For the fourth instalment of Spotlight on Diversity Champions blog series, we sat down with Laura Noonan, Investment Banking Correspondent at the Financial Times, and discussed the impact of Brexit and technology on diversity, employment and culture within the banking and finance sector.
Do you think that Brexit will have an effect on diversity and the types of people employed in the future?
The approach to Visas/work permits for EU nationals will inevitably have an impact on the cultural make-up of the City, though maybe not as much of an impact as people might think.
The UK actually has a relatively low proportion of other EU nationals working in the City compared to other capitals. Theoretically, the UK could fall out of step with the EU's efforts around gender diversity and equality, but there seems to be a lot of political will in Westminster to make progress on these topics, so I expect the UK to continue to be a progressive actor on the gender diversity agenda.
What are your thoughts on the culture within banking and finance?
"Culture in banking and finance is changing, though not at every level and not at the speed a lot of people outside might think."
As part of our research on inappropriate sexual behaviours in the workplace we've had entry level staff approach us about things they are experiencing now, that people might think were stamped out in the 1990s or early noughties.
Because human capital is so important in banking and finance, high performers have tended to be supported even when they've been caught red handed doing something against their conduct codes.
There's a lot of commitment at the very top of banking and finance to change this, but it takes a long time to permeate throughout an organisation of tens of thousands of people where behaviours have been ingrained for decades.
Do you agree that the focus has to be on all strands of diversity?
Intellectual diversity seems to be one area that financial firms are focusing more on, as they realise that up to now they've been guilty of hiring Ivy League finance grads of different nationalities, genders and sexual persuasion, who all essentially think about commerce and finance in the same way.
"Intellectual diversity - people who truly think about things differently - is a harder target to shoot for but a valuable one for banks who want to get away from group think and herd mentality."
Some are trying things like having recruitment events only for non-econ/finance grads. Behavioural profiling, using AI tools like Koru, is another potential way to tackle the issue.
Looking to the future, the impact of technology could really change the way we use banking and financial services, do you think it will have a major impact on roles within the sector?
In theory, technology should take on a lot of the routine work that people are now doing - everything from data reconciliation, to aggregating consumer information, and processing trades.
Bank CEOs have been saying this will actually improve employees' quality of life as the work they're doing will be at the more rewarding end of the spectrum.
"In reality, a lot of people will lose their jobs."
Catch Laura at Women of the Square Mile on the 27th February 2018 at her panel session: Diversity = More Than Gender.
To see what else is on, take a look at the agenda.