Finance firms should vote with their feet to prove the City is no place for prejudice

 
Iain Anderson
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London Supports Gay Pride 2017
The City is now a more open, tolerant, diverse place than ever before (Source: Getty)

I will be walking through central London on Saturday afternoon.

Nothing particularly unusual in that you might say. But this weekend I will be proud to stand with thousands of LGBTQ folks and some wonderful allies celebrating Pride in London.

In fact, I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with a FTSE chief executive who will be at the head of a large delegation of one of the City’s biggest investors, Aviva.

Read more: City stalwarts throw their weight behind Pride in London 2017

Before I march this weekend, tonight on Pall Mall I will be helping launch an initiative which would have seemed institutionally impossible just a few short years ago.

I will walk into the hallowed halls of the Institute of Directors – which currently boasts a Pride rainbow flag above its doors – to speak at the launch of “Pride in Business”, a fantastic initiative that will reach beyond the City and FTSE-land to Britain’s SMEs.

It is 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales – my birthplace Scotland took a little while longer. But the point is made. With equal marriage and workplace rights embedded in our laws, you might think there is little left to do. Not so.

Let’s start with the good news. The City is now a more open, tolerant, diverse place than ever before. The image of Gordon Gekko may remain in the headlines – and it was that image I met when I first started working around the City some 25 years ago – but the reality is quite different.

With FTSE chiefs happy to march as allies and amazing role models like Lloyds chief executive Inga Beale speaking out, much has been achieved.

City firms have also really started to embed diversity into their employment practices and networks like OUT-Standing, and bodies like the Corporation of London have helped drive awareness and blast away prejudice. But we are still on a journey 50 years after the legislation passed. In some places we are not progressing – we are even going backwards.

Earlier this year, I reported the launch of a “biblically responsible” fund to the FCA. That fund, which launched in the US, looks to screen out companies that are deemed to “participate” in the LGBTQ “lifestyle”. It marked a new low for financial services.

The good news was that the regulator thought that the fund might be banned in the UK under hate crime laws. For me, it also meant that this fund will also be locked out of most of the world’s top performing stocks. I call it hateful and stupid. But in 2017 the fact it exists at all shows there is a job for the City to do – and it must vote to kill off this nonsense.

While we can celebrate advances here in the UK, diversity is in retreat in many countries right now. Russia, and many African nations, along with even some Asian states, are engaged in a systematic – brutal – attack on LGBTQ people and their human right to live, love and work in the way they choose.

Global citizens – corporates and City firms – far from being “citizens of nowhere”, now have a duty to stand up and use their economic, supply chain and lobbying power to support diversity in all the territories in which they invest. It is time for the City to vote with its feet for diversity.

Read more: #Podcast: Sexuality and the City - being LGBT in the Square Mile

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