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Diversity schemes in banking & finance

Finance firms, professional services firms, consultancies, and banks are making big efforts to implement diversity schemes throughout their organisations. What does this mean for you as a young potential candidate for their roles?

Diversity and inclusion

The mantra at the forefront of all things diversity in banking and finance is "diversity and inclusion". "Diversity" promotes equality and challenges discrimination in the work place in all areas of working life, from recruitment right on through to the treatment of minority groups in the workplace on a daily basis and in matters of dismissal. Vinay Kapoor, Americas Head of Diversity & Inclusion for BNP Paribas, once described these terms as follows: “Diversity is like being invited to the party; inclusion is getting everyone to dance!”

There are a number of aspects that are a focus for diversity:

  • Social mobility
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Marriage

All organisations, including those in the banking and finance industry, are legally obliged to adhere to The Equality Act 2010.

Cracking stereotypes

There are stereotypes of the banking and finance industry that still exist. It’s generally viewed being heavily male-dominated and quite elitist, and it can’t be ignored that the majority of board members in finance firms are white, heterosexual males. (The banking and finance industry is not alone here; recent statistics show that there currently only six female CEOs in the FTSE 100, and over 50% have a background in finance. So still plenty of work to be done all round!)

There are, however, a growing number of initiatives working away in the industry to combat these stereotypes and help to swing the tide in favour of more diversity and inclusion within banks and finance firms. The majority of firms now recognise the business advantages of having a diverse work force—particularly considering the global nature of the work many of them do.

It’s starting at university level. Nowadays, it’s quite common to find a branch of your finance society and/or careers services at university that focuses specifically on encouraging diversity in the industry. Whether it’s through careers advisors or bespoke events organised by the university with industry representatives, you’ll find that there are often arranged talks and bespoke careers advice available for minority groups interested in banking and finance.

Diversity events

If you’re on the lookout for a career in finance, it’s worth noting that there are a number of firms that now run diversity events that you can get involved in. These are an opportunity for you to network with people in the business, find out more about how they made it, and learn more about career paths and partner level opportunities in that organisation. So start researching your potential employer shortlist and find out what they’ve got planned; the chances are there may be an event taking place near you which applies to you, or even at your university—particularly if you’re thinking of a roles with one of the Big Four firms.

Internal diversity networks

Once you bag your role in finance, the diversity work doesn’t stop there! Internally, many organisations within the finance industry now have a number of support networks or committees for their employees dedicated to different minority groups. For example, there may be groups for parents, women in business, employees with disabilities, different faiths, black employees, LGBT+ employees, and other nationalities within the organisation.

These networks provide a channel for open discussion, promotion of help and advice, and an opportunity to connect with others within the business who are based in different offices in the UK—and even in other countries!

There are also employee-led initiatives that spread across offices nationwide to encourage awareness on issues such as race, gender, LGBT+ equality, and  different religious and ethnic backgrounds in the form of seminars, presentations, and open discussion events.

Industry-wide initiatives

You’ll also find that professional bodies within the finance industry may have diversity initiatives of their own which can also provide you with further opportunities to network and voice your opinions as you progress through your career. There’s the ICAEW’s Women in Finance network for instance, as well as not-for-profit membership organisations like Women in Banking and Finance.          

You’ll also find forums online on a variety of diversity issues in finance hosted by national publications, such as The Guardian and the Financial Times; the platforms are there to make voices heard and to continue to challenge industry stereotypes.

There’s still some way to go in the industry when it comes to diversity, but things are changing in company policy and support networks are becoming an integral and integrated part of the modern, forward-facing finance firm.

By Jos Weale

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