Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021

The push for diversity in Financial Services recruitment is increasing in momentum. Certain sectors in the financial world could do better but most are making strong progress. We are delighted to support the diversity programmes of our clients as it gives them access to a wider talent pool and we know that it pays dividends for all parties.

“If you go out to hire people who are just like you, it’s unlikely you’re going to solve a problem that people just like you haven’t already solved,”

Patty McCord former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix.

Skills and Traits

The pandemic has driven change across most industries. When people were first required to work from home there was a big focus on how we would work in the future and this has remained very relevant. Resilient individuals who are flexible and well-adapted to change have become even more important. Being tech-literate has also become more important than ever, from junior roles right up to executive and board level. The requirement for tech-savvy, adaptable individuals is a tangible leveller because these skills are not the preserve of those who traditionally benefit from unconscious bias, so strong demand tends to see barriers to entry being removed. In this way, the pandemic has supported the drive towards a more diverse financial workforce.


It is not just the question of how we work but also why we work that has come to the fore. As the enforced isolation of 2020 led some people to question what they wanted from their lives and careers, it has also seen many emerging in 2021 with a stronger idea of what is important to them. A background context of fractious social discourse, polarised division, and pessimism about climate change have led to people wanting to feel that their work contributes to a greater good. This has seen a wider section of the workforce adopting the millennial mantra of “purpose over paycheque.”

The Great Reshuffle

Combined effects of the how and the why have now led to talk of the “great resignation” or “great reshuffle” where 25% of people are planning to change roles and there has been a 54% year-on-year increase in people changing their job titles on LinkedIn. Proactive diversification of the workforce can be an important aspect of talent strategy in this context because as diversity is achieved, it becomes a strong symbol of a company that is making headway in the right direction and helps to retain or attract other workers who are motivated by purpose.

Authentic Purpose

The core activity of Financial Services is to make money from money but the sector has been adept at presenting itself in a positive light and it can be responsive to change. While the investment world has seen the development of numerous alternative funds, Retail and Corporate Banking has undergone a period of repositioning where money is made by providing value rather than from applying penalties, transparency has improved and, despite branch closures, there have been strong efforts in terms of accessibility.

There are two external factors underpinning this. One is that any potential “scandal” will come to light far quicker than PPI or endowment mortgages did, with damaging consequences. The other, more relevant to Financial Services Recruitment, is that in any situation where an addressable market segment is missing out on finance, accessibility, loans or competitive pricing, a fintech or challenger bank will emerge to pick up their business. For this reason, talent strategy becomes a more central pillar to wider strategic planning. If we take Facebook as an example of a company that seems to be doing everything inauthentically, it is clear that they will be experiencing recruitment challenges over the months and years to come.

Cultural Fit in the Diverse Workforce

When we posted about our background diversity initiative* we talked about how Cultural Fit was related to shared values. While recruiting people with diverse life experiences gives a team a range of perspectives and behaviours that are proven to help with problem-solving, innovation and revenue generation, it is important that people can buy into the goals of the department and the company while collaborating effectively. Nearly three years later, it is likely that the term may finally be on its way out as it can encourage people to make and justify selections for the wrong reasons. Fintech bank Monzo, is one of a new breed that recruits for “cultural add” rather than cultural fit.

Change is the main theme of this blog but the concept of cultural fit can easily become an excuse to maintain a status quo. There should be a consensus that in a changing world, company cultures need to evolve to stay relevant. However, the extent to which people will hire candidates who remind them of themselves is a constant source of amazement, so strict frameworks must be established to curb this. Removing the term cultural fit altogether may be helpful in helping recruiting managers (rather than HR managers) to refocus.

Optimism for Positive Change

Over a long period in executive search and specialist recruitment, our team has seen top talent rejected on every possible dimension of bias, conscious or otherwise. Today, while different aspects of diversity tend to be most prominent at any given time, the general trend is heading in the right direction and we hope that the catalytic effects of the pandemic will see talent selection become increasingly inclusive in the future.

*Having championed background diversity ourselves, we were delighted to see KPMG setting a concrete goal for the hiring of working-class people, maybe the hardest minority to recruit into professional services.

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