DEI scores of financial services firms fall in Reboot survey

Score regresses two points from last year

Glass ceiling looking onto a bigger office building

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The average DEI score for financial services firms has regressed by two points in the past year, from 67 to 65 in Reboot’s race to equity index, showing no improvement over the time the survey has been conducted.

The score is determined by a survey of 800 employees, who have been in the industry for at least 10 years. This year received the same score as when the report started in 2021.

While 81% of respondents believed that if CEOs and leaders took real steps to address racism it would have a positive change across the organisation, 40% said their leadership was not sufficiently committed. Almost half of this group believed this was because leaders did not fully understand the impact racism could have. Elsewhere, 43% said leadership could fear backlash.

See also: ‘A step in the right direction’: FCA bids to boost diversity and inclusion in financial services

Eunice Zhu, executive director of Derivatives Counterparty Risk Trading, SMBC Group EMEA and Reboot ambassador, said: “As an ethnic minority, the survey’s revelation of persisting inequalities in the UK’s financial sector is deeply disheartening. It’s a clear indicator that more proactive and effective strategies are essential to truly embrace diversity and combat systemic biases.”

The survey found that 75% of respondents did find leadership committed to DEI initiatives within the workplace, and almost 80% promoted an inclusive culture.

However, barriers remained within leadership and mobility within the companies. Over half of those surveyed reported a lacking network to move up within their career and not enough role models to identify with. Ethnic minorities are currently represented in 32% of senior positions, a marginal increase from 2021’s 29%.

Mona Patel, head of external communication at Metro Bank and Reboot ambassador, said: “Time and time again we hear about the scarcity of role models from minority ethnic backgrounds. It’s not a quick or simple fix. We need better pipelines so that entry level opportunities are filled with a diverse range of people. Then we need to layer that with actively monitored career and talent progression so that any early signs of discrimination and bias are caught and addressed.”

A key area Reboot has identified to narrow this divide is pay gap reporting. But while 63% said they would be willing to share personal pay information, another 33% said they would not want to share this information to create ethnicity pay gap reporting. Just 18 of the FTSE 100 companies were willing to disclose their ethnicity pay gap information as of April 2023.

Justin Onuekwusi, CIO of St James’s Place and co-founder of #TalkAboutBlack, said: “If more financial services firms willingly publish data on pay gaps, we can begin to build momentum and demonstrate the feasibility of reporting. In doing so, the sector could showcase the value of reporting for all industry sectors and potentially help pave the way to a fairer society, better businesses and a more successful economy.”

Reboot set out a six-point plan based on the results, which include higher CEO influence, leadership and communication training, an increase in ethnicity pay gap reporting, action and accountability including a zero tolerance policy for racism, collaboration among employee diversity groups, and transparency about initiatives.

Noreen Biddle Shah, founder of Reboot, said: “This year’s results show a lot more still needs to be done and structural change is key to moving the needle. In its recent consultation, the FCA demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of the nuances surrounding progressing DEI.

“It pinpointed the need for better data and acknowledged that for ethnicity, it should be broken down with sufficient granularity. They have also highlighted the importance of having the right tone coming from the top – very much mirroring the findings of this year’s report. We hope the conclusion of the consultation will include a mandatory reporting process involving the publishing of data, a narrative around that data and an action plan to show how this will progressively improve – tracked year on year to ensure accountability.”

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