Two thirds of UK minorities experience discrimination in finance: ‘They aren’t welcomed at the golf club’

Two thirds of ethnic minorities working in UK financial services have experienced discrimination in the workplace, according to a sweeping new survey that highlights how far the industry still has to go on racial diversity.

City workers from ethnic minority backgrounds remain sceptical that their organisations are committed to diversity and inclusion, while nearly half of the 800 respondents surveyed by Reboot, a network of senior financial services professionals, believe that their career progression has been slower than their white colleagues.

Reboot, a group aiming to increase conversations around race in the workplace, surveyed 800 financial services professionals from 440 companies, from large to small boutiques for its Race to Equality report. 66% of respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds said they had experienced discrimination in their careers.

“The figures in this latest report are sobering,” said a senior Black financial services professional working in financial regulation. “They indicate that we’re still only just starting down a very long road and that much has to be done by senior leaders – and I include myself in that – to build trust and define what a healthy, inclusive culture truly looks like.”

READ London has 650 senior investment bankers – only three are Black

Many financial services organisations have been more vocal about their commitment to racial diversity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, revived by the death of George Floyd by police last year, and have pledged to increase Black representation.

However, the survey shows that financial services professionals from ethnic minority backgrounds remain unconvinced that senior leaders within their organisation or the companies they work for are really pushing for change.

Just 36% of respondents said they believed their organisations were ‘fully committed’ to diversity and inclusion, while 51% said they thought their senior leadership believed diversity was critical to the future of their organisation. Meanwhile, 48% of ethnic minority respondents said that their career progression was slower than their white peers.

Ian Clarke, a former HSBC banker who produced a 48-page report into race at the UK lender and now runs diversity group DEIlight Consulting, said ethnic minorities are excluded from the helping hands often given to their white colleagues that help career progression.

“The managing director who takes a white analyst under his wing because ‘that was me when I was young’. The CEO who offers a white associate a leadership position after playing golf with her parents. These systems don’t exist for ethnic minorities because glass ceilings block the path to MD and they aren’t welcomed at the golf club,” he said.

READ One ex-HSBC banker’s quest to expose racism in finance: 300 hours for six months, and it ‘almost killed me’

Reboot has called for a five-step process to become more inclusive employers, which includes shaking up recruitment practices, listening to employees, updating training and development programmes and having visible senior sponsors throughout the firm.

“What we really need to see is clear direction and action from senior leadership, coupled with a culture shift that empowers middle management, introduces accountability within companies themselves, and ultimately encourages people in the industry to acknowledge there’s an issue and embrace the benefits that racial and ethnic diversity can bring,” said Sachin Bhatia, head of core institutional and consultants at Invesco.

“Business leaders need to listen more closely to their employees and pay particular attention to the individual needs of each, not applying a one-size-fits-all approach,” added Justin Onuekwusi, head of retail multi-asset funds at Legal & General Investment Management.

There remains a key shortage of ethnic minority employees within UK financial services organisations, Financial News research has shown. Just three of the top 650 dealmakers in London are Black, while just 12 fund managers are Black, according to 2018 analysis by think-tank New Financial.

“Organisations must enact effective targeted policies, procedures and initiatives that can mitigate the systems of discrimination, otherwise they face deteriorating productivity and mounting systemic risk alongside an exodus of minority talent,” added Clarke.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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