Britain has a long and proud history as a host and venue for financial activity from across the globe.
The benefit this brings to our economy – through tax receipts, growth and well-paid jobs across the country – is profound.
But in this world of growing competition – not just from New York, but Europe, Asia and beyond – the sector simply cannot afford to ignore the full potential and talents of the British people.
If the City is to continue to thrive in the 21st Century it needs more people like Tracy Garrad.
Tracy started life in a council house in Blackpool, and the family got by with her father working as a bus driver and her mother taking on part time jobs to top up the family’s stretched income. When Tracy was just 17, her mother died, forcing her to leave school to care for her siblings.
Tracy eventually became the chief executive of AXA Health, a world leading health insurer with a turnover of billions.
How did she get there? Hard work, talent and determination – from her first job in customer services to working her way up through Santander and HSBC.
However, Tracy was also given that chance – the sector saw her potential and gave her the opportunity to thrive. Tracy’s first employer recognised her talent and supported her to attend college and eventually secure a company sponsorship to study at London Business School.
Tracy’s story – from an ordinary working-class background to a leader in finance – represents Britain at its best.
But her journey is all too rare in our country today.
The ambitions of many working-class children are held back by the “class ceiling” – the feeling that environments like the City aren’t for them, and the pernicious idea that background equals destiny.
This isn’t to say that the financial services sector hasn’t made progress in recent years.
The City of London’s socio-economic diversity taskforce found that about half of all financial services employees were from non-professional backgrounds, but it also found that they progressed through companies far more slowly than their more affluent peers.
While Progress Together, an organisation working across the UK financial sector to drive socio-economic diversity at the senior level, found that 9 in 10 senior leaders in financial services come from affluent backgrounds.
This “class ceiling” is a waste of Britain’s full potential.
If we want to get the UK growing again and ensure that we remain a leading financial centre, we must build on the talents of all the British people, wherever they started in life.
Keir Starmer has made clear that one of Labour’s five missions for Government is to break down barriers to opportunity at every stage.
And that’s why Labour is committed to working with partners such as Progress Together, who share the Party’s mission to ensure this country and its people are no longer held back by the circumstances into which they are born.
Politicians, the City and regulators need to get their act together to ensure that people of all backgrounds are promoted in finance. We must smash the class ceiling for once and for all. The future of the financial services sector and our wider economy depend on it.