In the panel, ‘Beyond Lip Service: Advancing True Diversity in Fintech’ during IFGS 2023, panellists Lord Christopher Holmes of Richmond MBE, Sonal Lakhani, global head of fintech programmes and strategic initiatives for Barclays Innovation, Mary MacPherson, financial services sector lead at EY, and Damien Shieber, board member at Progress Together, explored how financial services can champion inclusivity.
Lakhani began by talking about female founders in fintech and fostering the inclusion of more female talent in the industry. She described an initiative by Barclays and Anthemis that conducted research into fintech founders and sought to encourage more women to engage with the industry.
She stated on the fund (to which Barclays has contributed $30 million): “Putting the stake in the ground, together with the Rise programmes support for scaling, we are de-risking the opportunity for female founders to start a company and have a network to support as they scale. The money is a good place to start but holistic support across the Female Founder journey is equally as important.”
Macpherson explained how EY sets the tone for a genuine ambition for diversity by emphasising diversity across gender, race, sexualities, social mobility, and other intersections. She stated that guidance comes from leadership and setting up expectations in the workplace that the workforce will be diverse is a significant step.
Transparency within the organisation is key, Macpherson highlighted: “Transparency comes in many forms. I think one is around pay in many organisations, it's an area of contention and sensitivity. There needs to be real transparency in the room of how people progress and are promoted. We are working very hard on that at EY and we have made the promotion process 100% transparent and open for all stages. Employees can see how they graduate and make partner. Across all promotion panels we have a range of different people that interview to make sure that bias is picked apart. There is a number of things that need to be activated, but it's a continuum. It can't be a one and done. It's something that we all need to focus on for a long time.”
On the involvement of policymakers when it comes to diversity and inclusion initiatives, Lord Holmes stated that everyone has a role to play. He stated that fintech is about approaching opportunities with different perspectives and that there should be a more thorough understanding and collaboration between fintechs and policymakers.
“There should be much greater understanding in all policymaking on this question of intersectionality, whereas if we just call that being human, it becomes quite straightforward. None of us are one-dimensional; we all have multiple characteristics. If we approach this through an understanding of what it takes from policy, what it takes for businesses to construct, to enable inclusive environments, we should be at the point where we do not need to concern ourselves about specific protected characteristics.”
Shieber spoke on the search for talent and making jobs in the fintech industry attractive for people to join. He described a paradigm shift in how people are looking at jobs, from wanting to work and the need to work and to bridge those two by cultivating the product. Shieber observed that bringing people into the space requires making those human connections, engaging in sponsorship and storytelling that give new talent real life role models.
Shieber advised: “Use your conversations to really attract people to your firms, but also at the same time to attract talent. The final thing I wanted to speak about is social mobility. This is a crucial element of DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] now because all of you in this room will have a social business background, and that will differ but it's about how we can get people together on this conversation.”