Race in financial services - levelling the playing field

Race in financial services - levelling the playing field

“Martin Luther King Is Slain” ran the headline in the New York Times on the day I was born.

That weekend in 1968 US cities were engulfed in violence in which 30 people died and more than 2,000 were injured in response to the shooting of Dr King.

52 years later the murder of George Floyd has led to people around the world asking tough questions about how much has actually changed in the US and indeed in their own countries including in the UK.

Black Lives Matter has raised consciousness about the uneven playing field that many black people face in all walks of life and in the workplace. I am not saying that discrimination against black people is any more poisonous or damaging than against other groups, discrimination of any kind is wrong.

It is though only more recently being understood how deeply ingrained it is in the western world.

Being mixed race myself I wanted to write about my personal experience in the industry I have worked in most of my adult life, financial services and its associated technology and I hope that in doing so it contributes to the discussion and action around how we can create a level playing field for all.

4.5 per cent of the UK population identify as black African, Caribbean or mixed-race heritage. I have not seen any surveys but my personal experience is that black or mixed race people in financial services are under-represented.

This is particularly so in wealth and investment management.  The contrast widens even more if you compare the industry in London to the population of London where 18 per cent of people identify as black or mixed race - the industry seriously lacks diversity.

I am proud of the diversity in our own company of 75 people, where 40 per cent of our team are women, 17 per cent are from non-white British backgrounds (25 per cent if you include all non-British) and 6.6 per cent, that is, five people are from black African, Caribbean or mixed race backgrounds, including me.

We are in many ways a reflection of modern Britain. We do though recognise that we have work to do to ensure that as we grow we continue to maintain and grow our diversity.

Does it bother me that entering a room in financial services I rarely see people who look like me? Increasingly it does.

I worry that the journey I have made was possible because of a good dose of privilege and is too hard for too many people because the playing field is far from even. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.

My experience is that under representation is a function of both supply and demand. Two years ago I started volunteering with Urban Synergy where I am now an advisory board member.

It involved going into schools in and around Lewisham, South East London where I spent my early years, talking to young people about career opportunities.