Tony Hazell  

There is no excuse for extent of Gender pay Gap

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

Financial services is well on the way to earning another unwanted distinction, that of having one of the largest gender pay gaps across British industry.

Employers with more than 250 staff have until 4 April to reveal the gaps between both the median and mean salaries and bonuses for men and women. Around 9,000 firms should have to report, but some seem reluctant to come clean.

Data compiled by The Sunday Times revealed a 27.1 per cent mean gap in salaries of those who had published by the start of this month. The bonus gap is 55 per cent. It is likely to get worse as investment banks and asset managers report. 

Hermes Investment Management, for example, reported a 30 per cent mean gap, while Barclays’ international division reported 48 per cent. To put that in perspective, construction comes in at 18.1 per cent and manufacturing is at 11.1 per cent. The Office for National Statistics estimates the gap for all full-time workers is 14.1 per cent.

If you are one of the bosses who has helped contribute to this gap then pause a minute to hang your head in shame before reading on. Apparently some firms are delaying publishing because they fear they are in breach of the Equal Pay Act, which has been on the statute books for a mere 48 years.

No doubt all sorts of excuses will be trotted out. But the reality is that the top levels of financial services remain a male-dominated, privately educated fraternity.

Visiting an industry event is like wading through a penguin colony on the South Pole.

Most financial advisers will be exempt from revealing these figures because they are too small. But take a look at yourselves anyway. 

Are you employing enough women in senior positions? Are they being paid the same as men in equivalent roles? Are there opportunities available for career advancement?

These things should all go without saying in 2018. Sadly, in the world of financial services, that plainly is not the case.

Equitable Life’s denouement

Equitable Life has haunted my career. I’ve invested with them, written reams of stories, been threatened by their lawyers and watched their near-collapse.

Now we appear to be drawing towards the denouement of one of the great personal finance scandals. This one had it all. A board consumed with hubris, regulators who were not up to the job, government maladministration and articulate investors prepared to put up a fight.

Equitable Life traded on a reputation for not paying commission to financial advisers, though its own sales force was very well rewarded while the bosses luxuriated in a swanky headquarters. Regulators barely cast a glance their way as they offered unfeasibly good guaranteed annuities and then proceeded to renege on them by manipulating terminal bonuses.

Such was their arrogance, they even took themselves to court to test the validity of what they were doing. And lost.

The rest is history for those of us who got out. But 300,000 investors of the original 1.5m have stuck with Equitable – a mutual that once boasted assets of £26bn. They could now get to share what is left as it prepares for a potential sale. Current policy values are estimated to be roughly £15,000 and the assets are around £6bn – so any pay-out should run into the small thousands.