Opinion  

It is fundamental to embed inclusiveness into organisational culture

Steve Butler

Steve Butler

I am a white, middle-aged man, with nothing that would count as a disability.

I am not an obvious champion for diversity and inclusion. However, my journey to becoming chief executive of an investment and savings business with 150 staff tells its own story. 

I attended state schools. Neither my parents nor my grandparents had a university education. A combination of this, my own lack of maturity and some dismal A-level results meant I never went to university either. Instead, I started my career at age eighteen as an office junior with an insurance company called AXA Equity and Law in Southampton and worked my way up. 

The question I ask myself is this: would I have got where I am today if I had been black, female or living with a disability, or perhaps all three?

There are some great examples in our industry of women, people from minority backgrounds and people from a much humbler economic background than mine who are in senior roles in the investment and savings sector. Those people are few and far between though, and their road has been far more uncertain and arduous.

Importantly, an unknown – but certainly large – number of talented people have never even entered our industry, let alone fulfilled their potential in it, because of the roadblocks in their way. Those people have taken their talents elsewhere. 

The investment and savings sector has a problem with minority groups. As an industry, it is nowhere near representative of the population as a whole, and the figures speak for themselves. In London, where the majority of fund managers are based, 18.5 per cent of the population is Asian and 13.3 per cent is black. Yet, in the fund-management industry, 10 per cent of individuals identify as Asian and only 1 per cent identify as black. 

The proportion of female fund managers in the UK has hovered at around 10 per cent over the past four years, and just 4 per cent of money managed is overseen exclusively by women. The pay gap between men and women in fund management is actually the second largest of any sector in the UK, with only investment banking registering worse figures.

Other specific comparators are hard to establish because of a lack of granular data. Look around you (or around your screen in your next Zoom or Teams meeting) and check, for instance, how many of your colleagues have a visible disability. Across the economy, slightly more than half of disabled people were in employment (53.2 per cent) in 2019 compared with just over four out of five non-disabled people (81.8 per cent) and there is no reason to assume that the situation is any better in our own sector.

Despite the educational, demographic and cultural shifts across society that we have witnessed in recent years, it is still far more difficult to rise to the top in the financial services sector if you do not come from a narrow band of the population: white males from wealthy backgrounds, privately educated, with a degree from a select group of universities.