On 7th July, the FCA, PRA and Bank of England launched a discussion paper on the subject of diversity and inclusion within Financial Services. The paper invites comment from industry stakeholders around the disparity in the level of gender equality and pay and the general lack of diversity throughout financial services businesses. Attempts to bring a renewed focus and vigour to the issue is to be welcomed; a more comprehensive representation of society within financial services disciplines can only be positive, ensuring that all customer demographics have a voice in how financial services products, proposition and innovation evolve in the future. Therefore it is paramount that the regulators themselves lead by example and address disparities in their own organisations, to set the tone appropriately for the rest of industry. Evidently, we all support more focus on the subject and the discussion paper is a step in the right direction.

Where is this already being addressed?

Perhaps one of the greatest areas where there remains a significant imbalance is in the provision of financial advice. We have seen several attempts by industry bodies and individual companies to drive increased diversity across paraplanners, advisers and principals to ensure that those seeking advice have access to a broad and representative range of trusted advisers. We have seen programmes like the Diversity Project, creative utilisation of the Apprenticeship Levy to encourage women into leadership roles in financial services businesses, and local schemes such as PFS efforts which aimed at attracting people from all backgrounds into financial advice, all start to address the skewed ratio.

Why does it matter?

Because nothing can compare to face to face advice. Access to expertise that can look at a holistic array of personal (and family) circumstances remains beyond a robot and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. Therefore driving people towards more traditional forms of advice that are built upon the foundations of relationships, emotional intelligence – this is insight that you simply can’t garner from a conversation on the phone or via a computer. It must be at the heart of the future advice proposition and this can only mean one outcome; a more balanced population of advisers and planners from all walks of life who are given the skills, the opportunity and the investment to build a career in financial advice.

How can you achieve this?

The drive for greater diversity and gender representation in the financial advice domain needs to start in schools, colleges and universities. Money, investing, the markets and personal finance management in general should all play a more active role in the education curriculum at all levels, to not only build a baseline understanding of some of the key concepts of financial management (a life skill we all need to learn and apply when we leave education), but to encourage people to see the career opportunities that exist that will encourage more people to think about embarking on their journey towards a role in financial services and advice. That way, irrespective of upbringing or privilege, the concept of financial advice being a career (and a well paid one at that!) will become more mainstream and we’ll begin to see a broader spectrum of talent starting their career in the industry. It’s imperative that the FCA, Government, industry and the education sector come together to build a pathway from school into higher education, apprenticeships and beyond that clearly sets out the steps that interested students can progress through, regardless of their background, race, gender or upbringing.

At Simplify we’ve always been advocates of bringing talented individuals into Financial Services, either through our own recruitment development programme or through supporting the Future of Wealth programme. Our approach has always been and will always be inclusive; supporting talent regardless of age, gender, race or sexual orientation to forge a career in our industry. We always encourage fresh perspectives on such topics, so we’d love to hear from you and your experiences, so do visit our website to learn more www.simplifyconsulting.co.uk or get in touch with us on email at info@simplifyconsulting.co.uk

Kate Monserrate