Straight from the Ed’s keyboard;
The recent announcement by accountancy firm KPMG highlights a similar problem across financial services, including insurance. KPMG say they want to recruit far more people with working class backgrounds than they currently do. It has set a target of 29% by 2030 and the aim is simple; better company performance via diverse thinking.
KPMG chair Bina Mehta said she was from a working-class background and was a “Passionate believer that greater diversity improves business performance. Diversity brings fresh thinking and different perspectives to decision-making, which in turn delivers better outcomes for our clients.”
There is a deep societal problem in the UK today and that is the lack of social mobility. If you are born poor you are likely to stay that way, unless you sign up for a reality TV show or excel at sports. White working class boys were identified as the only socio-economic group where fewer are going to University than in the past, down 7% this year says the Daily Mail.
FCA TUNNEL VISION
If you look at recent announcements by the FCA, and some insurers, you can see that class is a blind spot – the middle class who have successfully colonised insurance don’t want to let the ladder down so the working class can get a foot on the lower rung. More importantly, they don’t see class as a problem, certainly not as big a problem as the lack of BAME, Trans or female identifying people at senior levels.
For example, the FCA’s recent statement on Board level diversity concentrated on race and gender. You can read more here, but the summary of the FCA guidance essentially boils down to this; report on senior hires and state why you hired a white guy. That approach is a very blunt instrument to tackle the problem of white guys currently dominating Board level positions in insurance. To use modern social media jargon, it’s about calling out `white privilege,’ in order to bring about societal change.
But there’s more to unconscious bias than that – just ask anyone who didn’t have the correct accent 20 or 30 years ago.
Having worked for Carole Nash Insurance twenty years ago, I can say that having a female MD/CEO is a fantastic advantage for any insurance brand, and it can lead to market domination within a sector. The reason is simple; women are generally better at understanding and getting the best from people, whereas many men sell on technology and aggressive pricing. You still need expertise in the world of insurance of course, regardless of your claimed gender.
But moves like Goldman Sachs and the Hong Kong Exchange demanding that at least one of two women MUST be on a Board in order to float a company is exactly the same tickbox mentality that infects the UK public sector. Fact is, not all men are brilliant at running companies, nor are women or transgender people who identify as female. In short, those with an aptitude and a skillset for business deals, spotting growth markets and hiring the right team members, are often the most likely to succeed long-term as company leaders.
CLASS ISN’T THE RIGHT KIND OF INCLUSIVENESS
Almost every insurer and large broker has a mission statement about inclusivity and diversity. You will find reams of it online and its aim seems to be to re-make every UK workplace into a Glastonbury workshop on climate change and white privilege. But what you won’t see is a commitment to hire working class people and that silence speaks volumes.
There is a still a fast-track for people who come from middle- class backgrounds and have attended the right Universities, often Russell Group. Donna Scully from Carpenters Law has touched on this unspoken prejudice many times in the past and mentioned the imposter syndrome, where people from poorer backgrounds can feel left out of the cosy cliques that can easily dominate workplace cultures.
If you recruit from the same accent, the same Uni and the same parental income streams, then you aren’t really changing anything.
IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU COME FROM
For me, it doesn’t matter where you came from; a farm worker’s tied cottage in Cumbria, or an abandoned bus in Sengal. What counts is where you’re going and what you can offer a company – at any level. Insurance is a force for good, a social contract founded on the principle that the many can pay a small amount each year, so that the unlucky amongst us don’t face total ruin in our hour of need. That is social justice, isn’t it? That is fairness and an equality of outcome?
The hard Left who dominate the conversations on diversity, every hour of every day across the media, are remarkably quiet when it comes to the lack of progression by the working class. Insurers and brokers aren’t really stepping up en masse either, instead they go along with the established narrative that diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace is primarily about race and gender, with disability issues bolted on as an afterthought. That isn’t good enough, things must change and fast.