By Josh Warren
Service Delivery, Client Services at Société Générale

Diversity breeds success 

Companies with more diverse workforces outperform their less diverse peers in terms of profitability, output, and ROI. In fact, McKinsey found that in 2019, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. 

Profitability aside, diversity makes for a more creative environment, and a more attractive employer brand. A team with one shared background is likely to think in the same way. With different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences and neuro-diversity within a team, that group is better at thinking outside the box, examining situations from different angles and bringing fresh solutions to the table. 

On top of profitability and creativity as reasons for increasing the level of diversity within your organisation there is the challenge of simply finding enough people with the skills, strengths and capability you need. When it comes to increasing the flow of talent into financial services organisations, diversity should be an essential channel.  

DEI&B has come a long way in the financial services industry over the past 10-15 years. 

The Women in Finance Charter, launched by HM Treasury to redress the gender imbalance in financial services, currently has over 300 firms signed up - evidencing the collective commitment amongst firms to occasion real change. And partnerships such as ELBA (East London Business Alliance) have been created to engage people from low-income backgrounds, who have the talent, but have not had the opportunities.  

Early Talent 

To grow organically, organisations in the financial services industry must continue targeting talent at school, college, and university level. And with competition for UK talent tightening at every turn, it is the ideal opportunity to position your firm as a seriously competitive employer of choice for everyone.   

The industry must also think about targeting potential talent much earlier. Take your story to school leavers and those looking for apprenticeship schemes, work experience and placement years. Banks need to expand the focus beyond the UK’s elite universities and widen the net. 

Looking back 25 years, financial services organisations were not competing with the likes of Google, Amazon, or Facebook for their talent. These now globally dominant tech firms are still seen as innovative, and often a first choice for up-and-coming digital talent as well as the fast growing, pre-IPO tech firms offering stock options to the more adventurous job seekers.   

To stay relevant and competitive, Banks need to have clear pathways for career progression. Early talent wants the opportunity to study and gain industry recognised qualifications. Organisations need to offer structured schemes with a focus on learning and development, and networking opportunities. Many investment banks use the Apprenticeship Levy to fund industry-recognised qualifications, creating a positive candidate experience, and a strong employer brand.   

It is also important to maintain a presence in universities. This is not just about attending campus events anymore – that’s old school. You need to be working with societies and encouraging people from all levels of your business to speak at universities. Try inviting universities to networking events you host, virtual or real life.  

Many banks hold networking events targeting female graduates to come to hear from female stakeholders about their experience. The graduates hear first-hand what a career in banking is like and about what opportunities are available. This is something that really resonates with young people. It is how you get talent into your organisation, and how you position yourself as an employer of choice. 

Supporting employee wellbeing  

Another critical component of strengthening your employer brand is through a commitment to employee care. We know that mental health is high on the agenda of every visionary leader in these turbulent times, and we are seeing Banks accelerating support for employee mental health, it is crucial to communicate that in your EVP. The offer of 24-hour helplines would be a great step forward,  

Banks need to champion a healthy work/life balance, and before the pandemic hit, only a small number promoted flexible working. The option to work from home needs to be open to everyone. Ideally with no rigid restrictions in place so employees take ownership of when they need to be in the office. 

Employee Resource Groups (ERG)s  

To truly embrace DEI&B and employee wellbeing and help retain the talent you’ve worked so hard to bring onboardreally focusing on your Employee Resource Groups (ERG) is essential – particularly in our increasingly virtual worldThe networks or ERGs that we see most often include ethnicity, gender, generation, religious affiliations and LGBTQ+. We’re increasingly seeing interest-based groups such as the environment, carers, family and wellnessThese networks act as a real source of support for employees who want to connect to people who may be going through similar life experiences and have the most impact when a Senior Leader who has an affinity with a particular group acts as champion 

Through increasing the diversity of your incoming talent and creating a deep sense of inclusion and belonging once they are in your organisation, you will gain from heightened profitability and creativity, you’ll develop sustainable pipelines of talent and increase the productivity and retention of your people.