Andy Lee, Strategic Lead for Diversity in Business for The Royal Bank of Scotland & NatWest Business Banking, and Bizhan Tong, overseeing Client Experience within Barclays Private Bank and Overseas Services, discuss why individuals from ethnic minorities, immigrants, women and young people are starting more businesses than ever before, the importance of supporting female talent at middle management level, the shared learning between banks and entrepreneurs, the power of interconnectivity between different networks and using the medium of film to enact social change.
Links & Resources from this Episode
Reflecting diversity, choosing inclusion – Speech given by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England
Andy is the Strategic Lead for Diversity in Business for The Royal Bank of Scotland & NatWest Business Banking, working with the specialist Business Banking teams across the UK to connect the bank with enterprise support agencies, Business Networks, local government and Education bodies, to ensure there is robust support in place for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) business owners wanting to start, grow or scale their business.
Andy has been with The Royal Bank of Scotland for 11 years, enjoying a variety of roles, from personal banking in the early years to Corporate project management most recently, he also uses the skills he has gained at work to support local good causes in Birmingham where is lives, he is a Governor at Selly Park Technology College for Girls, and a trustee at Relate Birmingham.
When not at work Andy spends his time at Birmingham’s new 50m swimming pool and plodding up and down the Birmingham Canal Network in an attempt to improve his health and fitness, one of his passions is reducing the barrier to entry when starting a business, as an accredited women in business specialist, he works with groups across the country to understand the barriers they face and works with colleagues in the bank to provide support in these areas to ensure the UK is an easy place to start and run a business.
You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyJRLee.
Bizhan Tong operates within Barclays Private Bank and Overseas Services, overseeing Client Experience within the UK Private Bank. Prior to this he was part of the Multi-Manager team for Wealth & Investments which is preceded by his role in Premier Relationship Management all within the Barclays umbrella. In addition he is a writer, producer, and director having founded Phoenix Waters Productions, a production company developing projects for motion picture and television where he recently completed ‘The Escort’, a feature about gender perception due for release in 2018. He also owns an online dating platform via Phoenix Waters Ltd.
Bizhan holds a Maths degree from the University of Manchester and at 21 became the youngest MBA student in the UK, studying at the University of Liverpool where he graduated with Distinction.
He is actively involved in improving the diversity agenda, and co-leads the gender diversity pillar at Barclays Wealth & Investments in addition to his involvement in Barclays Private Bank & Overseas Services. He is also involved with the City of London on projects relating to this theme, and is an avid philanthropist where he sits on the boards of two charities – Variety the Children’s Charity and Career Ready – to help children across the UK.
You can follow Bizhan on Twitter @bizhan_tong.
Series Two, Episode Twelve Transcript
Julia: Hello. My name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services.
In each episode we seek to shine a light on successful progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer practical ideas to help drive change. Today, we explore the subject of diversity from two banking executives: Andy Lee from Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, and Bizhan Tong from Barclays Private Bank and Overseas Services.
Andy Lee is the Strategic Lead for Diversity in Business for the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest Business Banking. Working with a specialist team across the UK, Andy connects with enterprise initiatives designed to help Black, Asian, and minority ethnic, LGBT, and business owners with disabilities wanting to start or scale their businesses. Andy, welcome to the show.
Julia: Bizhan Tong works at Barclays Private Bank and Overseas Services with responsibility for client experience within the UK private bank. He is actively involved in improving the diversity agenda and co-leads the gender diversity pillar. He also works with the city of London, working on a variety of diversity initiatives. Bizhan, thank you for joining us today.
Bizhan: Thank you for having me.
Julia: As always, at the top of the show, we invite each guest to take a moment to talk about the main initiatives they’re focused on at the moment. So, Bizhan, let’s start with you. What are you working on at the moment?
Bizhan: We’re working on a variety of projects. I’m currently co-leading the gender diversity pillar at Barclays Wealth and Investments, and at the same time working as part of a diversity working group in Barclays Private Bank. The intention is to see where we can get both those streams to continue to improve the gender diversity element, to reduce the gender pay gap, which is something that’s at forefront of our minds, and to improve areas for female colleagues in middle management to have greater opportunities.
Julia: Wonderful. Thank you. And Andy, how about you? What are you working on?
Andy: So, I’m currently working on the strategy for how, as a bank, NatWest better supports, Black and Asian, minority ethnic businesses across the United Kingdom. So, I’m doing that by working with local authorities, universities, and pro-support agencies, as well as our human resources department so that we can engage better with the local communities to get our staff into more diverse communities and ensure that our staff have more diverse networks as well.
Andy: The reason we’re working with the human resources department is to ensure the work we’re doing externally is also mirrored internally for our BAME staff as well, because one of our targets as a bank is to ensure that our top 4,000 roles are BAME individuals. We want to get that to 14% and we’re currently at 8%.
Julia: I think this is really interesting and probably the perfect start for the conversation. Because if I look back to our first ever episode, which was with Heather Melville OBE, and she was talking about … There’s a driving change which I would like to explore with you, which is, a lot of young BAME talent is choosing to set up its own businesses. Which clearly you know; your customer base if you like. Is that fair? Are we still seeing that? Because given your appetite to drive change within your organisation as well, I’m quite keen to explore the outside world and the inside world.
Andy: Absolutely. So, what we’re seeing is the number of BAME individuals, that millennial generation, are actually starting more businesses than previous generations. Now there’s lots of reasons for that in terms of high levels of unemployment in the youth. What we also know is that migrant individuals to the United Kingdom are more likely to start a business than those UK born. Various reasons, but the research shows that the main reason is underemployment. We also know that if you have an entrepreneurial individual within the family, you’re more likely to start a business yourself as well.
The education system is also realising that enterprise is a valid career choice for people. So, we’re seeing a lot more individuals working with us. We work with organisations like The Prince’s Trust. Another area were you have high levels of deprivation, which is normally where The Prince’s Trust work, we’re now starting to see more people move into self-employment and becoming entrepreneurs. I think there are lots of various reasons behind it. We’re definitely seeing people realising that rather than going into corporates, they can start their own business. I think we may talk about it a little bit later, but people want to work for an organisation that looks and feels like them as well. And if you look at corporates around the country, they don’t necessarily reflect the make-up of the United Kingdom.
Julia: And as you’re thinking about your corporate change and that corporate change journey of greater inclusion, are there lessons you’re learning from the entrepreneurial world that you’re bringing in house?
Andy: Absolutely. So, we have 12 entrepreneurial hubs around the country, where we bring entrepreneurs into our buildings to help them accelerate their businesses. What we’ve done by having that is realise actually we have an opportunity to make our staff more intrapreneurial as well. So, utilising the tools that we teach to entrepreneurs and holding a mirror up to ourselves and saying, “How can we improve what we’re doing?” But also, having that diversity lens over it.
So, as an organisation, we want to get to gender parity but also wanna make sure that we reflect the communities that we serve as well, which is why Ross McEwan, our CEO, announced in January the 14% target by 2025, to have our top 4,000 roles as BAME individuals. What that then does is when we’re out recruiting, whether it be apprentices, whether it be graduates or people that are coming in through normal recruitment, is making sure that we have those role models in the bank as well. It is really important that we reflect the communities we serve because we know that our customers want to work and deal with people that understand them more. And if you’re somebody that’s from that community, then you have a better understanding to help them grow or build that business for their families.
Julia: You were talking about the entrepreneurial tools that you can then bring to create an intrapreneurial culture, if you like. Can you bring that to life a little bit more? Can you give us some examples of practical things that you bring to bear in house?
Andy: Absolutely. So, what we always do when we start with and entrepreneur is we will sit down with them and go through a business model canvas. So, that is a nine box grid that looks at the different elements of a business, and do the exact same thing with staff as well. So, if you’re working on a project, what are the core elements of your project? And we can match that up with pitching techniques. So, if we’re talking to businesses saying, “Can you pitch your business for investment?” We utilise the exact same structure, the same teaching methods with our staff. So, “What is your 60 second pitch? What is your three minute pitch?” So the staff can be very articulate to either talk about the work that they’re working on or even if they’re going for an interview or just wanting to make people more aware of what they’re doing. So, they are two examples of the type of tools that we work with our entrepreneurs that we’re also utilising with our staff as well-
Julia: And I almost see that as an iterative circle, if you like. Which is, then you serve your clients better because if you can more keenly articulate what it is you’re doing, you can serve your customers better as well. Is that fair?
Andy: Absolutely. So, a prime example of this is in our entrepreneurial hub up in Edinburgh, we have the entrepreneurs sitting in the exact same building, sort of side-by-side desk-wise, with our technology team as well. What the entrepreneurs said too was, “You know these pitching techniques are brilliant, but at the moment I have to practice with an individual. Is there a way that you can develop an app for that?” So, the entrepreneur team worked with the technology team and then we released the NatWest pitch app, which records individual’s pitch in the elements that is available. And we made that made that available externally through iTunes and Google Play, but also it’s available for staff as well.
Staff can record their pitch and then we use Facebook Workplace so people can post their pitch onto the network that’s available to over 60,000 members of staff across the globe as well. So people can, rather than just practicing with people in their direct team, you can put it online and then staff from all around the world can come back and say, “Have you thought about doing this? Have you thought about doing that?” So, its definitely been really useful for ourselves, working with the entrepreneurs because they’ve made us realise the speed of change in the finance sector. We absolutely have to be the greyhound in the sector to ensure that we’re innovating at the same speed as some of fintechs that are coming onto the scene-
Julia: The power of social tools as well. It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs serving SMEs and also the next scale up, if you like. Because this is all very easy to talk about, but these are large organisations. I think about your two organisations and the need to drive change … Bizhan let me turn to you for a second because at the beginning you were talking about, obviously thinking about the gender dynamic within your organisation, particularly thinking around pay and then also the female middle management layers as well. Talk to us a little bit about some of the initiatives that are going on. I’m very keen to get under the skin of the practical ways in which we’re driving change as well.
Bizhan: Certainly. So, one of the statistics that came about that really came as a shock was in regards to the gender pay gap. And something that hit us hard is the Times Top 50 Employers for Women, of that almost half of them have reported a gender pay gap which is higher than the national average of 18.4%. Now of course, the reason that they’re on there is less about that gender pay gap than about what they’re trying to do for women. Because ultimately, every organisation that submits their organisation for consideration has to fill out the form explaining their intent, their actions, and so on and so forth.
And that makes me think of … Let’s say you’re teaching a child how to play tennis, and you’re telling them how to swing the racket. And they’re trying and it’s wonderful but at some point you have to realise that the pace at which you’re moving is too slow or the other kids are going to end up playing ATP tennis by the time that person’s handled that. So we need to think differently, we need to think up a different strategy. So what we’re doing is we’re trying to take a more active step in understanding the perceptions of our female colleagues, and particularly those in middle management.
Again, looking at the reports of different companies explaining why their gender pay gap is quite high, many of them give the reason stating that, “We have a lot of secretaries.” But does that simply imply that all secretaries must be women? Does that also imply that women have to only be secretaries and they cannot be leaders? And at Barclays I’m quite pleased that our CEO of our Private Bank is a female, Karen Frank. Our CEO of Wealth Investments is a female, Dena Brumpton. We need to have more female leadership. Because if you have more female leadership, they understand. They better understand our female colleagues and how they can support them and nurture and develop them to have meaningful careers. So that somewhere down the line when they have hit middle management, it doesn’t act like a glass ceiling.
And that’s why we’re also working with the city of London on a project called Project Nurture, which is identifying that, not just within Barclays but across the financial services industry. So we’re doing that, and as a result we also have to liaise with HR, because they’re the best people to note for understanding how our female colleagues act. Especially, for example, if someone decides to pursue opportunities outside the bank, what prompted them to decide that? Is it something to do with gender? Is it something to do with other factors? And in doing so we can act in a different manner.
And finally, I think unconscious bias is something that we need to take more consideration of and it’s something that we’ve been being more proactive with this year. So, if we can do something around that, I think that we as an organisation and as an industry can make a meaningful stride to provide a better culture, a greater atmosphere for women and ensure that they have the same career opportunities as men.
Julia: And where are you seeing the greatest shifts at the moment? Because it’s wonderful, you’ve got these senior female executives, and we talked on the podcasts a lot about the power of role models – if you can see it, you can be it. What are the biggest initiatives at the moment that you think are going to drive change for that middle management? Because there are many dynamics around why women leave and it would be interesting to get your thoughts on why that might be.
Bizhan: One thing which I personally very much liked was towards the end of 2017, we decided to identify female colleagues in that role, in that middle management role, who we felt had great opportunities, had great potential within them and to identify their careers. So now, we have those names, and what we’re doing is we’re supporting them. So they have their own teams, their own meetings, their own conferences, to build them up to liaise, to network because networking is key. And so that we can provide them with great opportunities to move forward, and we’re keeping an eye on each and every one of them.
Julia: And when you talk about their own conferences, just bring that to life a little.
Bizhan: So it’s strictly for them and then they have senior leadership across Barclays to work with them, to help them in their roles. So, this is something that doesn’t exist for their male counterparts. This is strictly for them. That’s because we feel there’s a key issue around women leaving, not just within Barclays but within financial services as a whole, and they start to pursue opportunities outside of the financial services industry. If you can identify people who are promising and ensure that their opportunities are met, because ultimately as an organisation we want them to thrive – it’s great for them and it’s great for us from a commercial perspective. If you can identify that, then we can create a strategy that will play out for everyone across the bank.
Julia: Yes. And one thing that I’m very interested in, that comes up a lot on the podcast, is about the power of interconnectivity between different networks. So for example, male champions helping, working with female-focused initiatives and networks. I’m interested in both of your opinions actually, particularly when thinking about the BAME community or the LGBT community or the community of entrepreneurs with disabilities, for example, and we’re seeing really fascinating growth around that. Is there a drive for greater intersectionality, or is that utopia?
Bizhan: So what we also do is we have working groups constantly meeting where different pillars are meeting up to discuss the works that they’re doing and trying to find areas of collaboration. So for example, when it comes to diversity, we’re looking for ambassadors, we have to take into account that we need more male ambassadors so that we can support them and also the LGBTQ community, who we’re also working with. Another pillar which is important to us is dynamic working, which is changing the way that the organisation works and how we adapt. And that has an impact on women because we are concerned about many of them leaving, let’s say for maternity leave or for various other reasons. Should that impede them in terms of their career progress? That’s something that’s been an issue for many decades and we’re hoping to tackle, to overcome that. And not just about maternity leave, paternity leave, because we believe it should be equal for both sexes.
Julia: I see. And then, Andy, from your work with the external world, the clients you’re serving as well. Are we at risk of creating silos of entrepreneurship that are specifically run and intended for certain segments? Or, are we seeing a greater intersectionality?
Andy: So, I think at the moment there is a risk that it can be siloed. I think what needs to be done is having that mindfulness of intersectionality. So, one of the projects that I’m working on with the University of Birmingham and Citizens UK is actually working with BAME business owners in three areas of Birmingham to actually provide them with the type of business support that if you were a British born business owner, through your networks you’d normally have access to. So, we’re 18 months into the project and what we’re actually finding is those business owners, they’ve gained that confidence. They understand that by having access to these networks, getting great business support, can help them grow their business, can help them with safeguarding jobs, or employing more individuals. The point that we’re at with the project now is saying, “Well, actually how do we bring it all together?” I think the important thing is not having it on the business owners, it’s actually trying to influence the overall market to say, “If you’re running an event for business owners, then rather than running it in a city centre location where you may get 80% white people attending, why aren’t you linked up into the local communities and trying to get people mixing together? So, rather than having disperse business groups you actually get people working together.”
Andy: And that could be the same said for rainbow networks in different parts of the cities around the country, the same for women in business forums. It’s getting everybody working together. And we’re seeing the exact same thing within the bank as well. So, we have our employee led networks around women in business, our rainbow network, our disability network, families and carers. In terms of the women in business and our rainbow network, we also have the male allies programme as well. So, if you are a male ally for women in business, are you also taking shared paternity leave? Are you showing that you understand the challenges that your female, whether it be employees or colleagues, are facing as well? Are you reverse mentoring? Are you sponsoring a new graduate coming through?
And it’s exactly the same for our rainbow network, as well. It’s people saying, “I absolutely want to support colleagues no matter what silo” … I don’t like using the word silo, but there is a definite danger that if people don’t work together it can end up in that situation. However, when you look at intersectionality, if we’ve got a black female LGBT employee, they will be part of three of the separate networks, so it’s about the network leads as well, whether it be nationally or regionally, all working together. Because if you’re running a development session, rather than just run it for one group, it’s about well, if we’re running it in the city of London, invite everybody, so that people start to mix together and share their common challenges. But also having individuals that aren’t necessarily part of those networks coming in, talking to the people that are there, and supporting them through the journey as well.
Julia: And I think that this point about leadership is incredibly important which is … we’re seeing this incredible shift between … whether we think middle management or top level management and needing to have very much an inclusive leadership mindset. And thinking about, particularly in the world of financial services, these are large, traditional institutions. And Bizhan, you were talking about male paternity leave, and Andy was just referencing it there as well. Are you seeing that there is a drive to a greater inclusivity mindset with the management? And you talk about the role of HR as well. Is that being nurtured and taught and supported through that leadership journey, or are we still using fairly institutionally framed mindsets in training courses in leadership coaching?
Bizhan: I think that’s one of the greatest changes that we’re making and it’s why it gives me a lot of hope for the future. Management and leadership are very much on board, repeatedly having calls, making it clear that we need to make those changes. It’s not just words. It’s about taking actions, having meetings, trying to mould, providing training, so that we can change, or the management can change their mindsets and improve and be more empathetic.
Julia: Can you give us some examples of specific areas that would drive that change? Because it’s easily said, isn’t it? Any financial institution can sit around the table and say, “Yes, we do this, we care about it.” I’m really interested in getting into-
Bizhan: Certainly. I’ll provide two examples. The first is, in addition to our women’s network, we’re also involved in women on boards. And our agenda this year is focusing on FinTech, which is a predominantly male industry. We’re working hard to put more women on boards in those FinTech companies, working with our clients, with different organisations, to ensure that FinTech companies can have female leadership. Because if we can do it at an early stage, then we can really make a difference within that industry.
And the second is internal. We’re working with our management teams to find some understanding and empathy in regards to our colleagues who decide to leave for maternity leave or even for other reasons. So, if some has a sick family member, or if someone has recently had a child – it’s beyond maternity leave, but now if we need to change in the way they’re working. A colleague of mine, for example, has twins. And so, as a result taking them to school and so forth, has an impact. So, in the past, it might have been more stringent, it might have been more challenging to accommodate. Now we’re actively working to ensure that our colleague can have the same opportunities as us and enable it so that it does not impede upon her family life.
Julia: So, let’s take a moment to turn to Cynthia and Robert for some research to support the discussion today.
Cynthia: Women make up 52% of banking sex of employees globally. However, they make up only 38% of middle management and far fewer are currently promoted to executive roles. These are the findings from professor Michel Ferrary’s report, Gender Diversity in the Banking Industry. The research examined female representations across 71 banks in 20 different countries. In Canada, France, and Sweden, 45% of the people at board level were women. Whereas in Japan, female representation at board level was just 12%.
Robert: The FT and HERoes Champions of Women in Business lists are a powerful celebration of the progress being made by women across the UK, Ireland and around the world. They are published annually by the Financial Times, showcasing female business leaders and their male allies. Candidates are judged according to four criteria: activities undertaken internally to champion women in business; activities in nominees involved with outside of the work place that help to champion women in business; recent and significant business achievements; and seniority and influence in the business.
Cynthia: The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor polled at least 10,000 UK adults to gauge entrepreneurial trends, attitudes, and aspirations. Here are some of their key findings: Immigrants were three times more likely to be entrepreneurial than lifelong UK residents; Immigrants and people aged 25 to 44 were most likely to start businesses; And more women than ever were also seeking to start companies.
Robert: A separate study conducted by the Center for Entrepreneurs and company data business DueDil, found that migrant entrepreneurs were behind one in seven UK companies. Since 2013, almost half a million people from 155 countries have settled in the UK and launched businesses, with some running more than one venture.
Julia: Thanks Cynthia and Robert. And links to research can be found on our website www.DiverCityPodcast.com. There you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please also follow us on Twitter @DiverCityPod. DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. And we’d love a rating because it all helps promote the show.
One of the reasons why we’ve been doing the podcast is because if you can take the discussion out onto more mainstream, and social channels are very important for that, then you get more people listening, talking, debating, and hopefully driving change. I’m very interested in one of the things you’re doing, Bizhan, because you’re taking this even bigger, into the world of film. Why don’t you tell us a bit about that?
Bizhan: Certainly. So, one of the things which I’m passionate to do, beyond the work of Barclays, is I also own a film production company called Phoenix Waters Productions, which develops projects intended to enact social change. And the feature we’re releasing this year is called The Escort, which despite its title is about gender perception within society. It’s about a young man who has 60 minutes to convince an escort to leave her line of work, but what ensues is a conversation about power dynamics – the reasons why someone would enter that line of work, trying to explore, or rather showcase, that a profession isn’t a personality, that she’s no damsel in distress, and he’s no saint.
And this was actually inspired by something that occurred at work. I was on my way to meet a client when an escort tried to sell her services, and from the conversation I had, she actually appeared quite charming and interesting and intelligent. It made me quite dismayed as to why someone would pursue that line of work.
And I wanted to explore that, explore what’s happening in society. That led me to have the most bizarre coffee shop meeting. Seven escorts meeting at a coffee shop in North Finchley, and having a round table discussion about what they do and why they do it. It made me realise that some of them are educated, some of them have degrees, some of them are studying, some of them are reading books from Dostoevsky and so forth. Why are you doing this? And they talked about society, they talked about unemployment, they talked about the current Deliveroo and so forth gigs, and the explanation that, based on the economy, this seems a rational way to make an income.
So this film is really an exploration of that. It’s an examination of that and also society in general because women, at least from what I’ve seen, they have to work twice, if not ten times, as hard as a man to achieve the same role or the same position as they have. This film explores that, showing that a strong, powerful woman, despite these incredible traits she possesses, is stuck as an escort and trying to link that to society and the way it shaped men. I just wanted to point out that I actually came up with this idea in 2015. I started writing the script, wrote it by 2016, shot it in 2017, before Time’s Up, before the Me Too movement. Yet rather frighteningly, the film enacts some of the revelations which have occurred, including a monologue about the way men behave, the way they do, ending with Times Up. Including conversations about misogyny and conversations which have all become part of the cultural zeitgeist.
And I think that’s less about being soothsayer than about the fact that this has happened for so long and it’s been a quiet secret, or rather an open secret, and now hopefully with what’s been going on, with the Women’s March, with it being 100 years since the Suffragette movement, that we are seeing change. It’s not just about harassment, but it’s about opportunities for women.
Julia: I don’t want this to be a spoiler alert on your film, at all, that would be a terrible thing to do. But in terms of the journey of the film, what’s going to drive that change? Is it a very positive film? Has it got a positive intention? Or is it just a reflection of society at a point in time?
Bizhan: I’d like to think of it as a film with hope. It’s something that is a reflection, or rather gives a voice, to those who haven’t been given a voice. Even today, when I’m hearing the stories about Me Too and Time’s Up, I have yet to hear the stories of sex workers. And it’s to do that, but at the same time, yes it’s about creating change. It’s about showing the opportunities available to them to make them not two dimensional characters, but well-rounded characters, and make us respect them. We might not agree with their profession, we might not agree with people in different occupations, with different political agendas, but it’s about understanding their behaviours, respect them just as we would men, or any other person, and trying to ensure that there’s equality by the end of it.
Julia: Interesting. Very, very interesting. And we’ll be sure to let people know when that comes out. So, Bizhan, I look forward to the film enormously. This point you make about common dialogue, I think is really interesting, and this comes up a lot when we talk on these podcasts. Because ultimately it’s about alignment and common dialogue and common intentions that will ultimately drive change. And, Andy, you were talking earlier about an initiative in Birmingham, so I’m very interested in what you were saying about the alignment of different parties around a singular objective and the role of business, banking, and also academia as well. Talk to us about the initiative in Birmingham.
Andy: Absolutely. So, an important part of my role within the bank is, “Where can I find source evidence to prove that we need to make a change?” So, I do lots of work with academic institutions around the country and the Centre for Research into Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, based in the University of Birmingham, released the report in 2015 that stated, “If you’re a migrant business owner in the UK, one, you’re less likely to access traditional business supports and also, your business life is less likely to be successful for the main reason that either you don’t have access to the networks or you’re not gaining access to business support from the mainstream.”
So, I approached the Centre for Research to say, “I don’t understand why this is the case. I live in Birmingham and I see the business owners working with our members of staff and our competitors as well.” And they actually said, “Well, that’s your perception, but is that the reality?”
So, we then spent some time doing roadshows where we went to three areas of Birmingham, which we took multiple measures for the reasons for picking them around deprivation, around business start up numbers against business failure rates. And we spent six weeks going out, speaking to business owners and what we actually found was the levels of trust were very low. So, one example, I was stood up talking to this business owner, saying “You know, this is a really exciting opportunity to work with a mainstream bank, with a high profile university.” And they just turned around and said, “This has been done before. Are you just going to be here for the next few months and then leave us to it?” Which is where we then started working with the organisation called Citizens UK, who are a community-led organisation and that was then funded by the Greater Birmingham Growth Hub.
So what we found by engaging with Citizens UK is that we almost had a trust through association, because they are on the ground, working with the businesses. So, since 2016 we’ve met with over 200 businesses to talk to them about working with them in a more intense way. We’ve actually worked with 57 businesses on a one-to-one, going through business model canvases, setting their strategy, how do they take their business to the next level? What we’ve actually found whilst doing this is over 95% of the businesses had never engaged with the mainstream. And we’ve actually protected over 170 jobs as well.
So what we know is that when you go out into the communities that aren’t being served, you are supporting those communities to thrive, to prosper, to grow. And where I think it’s really important for the financial sector is taking these learnings, and we’re looking to grow this across the UK as well, in places like London where we can say, “If we go into these areas where we know it’s entrepreneurial, these BAME individuals are starting businesses, growing businesses … If 95% of those aren’t engaging and we have a FinTech hub in London, then let’s work with them, connect everybody together because we know that innovation in these communities is just as high as anybody else that has the traditional support to it.” So, I think academia and private sector and community organisation, all working together for a common purpose is really important.
Julia: That just sounds amazing and I think the fact that you can drive change … And over time and over the UK … but also how it lifts skills and identifies new skills and drives talent, which is so needed in the context of diversity and inclusion, this is what a lot of this is about, it’s actually finding that talent and also driving and inspiring change. I think that’s wonderful. I’m very hopeful. It’s been a wonderful discussion. Andy and Bizhan, thank you so much for taking the time.
Andy: Thank you.
Bizhan: Thank you.
Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, DiverCityPodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed in iTunes or your favourite podcast app. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review. It all helps promotes the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.