Financial services industry increasingly eyeing diversity and inclusion

18 August 2017

The financial services industry is increasingly eyeing diversity and inclusion within their operating models, according to a new study from accouunting and consulting firm PwC.

The financial services sector, like many, is exploring ways in which to improve the diversity of its ranks, particularly in leadership positions. A new report explores how both employers in the sector and candidates are approaching the issue. Key areas of concern for candidates are the being in place of diversity and inclusion policies, while for employers, finding ways to reduce biases and improve the hiring process continue to be on the agenda.

Promotion of a more diverse leadership among the world’s businesses remains a fickle issues for the private sector as a whole, even while it may well be negatively affecting revenue growth. In a recent PwC survey, the accounting and consulting firm explores how the financial services sector is rising to the challenge of improving diversity. The research, which covers a range of industries on both the employer and employee sides, included 55 financial services organisations participants and 276 financial services employee participants.

Recruitment of more diverse talent and alignment of recruitment inclusion

According to the study, the sector is looking to improve its performance when it comes to recruiting a more diverse background of people, although heaviest focus is laid on women. Across all sectors, 58% of companies are seeking to increase female hires and 49% to increase minority hires, while in the financial services sector, the proportion actively trying to attract females stood at 76% while it stood at 51% for minorities.

In terms of whether the organisation’s recruitment selection strategy and diversity strategy are in alignment, a mixed bag is found. 30% of all sectors say that there is complete alignment, compared to 31% for financial services, while in all sectors somewhat alignment is noted by 51% of respondents, while 45% say so in the financial services sector.

Limited gains

In terms of the kinds of recruitment practices deploy, and their respective success in the financial services sector, the report found relative alignment between all sectors and the financial services sector. In terms of increasing the level of female applicants, programmes have generated results at 36% of financial services sector respondents, and 39% in all sectors, while in terms of minority applicants, success has been noted at 22% of financial services firms and 27% of all companies.

In terms of relatively successful programmes, an increased level of external female leadership appointments was number one at financial services firms surveyed, at 42% of respondents, compared to 24% in all sectors, while increased levels of minority campus/graduate hires was noted as effected at 27% of financial service respondents and 32% for all sectors.

Top five factors that make an employer attractive

The research also sought to identify the candidate’s side of the hiring process – asking which of the following factors make an organisation a more attractive employer. The results show similar trends between financial services firms and all sectors. Opportunities for career progression were cited by 53% of male and 40% of female financial services firm candidates as attractive, compared to 51% and 37% in all sectors respectively.

Other areas in which both male and female respondents noted clear attractiveness are in the areas of competitive wages and other financial incentives, at 48% and 41% of male and female respondents respectively. Differences between male and female respondents among financial services respondents were noted however, with particularly ‘good benefit packages’ and ‘flexible working arrangements and a culture of work life balance’, found to be more attractive of women than of men, at 31% to 20% and 32% to 23% respectively for the two categories.

Diversity and inclusion under candidate scrutiny

The research also found that some candidates are actively engaging with diversity and inclusion policies. For instance, 29% of women and 18% of men researched if their most recent employer has a diversity and inclusion policy, while 32% of women and 25% of men say that they do some research. Candidates also looked at whether the company leadership team showed diversity, at 33% for some females and 36% somewhat.

Other areas considered by candidates included exploring whether they felt they had positive role models whom are similar to them, with both males and females engaged here, at 27% and 33% respectively. While 27% of female respondents and 16% of male respondents asked about diversity and inclusion policies during their interviews.

Exploring the options

While organisations are keen to introduce programmes, and with candidates becoming increasingly focused on benefits and diversity policies, the consultancy firm also asked respondents about the diversity practices that they have in place.

Financial services firm have in particular, focused on role descriptions that include inclusive language (53%) of respondents, diversity of interview panel/interviewers, also at 53%. Training recruitment professionals with the tools needed to drive inclusive recruitment efforts are being used by 49% of respondents. Unconscious biases are being tackled at 45% of financial services firms, while 49% say that they require diverse slates of candidates for leadership positions.

The areas of least concern include offering headhunters/recruitment agencies with enhanced commissions for diversity hires (16%), and enhanced referral benefits for hires as part of referral schemes (15%).


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Late payment culture cripples productivity of SMEs

29 March 2019

UK SMEs are seeing their efforts to grow stifled by late payments, causing thousands to enter insolvency proceedings each year. According to experts from Duff & Phelps, this also has a major impact on the UK’s economy, meaning late payment culture must be tackled if the country is to dodge yet more economic stagnation in the shadow of Brexit.

Small and mid-sized enterprises in the UK face a myriad of pressures at present. Brexit anxieties are keenly felt by SMEs, with more than nine in 10 suggesting recently that economic conditions have worsened in the last 12 months. 66% of SME leaders also expect conditions to further worsen in the coming year.

At the same time, firms are keen to see value for money from investing in external expertise. Consulting fees which weight much more heavily on smaller firms, who spend £60 billion per year on professional services, but feel that more than £12 billion of that figure is wasted on unnecessary or bad advice.

Late payment culture cripples productivity of SMEs

Above all, however, SMEs are extremely vulnerable to late payments, and, according to a new study, the situation is only getting worse at present. According to corporate rescue consultancy Duff & Phelps, small businesses in the UK are facing a collective bill of £6.7 billion per annum due to late payments by other companies, while the average value of each late payment now stands at £6,142. This has risen from £2.6 billion in 2017, illustrating the plight of SMEs, particularly with uncertain economic times ahead.

Indeed, the spike in late payments has already caused significant productivity issues for SMEs, which in turn compromises their financial stability. With staff wasting hours chasing down late payments and businesses becoming preoccupied with short-term cash flow problems, they are less able to concentrate on creating new value for the firm, which in many cases gradually slides toward insolvency.

Small businesses across the UK are facing major cash flow pressure, leading to increased financial instability as a direct result of a late payments culture. This is likely a big driver of the UK’s 20% boom in insolvencies over the last three years, especially as it has a knock-on effect on other SMEs within the supply chain of those struggling firms. Approximately 50,000 small businesses fail each year because of late payments, amounting to a shortfall of more than £2.5 billion for the UK economy. 

Commenting on the findings, Paul Williams, Managing Director, Duff & Phelps, said, “In this modern era of technology, which is designed to enable business agility, late payments are particularly galling as there are no excuses. The day of the ‘cheque is in the post’ is long over!... More can be done to avoid businesses reaching this situation in the first place. SMEs underpin the economy, so prioritising timely payments will help allow business owners to focus their time and energy on providing good quality products and services and adding value to the customer experience, rather than chasing outstanding payments.”

The UK Government currently promotes its voluntary Prompt Payment Code to encourage good practice, but late payments by larger companies remain a common pain point for many SMEs. There may be hope for an end to late payments, however, following an announcement in the Spring Statement from Chancellor Philip Hammond. The Government aims to crack down on the practice, with Hammond stating big companies should hire a Non-Executive Director to be responsible for reducing late payments to small suppliers. The statement also advises that organizations publish payment practices in their annual reports.