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UK financial regulators to push top firms on diversity

By AFP - Jul 07,2021 - Last updated at Jul 07,2021

LONDON — Britain's financial regulators on Wednesday announced plans to press for more diversity within the country's financial services sector as they admitted more progress was needed.

Representation targets, making senior leaders accountable for diversity in their companies and linking pay to diversity metrics are among the proposals in a discussion paper published by the Bank of England (BoE), the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

The proposals stand to affect British banks, investment firms, credit unions, building societies and insurance companies regulated by the BoE, FCA and PRA.

PRA Chief Executive Sam Woods acknowledged that "more needs to be done" and said the paper aimed to "start a new conversation" with firms on improving diversity in gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.

Britain's biggest companies have already faced calls to augment the diversity of their staff, particularly following last year's worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.

A government-commissioned report on racial disparities found in March that business owners from minority ethnic backgrounds were disproportionately declined for lending.

The regulators believe more diversity will improve governance, decision-making, risk management, innovation, products and services within the financial services industry and avert the unthinking acceptance of working methods.

"Groupthink and overconfidence are often at the root of financial crises," said Jon Cunliffe, the Bank of England's deputy governor for financial stability.

"Enabling a diversity of thought and allowing for an array of perspectives to coexist supports a safe, resilient and effective financial system."

The authorities proposed collecting workforce data from firms to track progress, and launching a survey to develop the proposals and enable regular data reporting.

Three-quarters of companies in the prestigious FTSE 100 index failed to disclose the ethnic make-up of their boards at last year's general meeting of The Investment Association, which represents British investment managers.

A study in February found that women held only 34.3 per cent of board positions at the UK's top 350 listed companies, though that represented an increase of 50 per cent in five years.

FTSE 100 firms have a target of having at least one board member from a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) background by 2021. 

But BAME workers held fewer than one in 10 management roles in financial services firms in 2018, according to a report by consultancy Randstad.

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