Mortgage industry diversity survey launched

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Mortgage industry diversity survey launched
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The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) has launched a survey into diversity, equity and inclusion across the mortgage sector.

The trade body has called on directors, managers, and advisers, as well as broker and lender staff, to offer up their thoughts around the topics.

Lenders Aldermore and Virgin Money are helping AMI conduct the survey, which is being compiled by an independent research agency.

“This is a subject that evokes significant emotion,” said Robert Sinclair, AMI’s chief executive, who hopes this survey will offer “tangible changes” to how member firms and lenders “embrace society”.

Sinclair continued: “Much of the agenda is being driven by the younger generations and it is up to those of us who have been in the industry longer to accept the challenge, to keep up and to stay relevant.

“We’re looking to understand how inclusive our industry is and whether we can do more to help firms achieve diversity of thought and an inclusive culture.”

FTAdviser understands the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) is also "in the planning stages" of looking at ways to improve diversity and inclusion, both among its representatives and their respective businesses.

Cassie Stephenson, director of mortgages at Mojo Mortgages, welcomed AMI's research. 

“When I entered the mortgage industry in 2015, I was surprised at how much work still needed to be done with diversity, equality and inclusion," she recalled.

"It has definitely improved since then but I still see pockets of issues and a lack of diverse candidates applying for roles - we need to be questioning why they feel they cannot apply. 

Digital mortgage broker Mojo, which was bought by Uswitch owner RVU earlier this week, became a fully remote team during the UK's successive lockdowns.

Stephenson said recruiting fully remotely meant Mojo was "able to open up to more diverse backgrounds, as well as allowing further flexibility to include different work styles".

Historic biases

One area of recent study on diversity in the wider mortgage market - affecting consumers rather than just employees - has focused on lenders’ use of artificial intelligence.

A government review of bias in algorithmic decision-making published in November 2020 highlighted the “increasing” use of machine learning in front-office areas such as credit scoring to issue mortgages.

It concluded that AI-powered decisions “are being made in the context of a socio-economic environment where financial resources are not spread evenly between different groups”.

As a result, it warned: “If financial organisations rely on making accurate predictions about peoples’ behaviours, for example how likely they are to repay debts like mortgages, and specific individuals or groups are historically underrepresented in the financial system, there is a risk that these historic biases could be entrenched further through algorithmic systems.”

The Bank of England also published a paper on discrimination in the mortgage sector last month, but this focused on price dispersion.

“Although it’s illegal to vary menu prices by certain individual characteristics (such as gender, race, or IQ), [lenders] can price discriminate by altering the characteristics of the mortgage contract presented to borrowers,” the central bank found.

The AMI’s survey will look into how mortgage-related lenders can achieve “diversity of thought” and “inclusive cultures”, two factors which play a part in making mortgage products themselves more diverse.

The trade body's survey also follows hot on the heels of a wider industry discussion paper published by the Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority and Bank of England earlier this month setting out plans to improve diversity and inclusion in financial services.

Policy options included the use of targets for representation, with measures to make senior leaders directly accountable for diversity and inclusion in their firms.

These measures included linking remuneration to diversity and inclusion metrics and the regulators’ approach to it in terms of non-financial misconduct.