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Change Maker: Kevin Roberts, Legal and General

  • 10/07/2023
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Change Maker: Kevin Roberts, Legal and General
As part of the Change Makers initiative, Mortgage Solutions spoke to Legal and General’s managing director, mortgage services, Kevin Roberts (pictured) about his work on diversity and inclusivity in the mortgage market and how it feels to have been nominated as a Change Maker.

Roberts became managing director, mortgage services at L&G in July 2022, after a four year stint as director, mortgage club. He has over 30 years’ experience in financial services, across a range of general insurance, protection and mortgage roles.

He is a champion for greater diversity and inclusivity (D&I) in the industry, has helped to tackle issues of inequality in the mortgage sector and is a proud Change Maker.


What initiative or project saw you nominated as a Change Maker?

In 2021, we published the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries’ (AMI) Viewpoint on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in the Mortgage Industry. The report was a real wake-up call for the industry in how we are failing to recruit and promote a diverse talent pool.

We surveyed 1,178 mortgage professionals who provided insightful feedback on their lived experiences relative to their backgrounds, identities and other diversity characteristics. The report exposed some uncomfortable truths and prompted us to plan an appropriate initiative to tackle these failings. We felt a responsibility as a trade body to sustain the momentum and lead a cross-industry initiative to make the mortgage sector a truly inclusive and equitable place to work.

Since 2021, AMI has actively tried to address the shortcomings of the mortgage industry regarding D&I, and this has culminated in the Working in Mortgages (WIM) initiative. The initiative is a co-ordinated campaign alongside Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), with the aim of tackling the ingrained structural challenges the industry faces.


Why did this project mean so much to you?

The 2021 AMI Viewpoint report really hammered home to me that there needs to be a collective initiative to tackle these industry-wide shortcomings. I found it very shocking, and it’s played a big role in motivating me to make our industry a fairer and more inclusive place to work for future generations.

As one of the ‘white males’ that makes up so much of the mortgage industry, I felt that I had a duty not to sit by passively. I wanted to use my position and my privilege to try and make a difference to the industry we work in.

Sometimes the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing can also play a part in holding people back from speaking up, but I’m so glad that that hasn’t held us back. I want to do my bit to make this sector more accessible for all.


Why did you feel the industry needed such an initiative?

The AMI report raised awareness around the extensive unconscious bias that has influenced career progression within the industry, and this is something which must be addressed now.

In the report, there is an ignorance amongst straight white men in relation to the factors regarding career progression. Three-quarters (75 per cent) believe, for instance, that gender has no bearing on career progression and rewards which emphasises the need to educate people across the industry on the barriers to progression.

As a degree is not essential for a career as a mortgage adviser, many people say they ‘fell into’ the role. With entry barriers into the sector lower than other roles, there has been a lack of impetus from across the industry to address how to engage all areas of society.

The data was clear, only 43 per cent of those surveyed felt that the industry attracts a workforce that is representative of the whole community. Figures for women (35 per cent), LGBTQ (36 per cent), and ethnic minority groups (36 per cent) polled even lower, showing a clear separation in lived experience.

When women and minority groups are seeing limited career progression, the industry is self-imposing a barrier in attracting and developing diverse talent.


How did you go about bringing the initiative to life?

‘Chapter one’ of the initiative focused on tackling the structural challenges within the industry and, as a result, we implemented a task force which focused on three priority areas:

  • Recruitment, retention and remuneration
  • Experience of industry and codes of conduct
  • Leadership and culture

The first significant output was implementing a robust code of conduct for mortgage industry events, therefore improving standards of behaviour, and holding individuals accountable for inappropriate actions.

This helped to set a precedent for future initiatives and created safe and supportive environments for issues to be heard. Podcasts, speaking events, blogs and careers case studies have allowed people to air out grievances, and importantly, educate people.

We concluded ‘Chapter one’ with the Working in Mortgages (WIM) website which includes a D&I thought leadership hub with a host of tools and resources for business leaders.


What were the challenges you faced?

In laying the groundwork we faced structural challenges. The mortgage industry has long had a reputation as an ‘old boys’ network and we needed to implement change that enforces a more inclusive environment.

This initiative was set up to address deep-rooted culture problems, and cultural change can be challenging.


Do you feel the initiative has made a difference? If so, how? If not, why not?

I believe we have taken positive steps to change the sector’s culture. It has allowed a wide variety of people to share their lived experiences, which has been therapeutic and informative.

While it is difficult for us to gather quantifiable data, the initiatives we have introduced include buy-in from some of the biggest names in the industry including big six lenders and major advice networks.

The initiative we are driving now involves a diverse mix of 133 volunteers from 98 firms (up from 61 and 49 respectively) showing a growing trend across the industry in wanting to create a more inclusive environment.


What are the current or next steps?

Following the conclusion of ‘Chapter one’ of the initiative, the next step of the plan was to launch a mentoring exchange platform. Sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF), the recently launched platform is free to access, and we hope this will encourage more people into the profession.

A common theme within the report was the lack of diversity in senior roles. The transition from junior to senior positions is an area that needs addressing. We hope this initiative can help to tackle this by showing increased visibility and create future opportunities.

We are also looking to create new workstreams around issues like social mobility, mental health, LGBTQ+ allyship and more.


How much further do you think the industry needs to go to make changes and what should happen?

The work we do regarding D&I will never be complete as the industry continues to evolve. We need to acknowledge that there are issues, which I believe is something the industry is beginning to accept.

In 2024, we plan to re-run the AMI Viewpoint survey to gauge the impact of our actions and I hope this initiative has built a solid foundation for meaningful change.


What does it mean to you to be nominated as a Change Maker?

I feel extremely proud to be nominated as a Change Maker, especially as we’ve done this work in an industry that has historically had a reputation for outdated practices and attitudes. This nomination represents the ongoing change in attitudes across the industry and highlights that the work we’re doing is making a positive impact.

It feels great that the team’s hard work throughout this initiative is getting the recognition it deserves. The D&I Steering Group that led this are all volunteers and have been crucial in providing valuable guidance for the team.

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