Diversity  

Race in financial services - levelling the playing field

These are ethnically diverse schools with many young black people often from working class backgrounds.

Urban Synergy is an amazing charity which helps put role models in front of young people aged 10-18 and provides one-on-one mentoring through a network of volunteers.

While it is not a scientific sample, in two years I have spoken to well over a hundred young people, only one has said they wanted a career in financial services.

It is not an industry young people see as obtainable, let alone aspire to.

There is little understanding of the industry, few role models, and the apparent cultural conservatism of institutions appears off-putting. So, few people try.

The city is only 12 minutes by train from Lewisham but it might as well be the other side of the world.

On the demand side financial services often recruits from networks it knows; certain schools or universities, from contacts already in the industry and it can be dominated by cultures which do not value diversity of thought or behaviour.

This tilts selection in favour of existing groups and away from the talent which exists in minorities. And believe me there is talent in those classrooms.

I have met so many kids who have every bit the smarts, energy and ambition that kids anywhere have, it is just that financial services are not on their radar.

My natural father came over from a Caribbean island as part of the Windrush generation when he was 16. He was the illegitimate son of a plantation owner and his mother was the owner’s maid. It was the oldest slave plantation on the island.

My natural mother who was a white English Londoner and also 16 got pregnant. Bringing up a baby as teenagers would have been hard enough let alone bringing up a mixed race child at that time so they put me into care where I was adopted by my parents, both of whom are white English. A vicar and a teacher.

Strangely I do not remember the topic of race coming up a lot as a child - our friends and community were from all over. I grew up thinking that was the way things were. Looking back I think childhood shielded me from what was really going on.

I went to a lunch at the House of Lords a few years ago to honour the work my dad had done for race relations in the borough. It did not really sink in at the time but racism was all around.

When I was 14 we moved to Surrey and I got a bursary to a good school. Without doubt I have had a privileged education. It wasn’t easy at first being the only person of colour in an almost entirely white school and there were a few boys who focused on the colour of my skin rather than who I was as a person, and that definitely hurt.