Taskforce to improve diversity at top of financial services

PwC and Deloitte are among the supporters of a new taskforce set up by the Treasury which aims to improve socio-economic diversity at senior levels in financial and professional services across the UK

The move follows the publication of research showing that that almost nine in ten senior roles in financial services are held by people from higher socio-economic backgrounds, compared with a third of the UK working population as a whole.

The report, based on data from eight major employers in the financial services sector, also found that employees from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress, despite no evidence of poorer performance.

This ‘progression gap’ increased to 32% when considering those from lower socio-economic backgrounds who also identified as Black.

The analysis indicated that overall in the sector, just under half (42.7%) of senior roles were occupied by white men who attended an independent or selective state school.

The research was commissioned by the City of London Corporation, which will run the independent taskforce, which has been commissioned by the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

To tackle the lack of socio-economic diversity at all levels, the taskforce will lead an industry consultation on how government, regulators and sector bodies can incentivise firms to take action to improve socio-economic diversity.

It will create a membership body for financial services, where employers can benchmark against each other and share best practice on delivering socio-economic diversity at senior levels, and will also produce a productivity analysis, to build the business case for increasing socio-economic diversity at senior levels in financial and professional services.

John Glen, City minister and economic secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘We’re entering a new chapter for UK financial services and it’s vital that firms have the right leadership to grasp the opportunities ahead. That means taking action to ensure that talented people from all backgrounds and parts of the country can reach their full potential.

‘By breaking down socio-economic barriers to progression, our financial services sector will become more innovative and competitive, and help to level up the UK.’

The taskforce will be chaired by Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation and three co-chairs: Sandra Wallace, interim chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, and Alderman Vincent Keaveny, senior alderman at the City of London Corporation.

Full membership of the taskforce will be finalised in due course. It will be supported by PwC, Deloitte and MyKindaFuture.

The City of London Corporation will report back on the findings of the taskforce by November 2022, with the first formal meeting due to take place in May 2021.

Further reading:

Click here for Accountancy Daily’s - BAME firm survey 2020 - which analyses ethnic diversity within the UK’s top accountancy firms, data reveal partners and staff remain overwhelmingly white while Black Lives Matter movement forces concrete action.

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