Byembracingequality, asset managers will also boost returns


Gina Miller discusses how the financial services industry needs to do more to promote equality, if it wants to reap the rewards of attracting and retaining top talent


fyouareawomanfrom anethnicminorityand want togointofund management,youare startingwithtwoweights

aroundyour ankles,” statesGina Miller,co-founder ofLondon-based onlinewealthmanagerSCM-Direct. In a video call fromhome, the

Guyanese-British business owner, whose campaigning catapultedher to national prominence,shows the passionanddeterminationthat led her to successfully take the British government to court, first to ensure parliamenthad a voteontheUK’s exit and then overBoris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of parliament. MsMiller adds that this lack of

diversity in fundmanagement “must change”. There is clear needfor the financial services industry,whichhas nurtured “a verymacho, old boys’ type culture”, to address the “trust deficit”whichmakes it difficult to attract both consumersandtalented people fromdifferent backgrounds. While her political activism

resultedin public abuseanddeath threats, her campaigns for greater transparency within the financial services industry—conducted with her husband andbusiness partner Alan Miller, a former hedge fund manager—has attracted strong animosity fromparts of the City.

PROMOTINGEQUALITY Along-standingfighter forequality andinclusion,MsMillerhasno

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intention of acceptingthe situation, whichis particularlygrimin the financial services industry. Researchshowsthat themost

diversecompanies,bothbygender andrace,substantiallyoutperformthe least diverseones, as theyarebetter able towintoptalent,improve their customer orientationandemployee satisfaction,andtheirdecisionmaking ismorerobust. This createsavirtuous cycleof increasingreturns.Yet, there isawidespreadunderappreciationof commercialgains, believesMsMiller. Pockets of resistance arebasedon themisconception thatembracing equality somehowdecreases individuals’abilityto progress, inhibitinggrowthandcompetitiveness in organisations. However, forchangetohappen,

the languageweusemustchange first.“Thewaywetalkabout diversity is verygender-focusedandcreates abarrier, as if talkingaboutwomen progressingmustmeanthatmen areregressing,”believesMsMiller. Talkingaboutequality, ratherthan diversityismuchfairer.“Weneedto get rid of thatcombative language. Wehave to talkabout fairness of opportunities foreveryone.” Womenmustalsobemindful that

they“donotown”the diversityspace, otherwise other groupsaregoingtobe discriminatedagainst. Racial diversity is “shockingly”low.

Thenumber of blackseniorboard executives inFTSE100companies hasnowfallento zero,accordingto recruitmentanddiversityconsultancy GreenPark.Over thepast sixyears, therehasbeennoprogressoverall in theethnic minority representation in the topthreepositions in theUK’s largest firms,whichis stuckat three per cent.Accordingtoagovernment- backedreviewofcorporate diversity, almostafifth ofFTSE100boards lack anyethnic minority representation,

despiteethnicminorities representing 14per cent of theUKpopulation. Onaverage, theFTSE100,FTSE

250andFTSE350have allachieved the target ofwomenholding33per cent ofboardpositionsbytheend of 2020,accordingto theHampton– Alexander review’s final report.But thischangeisnot sufficient, if these arepredominantlywhitewomen fromthe samesocialandeducational background,explainsMsMiller. Moreover,womenstillonlyhold14per cent ofexecutivedirectorships in the FTSE100andless than30per cent of senior leadership positions.

CREATINGREALCHANGE It is crucial that the sectorembraces diversityin all itscharacteristics. “Thereis toomuchbullyingof peoplecomingfromadifferent sexual orientationinbusinessesand in the financial sector,”MsMiller states.“Andin the City,wehave toomuchlackofunderstandingof mental health issues, orpeoplewith disabilities.” Thefocus is allonexternal diversity,

but that isnot all thatmatters.Oneof themistakesboardsmakeis recruiting diversepeople intotheorganisation andthenexpectingthemtoconform. “Valuingdiversity isn’tenough. Rhetoricneeds to translateto real changesandcreatingworkplaces whereeveryonefeelswelcome. Recruitingdiversestaff,but then expectingthemtoconformtoan organisation’s cultureand‘fit in’does not createchange.” Individuals’ diversecharacteristics

mustbeprotectedbyputtingin placeinfrastructure, processesand procedures—this is crucial to shield the talent pool buildinginmiddle ranks,wheremostleave.Whilethere hasbeendiversityprogress at board andentrylevel,morewomenand people fromethnicminorities leave

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