alpha Female Report 2019

Dr. Nisha Long
Head of Cross-Border Investment Research, Citywire

Putting inclusion before diversity

Jenny Whiteman
Director, Legal Services, Hermes Investment Management

The 50:50 Project

Angela Henshall
External Partners Manager, 50:50 Project

But what about the White Guy?

Bev Shah
CEO, City Hive

We hope that the perspectives offered in this research provide a small contribution to that debate.

If you are interested in learning more about #Diversity in Financial Services, we have also cultivated a list of accounts to follow on Twitter, using our own contacts, and our influencer identification software.