PLSA IC 19: Leadership is 'critical' to improved diversity

Strong leadership that is committed to improving diversity in pensions is “absolutely critical” in helping to create a more diversified industry.

During a session on culture change within the UK investment industry at the PLSA Investment Conference, Financial Conduct Authority co-director of life insurance and financial advice supervision, Debbie Gupta stated: “Leadership is absolutely critical to ensuring that you have a workforce and senior leadership team that has bought into the agenda.”

Gupta explained that diversity was not an issue that could be solved by just ticking boxes as it was not really possible to quantify or measure cultural diversity.

She said: “Let's take the example of the regulator. The regulator can invent a whole load of rules that somehow drive cultural change but in a sense, it will absolutely miss the point: You can't codify culture.”

Although Gupta continued, it is understandable that people push for the regulator to give them a 'diversity checklist' to help them understand if they are heading the right direction, it is not that simple.

She explained: “I think the challenge is actually about leadership and governance, and the way in which you manage risk. So they are in a sense the bread and butter of effective business practice.

“I'm not sure you can find an alternative to that very core principle of leadership. If people don't accept it, understand it and celebrate it, then how do you affect change. I'd be really hard pushed to find ways to do that that don't have unintended consequences.”

As the industry attempted to improve its diversity, Gupta believed that the biggest stumbling block was being able to measure openness and allow people to think and act differently.

She concluded: “I don't think we've been able to measure openness in a culture and, arguably, if you were able to do that effectively, diversity may well follow.

“The ways in which people think that they have to act and behave to progress because its set as a norm within a firms culture, that in itself acts as the biggest stifler, because you are not allowing people to act differently.”

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