Diversity and Inclusion  

Diversity and inclusion needs a two-pronged approach 

Noel Butwell

Noel Butwell

There are times during the year when the importance of diversity and inclusion is brought into focus: International Women’s Day, Black History Month, Pride – to name but a few. 

Events like these are essential, and help us reflect on how to better champion and support people from every walk of life. But, ultimately, it is what we do on a daily basis that really counts. 

The savings and investment world has a lot of ground to cover. 

Good work is being done to tackle this issue. But to make real and lasting progress, diversity and inclusion must be ingrained into everything we do. Every decision we make must consider those that have, and continue to be, marginalised. 

This is, above all else, the right thing to do. But it is also an issue of preservation. If our industry does not continue to improve its reputation, we risk alienating the people we need to make our businesses fit for the future. 

Every sector is becoming more technology-centric, making the war for talent fiercer than it has ever been. Against this backdrop, providers and advisers alike cannot afford to deter anyone with the skills they need to innovate, anticipate and evolve in line with customer expectations. 

We need to make diversity and inclusion matter at every level to avoid limiting the pool of talent we have access to, with far-reaching industry initiatives and targeted internal changes that deliver results.   

A two-pronged approach 

Diversity at a senior level is key. You cannot be what you cannot see. Diverse role models show that career progression is possible for everyone, both at a specific organisation and within the industry that organisation operates.  

I recently joined the City of London Corporation's independent taskforce to boost socio-economic diversity at senior levels in UK financial and professional services. 

Between now and November 2022, the taskforce will challenge the lack of career progression for those coming from non-professional backgrounds and explore the intersections with other protected characteristics, including gender and race.

I look forward to reporting on the taskforce’s progress, but the industry will not change if we only take a top-down approach. The onus is on individual companies to embed diversity and inclusion across their entire organisation. 

We have had great success directly involving our employee networks – which are made up of a third of Standard Life Aberdeen’s workforce – in the development of our diversity and inclusion action plans, but also in the design of specific policies and processes. 

The networks helped shape our parental leave policy and support ongoing efforts to hardwire diversity and inclusion into our HR processes, such as talent and recruitment. For example, we now use software to remove gendered language from our job adverts, encouraging a more diverse set of applicants.