“Pale, male and stale” tag still dogs financial services industry
Entry into the financial services sector remains the preserve of a homogenous few, or that’s the perception at least, according to new research from Siegel+Gale.
This, despite the fact that a recent Wallstreet Journal study suggests that financial services are more advanced than most for investment in diversity and inclusion programs and for age equality within senior roles. Here, Ben Osborne, head of insights, EMEA at Siegel+Gale explains what can be done to ensure the perceptions match the progress.
From speaking with 1,275 students and graduates we know that there is a sub-group of young people more pre-disposed to applying for and understanding roles in financial services and groups more likely to reject them outright.
Roughly one-in-six young people were naturally inclined to prefer financial services roles, whereas five-in-six were not. 76% of the positively biased group came from higher social class groups, and 53% came from a family with relatives working in the industry. Comparing this to the 50% studying directly relevant degrees like economics or business, this clearly shows that preference for financial services is more likely to be passed down through generations than taught in education.
Research also showed that the pre-disposed group wasn’t naturally the most qualified or most motivated: 32% qualified with a degree of 2.2 (or local equivalent) or lower, and this group were significantly more likely to be motivated by money than any other consideration factor. In fact, only a quarter of this audience were both qualified and positively motivated by job fulfilment, progression and long-term commitment.
This raises a serious question – will financial services continue to follow a path of least resistance, or actively defy the self-selection bias and identify and target a sub-segment of youth who are better oriented to the future of the industry?
Specifically, we found that you could create a larger sub-group, roughly one-in-five young people, defined by qualification and motivation – all qualified with 2.1 or above, all looking for job fulfilment, long-term stability and opportunities to progress. This group is 55% female and 26% non-white, so this strategy provides lateral thinking as well as the traditional conceptions of diversity.
The challenge for financial services is that this ‘top talent’ segment expect the current roles to be boring and stressful, making them prefer tech and professional services, and young people are concerned they won’t be included.
In short, to break the cycle and achieve genuine diversity and inclusion financial services needs to follow three steps:
- Help potential young applicants to understand financial services roles, by simplifying their experiences. Make it easier for them to get information about the culture and employee benefits, and clarify expectations for the role.
- Help young people to see how their contribution will matter; articulating an inspiring higher purpose and showing how this brings meaning and motivation to the role.
- Build communities of advocates, transcending departments and silos, to help young people find shared meaning and to create a shared sense of purpose day-to-day. This is a strategy for achieving genuine inclusions, but also to celebrate existing diversity to inspire young people looking in.