Six critical steps for banking and finance sector to attract people from ethnic minorities

By | July 28, 2010

working-hard bradfordBusiness in the Community has published a report about a number of careers that are not attracting people from ethnic minorities.  Banking and finance is one of the key sectors with low representation.

BIC’s research talked about a significant number of people who say that banking and finance is ‘not for the likes of them’ – and that this sector has the lowest number of role models from ethnic minorities.

Whilst I am not totally convinced with the methodology of this research, anyone who has walked into a UK banking head office (rather than the call centres) would agree that this sector needs to achieve a more representative workforce.

Achieving shift change can take years.  But there are six simple steps that banking and financial organizations could initiate, which I believe would achieve significant results.

These are based on overcoming what I see as the key problems

  • Lack of role models – not just senior figures, but also friends and family who have gone into banking roles
  • Difficult to rise up the career ladder
  • Lack of links with widest communities of schools and universities – particularly the less high performing
  • Little understanding of cultural barriers and encouragement for those least likely to go into banking careers
  • Belief that the underlying ethics and values of banks are questionable – this is a problem in the UK generally but can be especially difficult for those from ethnic minorities, where religious beliefs are often stronger

The six steps are:

1.   Create strong links with schools, colleges and universities  – especially those with higher percentages of students from ethnic minorities.  This should include

–        Work shadowing opportunities

–        Work experience

–        Placements

–        Projects

–        Scholarships

2.   Dialogue between senior and junior staff – there is still an old boys’ network operating.  Set up positive discussion and mentoring between all cultures.  Identify and change issues

3.   Advertising Halifax has had a strong advertising campaign reflecting diversity of its customers.  This could be extended to show the career opportunities available to all under-represented groups

4.   Conducive organizational culture – nurture talented individuals and provide support to help in rising up the ladder.  Promote positive aspects of different cultures (e.g. Muslims don’t drink – they will never have a hangover!) both internally and to clients

5.   Professional networking of ethnic groups – women started doing this 20 years ago. Support and encourage this among ethnic minority groups

6.   ‘Who’s who’ in banking and finance from ethnic minority groups  – a website to promote senior figures from ethnic minority groups in this sector.  Their career stories, challenges along the way, tips for others.

About Ros Haniffa

Ros joined the School in January 2004 as a senior lecturer and was promoted to Professor of Accounting in 2007. She previously taught at the University of Exeter, first as tutor while completing her PhD in accounting and finance, and from 1999 as a full-time member of staff. She has also taught professional and academic courses in accounting and finance at several higher education institutions in Malaysia. Ros is the moderator and examiner for AIA's Islamic professional papers 15 and 6 respectively. She currently supervises five doctoral students in the areas of accounting, auditing and corporate governance.

+ Islamic accounting and finance
+ Business ethics
+ Corporate governance in banking
+ Board/director remuneration
+ Whistle-blowing and money laundering