Diversity in Financial Services

Not just a social requirement but a commercial imperative

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

True diversity and inclusivity can benefit us all by providing a variety of input, opinion and challenge that brings value to every part of a business; not just client relationships.

In the financial services industry we all understand and respect the role diversification can play within business. By diversifying the source of income a business can better resist financial strain, just as diversification in an investment portfolio can smooth out market volatility. So on reflection, I am surprised that our industry hasn’t already achieved diversity in the workplace.

Our clients, who after all are the reason our industry exists, require us to work with their best interests in mind. And in order to do this, we need the very best relationship with clients and be able to demonstrate that we genuinely understand their needs. I believe that a diversified workforce is needed to best provide clients with the relationship they want and positively influence the design and effectiveness of the services provided.

I am not talking about just having gender equality but a workforce that can reflect the client base it represents. True diversity and inclusivity can benefit us all by providing a variety of input, opinion and challenge that brings value to every part of a business; not just client relationships.

I believe that to achieve this, a business needs a robust corporate culture. By that I mean a corporate culture and not a boardroom dictat that is recently composed and handed out in a leaflet for employees to follow, then reinvented every time you have a change in leadership. A robust culture needs time to embed. It has to permeate the business and soak into the walls until it is simply ‘the way we do things around here’.

I often get asked what should be done to gain more traction toward this goal. In my business as well the majority of the industry, we have work to do. I see it quite simply: only by knowing and more importantly demonstrating that we have an attractive environment, can we hire and retain the best employees to serve our clients. And by doing this we will make great progress. I see the financial industry and wealth management in particular as positive career choices for individuals who want to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Wealth management can be a force for good. It can help families plan and secure their future, advise inter-generational change, promote philanthropy, sustainability and spread knowledge about share ownership and involvement in providing for one’s future. It is an admirable profession that provides real value to people and a profession that should be a
goal for today’s students.

There are plenty of external eyes observing how our industry works with this challenge today; many voices demanding that we do better; because of that, I view diversity in the workplace as not only a social requirement but a commercial imperative. And I further believe that firms that achieve these two things will strongly outperform and maybe outlive their peers.

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