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Top bankers highlight ‘blinkered’ approach to recruitment

by LLB Reporter
28th Jun 23 11:54 am

Big business needs to change its “blinkered” approach to recruitment and drive social mobility to avoid missing out on talented staff from different economic backgrounds.

So say leading City bankers Sir Kenneth Olisa and Steven Cooper, who insist action is needed to help boost economic prosperity and success more fairly across the country.

They are urging companies to do more to diversify their intake for their own sake, as well as improving equitable outcomes such as fair access to progression opportunities.

The state of social mobility in the UK is one of the worst in the developed world, ranking 12 out of 14 in a recent study.

Sir Kenneth was the first British-born black director of a FTSE-100 company and founder of two merchant banks. He and former Barclays executive Cooper, now CEO of Aldermore Bank, were speaking ahead of the upcoming UK Social Mobility Awards created to highlight the importance of social mobility for business success.

Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, Chair of the UK Social Mobility Awards, said, “I see a lot of leaders hiring in their own image, which is like creating a football team with only goalkeepers. To have a competitive advantage, you need a diverse set of players with different backgrounds and skillset.

“Social mobility is, of course, a matter of social justice – but much more importantly, it is a vital driver of competitive advantage: businesses that lack empathy with their staff, customers, supply chains, recruitment pools and the communities in which they operate, are at a competitive disadvantage to those that do.

“The best way to solve that is to hire people with the relevant lived experiences and to invest in them to unleash their contributions to the organisation’s strategy.”

Socio-economic diversity, equity, and inclusion have declined as a result of Covid-19, inflation and energy costs, making it increasingly difficult for people to climb the social ladder.

People from lower socio-economic backgrounds (LSEBs) are underrepresented across key sectors in the UK, such as medicine, law and journalism, and a significant class pay gap shows an average earning of £6,718 less per year than colleagues from more affluent backgrounds.

31% of young LSEB people are concerned that their backgrounds will negatively impact their career prospects, while 29% of LSEB senior managers report experiences of accent bias in the UK.

Steven Cooper, CEO of Aldermore Group, said, “Leaving state school at 16 to join Barclays at the most junior level possible and being able to build a career from scratch, helped me understand the importance of offering young people apprenticeships and opportunities that don’t require a university degree or the right connections.

“At Aldermore, we recently implemented a framework to track not only gender and ethnicity, but also the socio-economic background of our employees to track our own company make-up and help us identify and remove the barriers that are holding some communities back.

“Having a more diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do – it also helps build better businesses because employers can tap into a broader pool of talented people.

“The UK Social Mobility Awards is another piece of the puzzle, to make sure we shine a spotlight on the businesses that prioritise the diverse background of their employees.”

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