June 2021 | Recruitment

Diversity values in work culture

Pete Gwilliam is director of Virtus Search

There is an inherent challenge for the sector when it comes to increasing the representation of people of colour. Why? Because whilst data is far from perfect, it is not hard to notice that the mortgage sector has always been predominantly white.

It has also been heavily weighted towards males, but the good news is that both of these areas are changing.

Recent research by Virtus Search confirms that in the face-to-face sales channel of 11 mainstream lenders, although there is a healthy blended average of 51% female representation, the blended average of those from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) origin is 7%.

When considering 14 specialist lenders with sales teams of six or more, there is a blended average of 30% female and 6% BAME.

So, when Sheldon Mills, executive director, consumers and competition at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), confirmed in an April speech that the regulator “want firms to consider how they can accelerate black inclusion at all levels as part of their diversity and inclusion agendas,” the obvious point for intermediary sales leaders to consider was that, whilst hiring BAME individuals from within the sector might improve the diversity mix, it will have done so to the detriment of the firm from where they depart.

Surely this is, therefore, an opportunity for the sector to share ideas, resources, and importantly, the responsibility for change.

Of course, diversity and inclusion does not begin and end with recruiting for a more multicultural, multi-ethnic workplace, but it is a necessity that more diverse talent is recruited from outside of the intermediary mortgage lending channel.

Mills reminded firms that the FCA is considering how to best use its powers – or it’s “supervisory toolbox” – to influence change, along with suggesting that “the diversity of management teams could be part of considerations for senior manager applications.”

Quite rightly there are more discussions now about diversity in recruitment shortlists, but a focus on the speed of hire and an emphasis on hiring someone who has done a similar role previously all leads to fishing in the same pools and interviewing those with familiar backgrounds for competencies, lived experiences and the range of immediate connections.

This leads to shifting diversity mixes between firms, whilst not changing the overall mix in the sector.

Changing the mindset on sourcing is one part of creating more diverse firms, but individuals from wider backgrounds will need assessment models to change to allow them to demonstrate their potential.

In the niche market of mortgage lending, a fundamental part of disrupting the current under representation will be de-biasing the assessment tools used in the financial services market, so that skills, values and potential come to the fore.

This will allow sourcing to cast a far wider net without fearing that initial assessment tools disadvantage non industry experience.

Industry discussions accept that having a talent pool available which has been pre-qualified will help break the cycle that has prioritised hiring quickly, which is being acknowledged as a key reason people hire what they are familiar with, or hire from the same place as they have done before.

However, a highly engaged internal talent pool is largely only seen in mid-sized and larger corporates that have greater scope to dedicate resources and more opportunity to create secondments that benefit an individual’s progression and profile.

A lot has been written about the diversity of workforces reflecting the diversity of the communities that they work in, and how companies that bring in people that don’t look like the founding team will always have an advantage, because everyone’s experiences and views will be different.

A diverse team will be much better placed to build products and services for a more diverse range of customers.

Ultimately, the best way to boost diversity in your candidate sourcing is to ensure the brand and values of your firm prioritise people and opinions from all walks of life.

You should be talking about the benefits and importance of diversity with your team, getting buy-in, and ingraining those values into your company culture.

This makes it much more likely that candidates will feel that your company values their opinions and presence, and that it values different backgrounds and ideas, all of which can only be good for team morale and engagement.