Banking

UK banks told to break ‘class ceiling’ with new targets to boost diversity among senior hires

The U.K.’s financial services sector has been issued new targets for at least half of senior leaders to come from working-class or lower socio-economic backgrounds by 2030.

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LONDON — The U.K.’s financial services sector must do more to “break the ‘class’ ceiling,” according to a government-backed task force, with new targets calling for at least half of senior leaders to come from working-class or lower socioeconomic backgrounds by 2030.

The City of London Corporation, the governing body that oversees the U.K.’s finance industry, said Wednesday that the moves were crucial not only for improving boardroom diversity but also for boosting growth in the sector.

In a new report, the governing body’s “socio-economic diversity taskforce,” which was commissioned in 2020, outlined a pathway for firms to ensure that accents and parentage do not dictate workplace progression.

“We need to break the ‘class’ ceiling — removing unfair barriers to progression is not only the right thing to do, it will enable firms to boost productivity, retention levels and innovation,” Catherine McGuinness, chair of the task force, said.

Falling short on diversity

According to the study, around half of all U.K. financial services employees are currently from non-professional backgrounds, defined as working class and intermediate backgrounds. Yet, they tend to progress 25% slower than their peers.

Just over a third (36%) of those employees manage to climb the ladder to senior levels, the report said. Meantime, employees from non-professional backgrounds tend to get paid up to £17,500 ($20,890) less per year, with zero links to their professional performance.

The report also said that the U.K. has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world, meaning “those who are already economically advantaged tend to stay at the top”. 

For too long, personal growth has been constrained by people’s socio-economic background.

Andy Haldane

co-chair of the socio-economic diversity task force, City of London Corporation

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