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FCA sticks to bias training despite govt 'phase out'

FCA sticks to bias training despite govt 'phase out'

The Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service will continue with unconscious bias training, despite a government report in 2020 warning of 'negative consequences' and advising for it to be phased out.

According to two Freedom of Information Act requests by PanaceaAdviser, sent in July and August this year, the City watchdog confirmed it would still press ahead with such training.

However, the FCA could not quantify any costs involved in carrying out the training, nor state any definitive benefits.

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It also said it did not have any data by which results could be measurable or quantified.

Unconscious bias training is designed to raise awareness of biases that could negatively affect a staff's decision making and behaviour. It seeks to ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviour. 

The FCA stated it measured inclusion based on answers to statements such as: People here are treated fairly regardless of their age; People here are treated fairly regardless of their race or ethnic origin; and People here are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation.

However, it said there was no financial value attached to this.

Responding to Derek Bradley, chief executive of PanaceaAdviser, the FCA's September response said: "There are no internal costs other than resource costs, which cannot be calculated due to various individuals working on ad hoc bases."

When asked what elements of consumer detriment and regulatory failings could have been prevented by such training, or how the integrity of the UK financial system has been enhanced, the FCA said: "We can confirm that we do not hold the information you have requested."

Nor did the FCA answer why the courses were still being run, given the 2020 government directive to phase out such courses.

An additional FOI sent to the Financial Ombudsman Service brought about a similar response, saying it did not hold the information asked for and was not "required to create new information in the form of providing commentary to answer a request". 

Bradley commented: "One could be forgiven for thinking that, in both cases, it seemed a good idea at the time, on message and all that, but no thought about why it was done beyond ticking a woke box.

"In a written ministerial statement on unconscious bias training last year the government stated that 'Unconscious bias training [that] typically aims to raise awareness of the potential biases and cognitive shortcuts, which may negatively affect decision-making and behaviour in the workplace was to be scrapped for all civil servants'.

"This sounds like government-speak for 'it’s a complete waste of time and money'. If ever there were an example of regulated firms' time and money being wasted, one would be hard pushed to find it.

"If the only reason to do it is to tick a box marked inclusivity and you don’t know how to measure the success of such training, don’t bother doing it."