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A focus on culture rather than data is better for diversity and inclusion efforts – Marketwatch

  • 04/08/2021
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A focus on culture rather than data is better for diversity and inclusion efforts – Marketwatch
Last month, financial services regulators launched a consultation into improving diversity and inclusion in the sector.


However, the mortgage industry has a significant number of sole traders and smaller firms who may feel the structures of larger firms who may comply with and report on these measures do not represent them. 

So this week, Mortgage Solutions is asking: With so many small firms and sole traders in the sector, would reporting equality data provide a true picture of the state of the industry? 


Frank Starling, founder of Variety Pack 

We’re having one of those moments where organisations have to ask the hard questions. They’ve got to take a deeper dive in terms of where they are when it comes to inclusion and diversity.  

When we take something like pay gaps, we know that many organisations large and small have a gap that exists based on gender and ethnicity. But the internal data is usually the challenge. Many businesses don’t necessarily have a rich amount of demographic data that gives them a good enough insight of where they are and where they need to be.  

But firms shouldn’t wait for legislation to be proactive. If they want to attract the best talent and create cultures which are inclusive, it’s an important thing to do for the future of this industry.  

A lot has changed on a societal level, and people’s expectations now are very high.  

Inclusion should be part of every single business strategy, it doesn’t just exist as an add-on function.  

It is all about perception too. Recently, Accenture conducted research on the difference between leaders believing that they are creating an inclusive culture versus the actual experience of team members which was insightful. 

For smaller firms, at some point they will grow. Their client base will grow and even the expectations of the partners they work with will change. I’ve seen this both in the US and the UK where huge firms are asking a lot of their partner businesses, they’re wanting to know what diversity and inclusion strategy is in place before they sign off on contracts. 

Organisations have a real opportunity to tell people ‘we care’. 


Pete Gwilliam, owner of Virtus Search 

Whilst targets and quotas are part of trying to create progression there is a trap that exists if you concentrate purely on measurements. People might try to find shortcuts to achieve numbers to make them look more inclusive. 

Data doesn’t get to the crux of the issue, there are many bigger things than that. 

Speaking from experience, I’ve had biases that have been built into processes that I haven’t challenged, so I can see how processes can consistently have bias. I’d much rather people recognise the importance of de-biasing processes rather than simply looking at numbers and data. 

That applies whether you are a one person or a thousand and one person businesses. 

Bias isn’t loaded towards race, ethnicity and gender. It can be loaded towards different socioeconomic backgrounds, disability, sexuality and age.  

However, this doesn’t mean that if you’re a smaller firm you shouldn’t use data, because it is helpful. But I don’t think having a data obsession is the way we have to go.  

Of course respond to what the regulator says. But also do it because of what’s good for your people, business, clients and humanity in a society that’s more globalised than it’s ever been. 

But it’s important that data isn’t all we revert to; you’re much better off obsessing about how people perceive you.  

There’s no point setting up all these measurements but not changing your approach, culture or processes only to then wonder why the data isn’t helping you. 


Mike Owen, director of Diverse Mortgage and Protection 

It might be irrelevant for a lot of firms because there are a lot of one and two-man band companies. For our firm, we have had a very diverse group of advisers and staff as our name suggests. 

Personally, inclusion has never been an issue in terms of who we employ. I don’t understand people who do have an issue with it. 

I understand there are practical realities sometimes, which makes it hard for certain businesses to comply with these measures. 

The FCA on the one hand expects you to be as vigorous as possible with your vetting process and compliance but sometimes there are areas that make it difficult to always put these measures in place.  

We’re about to get our fifth Covid impact survey so there is enough going on; people are just trying to run their business, make a profit and deal with other extracurricular things. 

To be honest, I wouldn’t think this would be part of the FCA’s remit because they are there to regulate the industry to ensure mis-advice and fraud is minimised. I suppose it’s a wider government and society measure. 

It also might be more applicable to the regulator as a large body which employs hundreds of people. 

Within the industry, I don’t think there will be relevant feedback from smaller firms and larger firms may skew the results for the industry as a whole. 

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