City of London launches financial services social mobility taskforce

The City of London Corporation has launched a taskforce looking at social mobility in financial and professional services — as new research lays bare the extent to which privately-educated men still dominate the top jobs in the Square Mile.

The group has been commissioned by HM Treasury and the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) and will be run by the City of London Corporation.

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Research published alongside the launch shows that almost nine in 10 senior roles in financial services are held by people from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

Just under half (42.7%) of senior roles were occupied by white men who attended an independent or selective state school, the research found. Around 6.5% of UK schoolchildren attend private school, according to the Independent Schools Council.

The report — which draws on data from eight major employers in the financial services sector — also found that employees from less privileged backgrounds take 25% longer to progress, despite no evidence of poorer performance.

The taskforce will be chaired by Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation and three co-chairs: Sandra Wallace, interim chair of the Social Mobility Commission and joint managing director for the UK and Europe at law firm DLA Piper, Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, and Vincent Keaveny, senior alderman at the City of London Corporation and a partner at DLA Piper.

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“Talented individuals should be able to succeed in financial and professional services on their own merit regardless of socio-economic background. Unfortunately, for many people that does not yet seem to be a reality,” McGuinness said.

“There is a clear business — as well as moral — case for improving diversity across the sector. This research demonstrates that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds face greater barriers to progressing throughout their career.”

John Glen, City minister and economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “By breaking down socio-economic barriers to progression, our financial services sector will become more innovative and competitive, and help to level up the UK.”

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “No sector of the economy should be closed off to people from less privileged backgrounds, which is why we are building a Britain that is open to talent and helps people from all walks of life to excel in their career.”

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Full membership of the taskforce has not yet been announced. It will be supported by Big Four firms PwC and Deloitte and HR tech company MyKindaFuture.

The City of London Corporation will report back on the findings of the taskforce by November 2022, with the first formal meeting due to take place in May 2021.

The research surveyed 7,780 employees across the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator, BlackRock, First Sentier Investors, Legal & General Investment Management, Santander and one anonymous organisation.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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