More needs to be done to foster an inclusive culture throughout UK organisations, according to the FCA’s Nausicaa Delfas.

In a speech at the Women in Finance 2019 Summit in London earlier this month, Delfas, the FCA’s Executive Director of International, said that improving diversity within UK business would help deliver excellence throughout society in the UK.

“To me, diversity is about developing excellence for the future,” she said. “The world of work is changing – the jobs of tomorrow have not been created today – and so it is ever more important, in financial services and more broadly in our economy, that we are able to tap into and develop the best talent to help us meet those challenges.”

Progress made, more to be done

Delfas pointed out that things had improved since she started her career in the early 1990s, thanks in large part to government initiatives and a change in attitudes. “There are undoubtedly more women in senior positions, in law firms, and more broadly in financial services than there were in the early 1990s when I started work.

“The world of work is changing – the jobs of tomorrow have not been created today – and so it is ever more important, in financial services and more broadly in our economy, that we are able to tap into and develop the best talent to help us meet those challenges.”

“This is due to a variety of factors – both in the workplace and in society more broadly – including the Government’s Women in Finance Charter, the focus on the gender pay gap and changing attitudes over the last three decades. The introduction of new technology has also played its part.”

There is still more work to be done within financial services, however. Delfas highlighted relative inequality between women and men within the industry, with just 17% of approved positions across regulated firms and only 25% in senior manager roles. It is those roles that are the main issue, she said. “Executives in these roles have the greatest potential to cause harm to a firm’s customers or the markets in which it operates. So, diversity within this population is important.”

Targeting change

The FCA will play an active role in improving diversity. Delfas said that the regulator has set itself a target of having women representing 45% of its senior leadership team by 2020, rising to 50% by 2025. It is also aiming to have 8% of senior leaders from BAME backgrounds.

By having these targets, the FCA wants to act as an example to the wider financial services industry and help encourage change. Delfas accepts that not everyone is in favour of targets or preferential treatment for certain groups but explains that they are important for providing focus.

She added: “The use of targets themselves can be controversial, though more accepted now – certainly no-one, neither women, BAME nor anyone else, wants special treatment – they want to progress on merit. But my experience of targets is that they are not about special treatment – rather they keep our minds focused on whether we are making progress, and demonstrate a clear commitment to address these issues and to move forward.”

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