Wealth management firm St James’ Place and nine other financial services firms have joined together to help connect businesses directly with students to tackle the underrepresentation in the industry.
Run by Entrepreneurs in Action as part of its Classroom to Boardroom initiative, firms will work with more than 25 black students, primarily from schools across south London, to find ways to increase the applications, opportunities and development of young black people in entry-level roles.
The participating organisations are: Aon; Fidelity International; Invesco; LCP; Lincoln Pensions; Mercer; Morgan Stanley; St James’ Place; and Wellington
The firms will share details of their current diversity initiatives and entry level strategies, alongside what they perceive as any barriers to bringing in young black talent.
Students will then be encouraged to challenge firms on their existing approaches based on their own experience and market research and present both their findings and solutions as part of a digital session on 17 July.
To structure the discussion, they have been asked to solve the following problem:
“Despite decades of running Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, as an industry the representation of black employees in our organisations (at all levels) is not good enough.
What problems/obstacles do we need to understand? What blind spots can you illuminate? What solutions can you suggest, specifically for bringing more entry level black talent into our organisations?”
The solutions will be presented to chief executives and other senior leaders from the participating firms as well as representatives from the industry.
Derek Browne, chief executive of Entrepreneurs in Action, said: “I am excited to be part of this initiative. As someone who joined the industry 30 years ago, I am aware it has made slow progress to identify and recruit black talent despite a range of entry programmes under the banner of diversity.
“This initiative provides a unique platform to engage some of the highest profile investment management and consulting firms with a range of talented young individuals who are excited about the industry.
“Working with GenZ to solve industry challenges is the way forward and I hope this is the first of many programmes for Entrepreneurs in Action to work with the industry.”
56 Black Men
It is not the first time the financial services sector has sought to improve its reputation of being ‘pale, male and stale’.
In January, International Adviser reported on a partnership between Colombia Threadneedle and Cephas Williams, who photographed 56 Black Men, including MP David Lammy, in hoodies to try and break negative stereotypes.
The aim of the partnership is to open pathways into employment for young black men and influence internal culture for their benefit.
The programme targets black men between the ages of 18–22 and involves a series of workshops, boardroom conversations, events and mentoring, as well as providing the opportunity to share and exchange experiences.
At the time, Williams said: “[It] builds on the message of the 56 Black Men campaign, moving beyond making a statement to change the narrative to now bridging the gap between black boys and men in the community and the working world.
“It will address entry, as well as culture and inclusion.”