Financial Conduct Authority  

FCA's Bailey pushes for more diversity in financial services

FCA's Bailey pushes for more diversity in financial services

Diversity in financial services firms can help improve culture and prevent poor customer outcomes, the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority has said.

Speaking at a conference on culture organised by the regulator this morning (19 March), Andrew Bailey said there was a risk of "groupthink" in companies which have too many people from the same background.

He said: "I don't want, as a matter of personal choice, to work in an environment which is not diverse.

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"It would be dull, and it would be at risk of groupthink. We all need to be challenged, to avoid being set in our ways, and diversity plays an important part in achieving that."

Aside from an interim period from September 2015 to June 2016 when longstanding director Tracey McDermott headed up the organisation, neither the FCA nor its predecessor the Financial Services Authority has ever been run by a woman.

In January the regulator announced Charles Randell CBE would be its new chair. He will join from the Bank of England, which was also Mr Bailey's employer directly before he because chief executive of the FCA.

However Mr Bailey said the FCA has started using targets for gender and ethnicity and it reports its gender pay gap.

He also said the FCA's staff surveys consistently find strong scores for openness and tolerance within the regulator

"In order to properly understand and represent the public interest, we need as organisations – in the public and private sector - to bear a reasonably good resemblance to the society that we serve."

He said the revelations by FTAdviser's sister newspaper, the Financial Times, about the President's Club earlier this year should act as a "wake-up call" and said good culture needed to be nurtured.

Mr Bailey said: "There is also a much deeper reason why diversity matters, and why it must be part of our culture, in workplaces and in society.

"That is because it represents the commitment to equal opportunities to all in society.

"It doesn't matter what someone's background is, what their gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality are. We welcome such diversity of background and character."

Last week the FCA published a series of essays discussing culture in a bid to start a debate about how this can be improved.

The FCA said one of the themes to come out of this was that more regulation was not necessarily the answer and that rules could "only go so far".

damian.fantato@ft.com