Boosting diversity and inclusion in financial services: putting principle into practice

by | Nov 4, 2021

Traditionally the financial services sector has been slow to embrace diversity in the workplace. In this blog for Wealth DFM, Steve Butler, CEO at workplace savings and investment business Punter Southall Aspire, shares his best practice ideas to help business leaders in the investment and savings industry encourage change and improve diversity and inclusion.

There are some great examples in our industry of women, people from minority backgrounds and people from a much humbler economic background than mine who are in senior roles in the investment and savings sector. Those people are few and far between though, and their road has been far more uncertain and arduous.

Importantly, an unknown – but certainly large – number of talented people have never even entered our industry, let alone fulfilled their potential in it, because of the roadblocks in their way. Those people have taken their talents elsewhere.

The investment and savings sector has a problem with minority groups. As an industry, it is nowhere near representative of the population as a whole, and the figures speak for themselves. In London, where the majority of fund managers are based, 18.5% of the population is Asian and 13.3% is Black. Yet, in the fund-management industry, 10% of individuals identify as Asian and only 1% identify as Black.

The proportion of female fund managers in the UK has hovered at around 10% over the past four years, and just 4% of money managed is overseen exclusively by women. The pay gap between men and women in fund management is actually the second largest of any sector in the UK, with only investment banking registering worse figures.

In spite of some progress, there is still a long way to go for that awareness and support to translate into more people from diverse backgrounds entering and progressing in the sector. It is fundamental to embed inclusiveness into organisational culture if we want diversity and inclusion to be more than a window dressing. It is critical that this cultural change happens on many levels.

Within my own organisation we have been on a journey of trial and error over recent years. It is safe to say we still have a long way to go, and the diversity statistics do not tell the story I would like. But we do have an inclusive culture which welcomes new joiners from all backgrounds and supports people’s career. There is a real desire by everyone in the business to remove historical barriers to progression wherever they exist.

Inclusive culture informing management structure

In common with the rest of the industry, we didn’t have enough women making leadership decisions. So we replaced the existing all-male executive committee with seven operational committees. This led to more diverse, multigenerational teams contributing to business strategy.  Where it had been zero, women now participated at management level in 38 per cent of discussions. Our colleagues told us they felt more valued and more confident as they were shaping decision-making in a way that strengthened their career horizons and ambitions.

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