Young Enterprise boss urges financial firms on DE&I

Sharon Davies

Sharon Davies

Numerous sectors across the financial services industry are falling short on diversity and inclusion.

According to a recent report by financial service professionals Reboot, just one in three UK workers believe that their company is fully committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion.

Almost 50 per cent of ethnic minority employees have likewise claimed that their career progression has been unequal to that of their white colleagues. 

With gender and ethnicity pay gaps still existing in the financial sector and many financial boards lacking diverse representation, the key to generating sustainable change will be focussing on the next generation of workers and ensuring that hiring practices and career pathways into financial services are inclusive to all.

There are several ways in which this can be done. 

Industry and sector‑based initiatives, such as the Women in Finance Charter, the Race at Work Charter, and the Social Mobility Task Force, have provided optimism that the sector is making collective progress, but more work is needed, particularly against the backdrop of the pandemic.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has been a catalyst for the digitalisation of society, a process that has significantly altered all industries and left many confronting a digital skills shortage in their talent pipeline.

Finance is no different. With the world becoming increasingly cashless, and transactions rapidly occurring through digital mediums, financial service companies must do more to prepare the next generation of workers for the challenge ahead.

Not only will this equip today’s young people with the financial capability and knowledge to avoid the potential pitfalls of cryptocurrency scams and buy now pay later schemes, but it will also help enable them to consider prospective career pathways in the financial industry. 

Through our corporate partnerships, we have seen first-hand the benefit of connecting financial firms with schools across the UK and educating young people with financial skills.

Employers can play an important role in bridging the gap between the labour market and young people, particularly in our overlooked and underserved areas where young people may not have ready access to appropriate guidance and support.

We know that young people learn best when faced with real-world and relatable scenarios, and that’s why, through schools-based learning, corporate partners can, quite literally, facilitate opportunities that can transform lives, and build futures, by providing young people with real, relevant, and meaningful workplace training.

Following government pledges to address inequality, there is also scope for financial services firms to ‘level up’ the UK, by supporting financial capabilities and encouraging young people to think positively about their own financial futures.

While companies need to engage with schools, they also need to create equal pathways post-education.

This can be achieved by updating recruitment practices, so they actively focus on inclusivity and recruiting professionals from a range of backgrounds. Initiatives such as those recently announced by KPMG, for instance, that set a target for the number of employees from working-class backgrounds, are a welcome step change.