Diversity in Financial Services

Are we hitting the target?

Liz Field

There is clear evidence that more inclusive management structures contribute positively to company profitability.

Over the last few years, Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has rightly become a key focus for our industry – but are we hitting the target?

Indeed, what target are we trying to hit?

In 2015, women held only 14% of executive committee membership, filled just 10% of all leadership roles across finance and only 10% of UK management jobs were held by members of the Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) community. In 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority’s Megan Butler highlighted that only 13% of FCA-approved individuals in trading firms were women and that figures for the wealth management and financial advice professions were only marginally better.

However, this lack of progress is not due to a lack of effort. Industry-wide – as reflected by PIMFA’s membership – there is a plethora of initiatives attempting to address the issue, such as awards, charters, corporate partnerships with dedicated groups and ream upon ream of copy. We ourselves have run a Women in Wealth forum for the past four years, signed the flagship Women in Finance Charter and this year organised our first Diversity and Inclusion conference, supported by, amongst others, the City Minister, the Right Hon John Glen MP and Financial Conduct Authority CEO Andrew Bailey. It remains a topic frequently discussed at my Board and the response I get to the D&I activities we engage in is overwhelmingly supportive, which says to me that we need to carry on. To this end, one of PIMFA’s Manifesto commitments is to build a sector for the future that is diverse and inclusive.

Where we are winning is in the wider acceptance that D&I is good for business. There is clear evidence that more inclusive management structures contribute positively to company profitability. It beneficially affects the perception of our industry, which is vital given our need to both attract talent and serve customers, whilst research also shows that more and more people want to work for diverse and inclusive organisations. All this indicates a clear direction of travel.

As I have previously highlighted, we believe that the upcoming introduction of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR) should help significantly in the incorporation of D&I in an organisation’s core corporate culture, particularly in the areas of training and recruitment, but I also believe that we as an industry must not allow this issue to slide into a box-ticking exercise. It is also possible that an element of “issue fatigue” is beginning to affect attitudes.

In essence, this is all about individuals. When we get to the point of truly understanding another’s view point, of accepting the value their thinking can bring to an organisation, then we might be able to make significant progress. The tick-box targets might obscure the inherent value that people can bring to our businesses. Perhaps we should be talking about individualism, not diversity and inclusion; that way individuals could feel comfortable, with the right culture, in being themselves at work, leading to a more dynamic working environment and making recruitment into our industry much more appealing.

We must not be afraid to try out different approaches to this – only by trying will we see if an approach works. By managing expectations of our teams, we gain commitment to the attempt. If it fails, then we learn by that failure and try something else. This is not always the type of culture we have in our sector but one, I feel, that we need to nurture.