Finance needs to shatter 'class ceiling', says UK report

Commuters walk across London Bridge toward the financial district, in London, Britain, September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Half of senior leaders in Britain's financial and professional services should come from a working class or intermediate social background by 2030, a government-backed taskforce recommended on Wednesday.

There are already longstanding voluntary targets for women, ethnic minority and Black staff in top financial roles, and attention is now turning to socio-economic status, with accountants KPMG among the early movers.

The Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce, headed by the City of London Corporation, which administers the capital's historic financial district, was commissioned by the finance and business ministries.

Around half of all employees in financial services and professional sectors like accounting and law are from non-professional backgrounds, and progress 25% slower than their middle and upper class peers, a report from the taskforce said.

Employees from non-professional backgrounds are also likely to get paid up to 17,500 pounds ($20,977) less per year, with no link to job performance.

Data shows that 37% of senior leaders in the financial and professional services sector are currently from non-professional backgrounds, defined as having a parent working in a routine manual job, such as receptionist, van driver, plumber or electrician.

The voluntary target of boosting this level to 50% of senior leaders by 2030 will be reviewed in 2025 to ensure it remains representative and achievable, the taskforce said.

"We need to break the 'class' ceiling - removing unfair barriers to progression is not only the right thing to do, it will enable firms to boost productivity, retention levels and innovation," said Catherine McGuinness, who chairs the taskforce.

"I am not expecting our output to be comfortable reading, nor our recommendations to be universally acclaimed."

The taskforce published a "five-point" pathway for employers, industry bodies, regulators and government. Regulators should mandate data collection on workforce socio-economic background from firms they oversee, it said.

($1 = 0.8342 pounds)

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Jan Harvey

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