Monday 29 March 2021 6:00 am

Corporate diversity: The City must keep working to enable fair access to everyone

Last week, our nation came together to mark the anniversary of our first national lockdown. The National Day of Reflection was a time for all of us to reflect on the year that has passed and how dramatically our lives have changed. 

As we look ahead towards the coming months, many will be wondering what the lasting impact will be on our country, our economy and our way of working. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the repeated message I hear is that businesses and families alike want to use the current situation as an opportunity to “build back better”, and return to a fairer, greener and more efficient community.

Such an ambitious task, however, will require everyone to roll up their sleeves and make their contribution. Businesses in the financial and professional services will play an important role in driving the recovery.

With unemployment at its highest rate for almost five years, businesses should seize the opportunity to ensure fair access to the sector for everyone.

For the country to be globally competitive and maximise productivity, boost our economy, and ultimately create jobs, we must take a long hard look at who “gets ahead” and how to ensure the whole country benefits of the opportunities the sector has to offer. 

Recent research carried out by the Bridge Group has shown that 89 per cent of senior positions in financial services were occupied by people from professional backgrounds, defined by what occupation their parents held aged 14-years-old. That is nearly three times the level in the general UK working population. The research revealed that those from low socio-economic backgrounds take 25 per longer to progress in their careers. This gap, which could not be explained by performance, increased to 32 per cent for people from the same background from black communities.

In response to these figures, the City of London Corporation announced, late last year, the launch of a Government-backed taskforce to boost socio-economic diversity in the financial and professional services industry. It will help those from lower income backgrounds to reach their full potential. Our invitation to financial and business leaders across the nation to join us in our mission to make this vision a reality was met with enthusiasm and we were delighted to receive an overwhelming number of applications. 

Last week, a group of 30 influential individuals were appointed to join the taskforce, each member sharing the same vision for equity of progression – where high performance is valued over “fit and polish”. Their experience and knowledge will be vital to making the taskforce’s work a success, by informing, influencing and improving diversity at senior levels within their own organisations and beyond.

I am excited to see what lies ahead as we enter a new chapter for UK financial services. Now more than ever, our country needs the best talent, from all walks of life, to address the big issues we are facing. 

Big issues will need big ideas and those will only come with the full potential of diverse talent this country has to offer. The City must ensure that talented individuals from all walks of life and backgrounds can succeed.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.