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By Rani Khalon, DEI Engagement Consultant at employee engagement consultancy Forty1

Ask yourself, are you actually carrying out DEI within your business correctly? Or are you just ticking superficial boxes that barely scratch the surface? At a point where talent attraction and retention are a challenge for many businesses, now is the time to be brave and take a deep look within your business with eyes wide open. There are most likely answers as to why staff aren’t happy and the reason initiatives are failing and DEI is a good place to start.

In the last 8 years we have seen FinTechs disrupt and remould our expectations of banking and what it means to work within finance. FinTechs leant into speaking directly to the overlooked and ignored customers that traditional banking couldn’t connect with or support. They understood by making financial services more accessible and creating offerings that helped resolve specific issues, they would win a huge part of the market that had been underserved. In this time the unbanked population has fallen by 35% and that is thought to be partially down to the increase in mobile bank accounts*.

FinTechs proved the more inclusive you are, the greater your reach and profit will be. In turn, this set a new standard and showed the business benefits of inclusion.

However, once we begin to unpack the effectiveness of some of these ‘inclusive’ products, we find the marketing vs the reality doesn’t always add up.

As one example, Monzo rolled out an informative ADHD campaign. As someone with ADHD, I thought this was refreshing. However, Monzo also charges £5 to replace lost cards. As failing to keep track of belongings is a daily issue for those of us with ADHD – we call this ADHD tax (the additional financial cost of our traits), Monzo clearly haven’t considered the overall process of banking with them as an ADHD sufferer. These insights into the reality of living with ADHD could have been considered and allowed Monzo to modify its offering compassionately. The learning here is that it’s great to see more diverse inclusion activity taking place in finance, but every action needs to be fully thought out and applied correctly.

Outside of FinTechs, there are accessibility issues also affecting the finance sector at large. The 3D Secure mandate introduced by the FCA makes banking incredibly difficult for people with disabilities. What are they supposed to do if they cannot use two devices at once? This often results in accounts being suspended and investigated for fraudulent activity. Something that was created for increased security and to make customers feel safe is actually counterproductive, creating an invisible barrier for people with disabilities. Additionally, when these accessibility issues are reported, helplines and technical support teams are regularly ill equipped to help. With the disabled community making up 15% of the world’s population, this isn’t something the financial sector can afford to ignore.

The issues here are not around the intention of these institutions, but in the inability to apply DEI in practice – making every interaction an experience that people benefit from consistently and equally.

A key reason these products are failing to live up to their inclusion potential is that they’re not designed by people who face these barriers, or know how to successfully build services that support the realities of minoritised communities.

Accessibility issues are still seen as one size fits all. However, effective accessibility depends on personalisation, understanding intersections and the complexities which make their experience different to the majority.

This links to a larger conversation: these products are failing because finance is still not providing equitable environments where minoritised people can become decision makers to avoid these pitfalls. Essentially, if more women and diverse talent were in strategic decision-making roles, could we change the narrative?

With leaders becoming more aware of the cost of not being an inclusive organisation, this has caused pressure to quickly put together initiatives and implement changes to hit a certain standard of diversity.

However, these initiatives just aren’t working. Across the sector, there has barely been a 2% yearly increase in representation since 2018. While the amount of visible DE&I initiatives has increased, diversity has mainly increased in roles where employees have very little influence.

The energy going into these recruitment drives is fantastic, but the intentions must be rooted in reality. Organisations need to start with their current performance.. Assess your people. Explore how they ended up at your company, how do they progress and why they choose to stay or go. Also look at how many minoritised people apply for roles at your company, how many are hired and how long they stay.

Finance must also address the structural issues that stop inclusion from thriving and creating equitable realities for society. Instead of trying to diversify who enters the structure, why not dismantle it and embed inclusion into every daily experience, to propel the impact they want their DEI strategies to make?

It’s safe to say there is work to be done and it has to be done differently.

To make a difference, you must identify the daily habits and actions that your organisation needs to take to move your DEI strategy off paper and into reality.

It is about being able to apply DEI in the everyday and that requires being able to engage employees in such a way that they understand how their role can drive that change and  they are motivated to do so.

There are 5 key thinking points that leaders in finance can reflect on to drive meaningful change:

1)             Are we listening to diverse communities in our workforce and potential customer base?

2)             How does the diverse talent we currently have enrich  our organisation?

3)             Are there areas where we are lacking innovation, wider reach and understanding?

4)             What skills do we need to teach our employees so they are all contributing to greater inclusion?

5)             Do we have smart DEI data that informs how inclusive the entire organisation is? Not just the makeup of the organisation, but also employee’s sentiment.

Once your organisation is approaching DEI in the right way internally, then you’ll start attracting the right people, who in turn can ensure products and services are equitable and inclusive for all.

Author Bio:

Rani is a DEI Engagement Consultant at Forty1. She specialises in improving business performance, creating diverse talent pools and inclusive environments by embedding DEI strategies into the core of business strategies. Leading on our philosophy of ‘applied DEI’, Rani has created a range of communication pieces, DEI strategies, coached ERGs to excel, ran sponsorship programmes, formed anti-racist business structures and trained a range of departments on what being inclusive means to them.

Prior to joining The Creative Engagement Group, Rani was working as a DEI consultant across a range of sectors and continents, she adores localising global DEI strategies and has a keen interest in cultural intelligence.

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