Socio-economic diversity: attracting talent and sharing opportunity

14 June 2022

Ensuring that our industry has access to a wide and varied talent pool is critical to the success of financial and related professional services, and economies and communities in every region and nation of the UK.

As the battle for skills and talent becomes even more competitive, it is vital that organisations can access every possible source of human capital. A recent report by the Financial Services Skills Commission, which TheCityUK co-sponsors, revealed that 71 per cent of the financial services CEOs surveyed were concerned about the availability of key skills.

Other research has also outlined the scale of the challenge. Research undertaken by the Bridge Group in 2020 found that:

  • 89 per cent of those in senior levels across eight financial services firms are from professional backgrounds, compared to 52 per cent of UK CEOs and 37 per cent of the UK working population
  • people from lower socio-economic backgrounds take 25 per cent longer to progress, with no link to job performance
  • ‘fit’ and ‘polish’ have a greater impact on career success than ability.

We are playing our part in addressing this vital issue in partnership with the City of London Corporation. In November 2020, Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned the Corporation to lead an independent taskforce on socio-economic diversity. I am a member of the Taskforce and other TheCityUK members support various projects and workstreams.

To ensure that our industry has a strong input into the debate, we convened a series of virtual roundtables in different regions of the UK, using our network of City Chairs in significant financial and related professional services industry hubs, from Bristol to Birmingham, Cardiff to Belfast, Manchester to Leeds and Newcastle.

It was clear from these various discussions across the country that whilst there being a broad degree of agreement about the importance of increasing representation amongst the workforce of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, there was also big differences amongst the firms represented as to where they were in this journey and the approach they were taking to tackle these issues.

Something else that struck me was intersection between the different kinds of diversity – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.  Whilst there remains much more to do in all of these areas, they have now become a mainstream part of any organisation’s thinking about diversity, inclusion and recruitment and many firms in our industry are making important progress.

Above all, these events reinforced for me the importance of this agenda if we are to continue widening and deepening the pool of talent and perspectives which help to make our industry the engine of growth across the country. We will continue to contribute to this agenda and will work with our member firms in taking them forward the Taskforce’s recommendations, when it concludes its final report this autumn.

Emma Reynolds photo
Emma Reynolds Managing Director, Public Affairs, Policy & Economic Research

Emma Reynolds is the Managing Director of Public Affairs, Policy and Research and has held this position since June 2020. Prior to joining TheCityUK, Emma was the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton North East from 2010 until 2019. During that time, she held various shadow ministerial positions including Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Shadow Housing Minister and Shadow Europe Minister. Emma was also a member of the House of Commons Health and Exiting the EU Select Committees.