Launching the inaugural Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association (PIMFA) Wealth of Diversity Conference, John Glen MP, economic secretary to the Treasury and City Minister UK Government, urged financial firms to narrow the gender gap and neutralise ethnic biases in the workplace in order to dive innovation.
Referencing Charles Babbage’s 1864 book Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, in which he said that “on two occasions I have been asked, - ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figure, will the right answers come out?’”, Glen suggested that before intelligent technology is adopted by traditional financial players, diversity and inclusion within the workplace needs to be prioritised.
Glen said that “the hallmark of a civilised society is ethics” and added that “a diverse workplace promotes innovation”. Alongside this, he said that as per Forbes in 2017, “inclusive teams make better business decisions” and McKinsey claims that closing the gender gap could result in £150 billion.
The business case is irrefutable, but women only make up 14% of executive committees. The UK Treasury has therefore launched a Women in Finance charter so that global banks and fintech firms can develop and implement an inclusion plan.
Glen suggested that when recruiting new staff, rather than choosing based on personality, evidence-based interventions should be made to achieve gender parity and promote the progression of minority groups.
“Everyone has a role to play and my challenge for everyone in the room is to drive change. Does your organisation know you care about this and will you hold them accountable?” Glen questioned the audience.
Tracey Davidson, CEO, Heartwood, part of the Handelsbanken Group, then provided a view from Scandinavia and stated that Sweden was a country in which gender equality has been nurtured, using data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Analysis to prove her point.
Davidson explored how transparency is key and this is a good tool to assist with the challenges around the gender pay gap. However, in the UK, the long shadow of Brexit looms and concerns about immigration are thought to be impacting diversity. In conversation with Liz Field, CEO of PIMFA, she mentioned that “the more diverse you are as a workplace, the more you can relate to the diversity of clients that you look after, so it’s fundamentally important from a business perspective.
“Brexit is part of a skills and talent discussion more broadly, but we do have a talent and skills shortage within our sector. You’ve got to look beyond your four walls.
“In terms of free movement of labour, that’s the issue for us in terms of Brexit because two thirds of the employers we work with and their employees are based outside of London. You’re more aware of the international flavour of the workforce in London, but there is more diversity outside of London, just because of the nature of the work. But, Brexit will mean we are continually fighting for skilled workers.”