In this episode, host Julia Streets is joined by Dr Rajiv Prabhakar, Senior Lecturer in Personal Finance at the Open University and Sian Williams, previously Director of Policy and Innovation at Toynbee Hall, now the new CEO of Switchback. Together they look at the financial inclusion going mainstream, and the persistent problems those on low incomes face, particularly, access to wealth. They discuss the importance of financial education and why for some, cash is the safest budgeting tool. Together they navigate the path to inclusion which incorporates a customer duty from the financial services industry, to create financially inclusive products, resources and services.
Dr Rajiv Prabhakar
Dr Rajiv Prabhakar is a Senior Lecturer in Personal Finance at the Open University. He is author of Financial Inclusion: critique and alternatives (Policy Press, 2021) and current research explores financial inclusion and taxation. He teaches on You and Your Money at the Open University. Between April 2021 and Sept 2022 he was a Parliamentary Academic Fellow at the House of Commons Library conducting work on financial inclusion.
Sian Williams is the CEO of Switchback, a charity that helps young men after they leave the justice system build a stable, rewarding life. She was previously the Director of Policy and Innovation at Toynbee Hall, a charitable institution working to address the causes and impacts of poverty in the East End of London and elsewhere. Sian led Toynbee Hall's approach to co-designing and co-producing a fairer and happier society. It's her role to ensure that people with lived experience of exclusion and inequality have the opportunity and support to drive all their work informing national, regional and local government, civil society and industry policy and practice. Sian is committed to creating a UK in which every organisation - whether government, business or third sector - takes responsibility to ensure that they have a positive impact on people's financial health. Her systems thinking approach to financial inclusion helps leaders and policy makers, just as much as frontline staff, understand how we are each financially affected by the way organisations "do their business". A 15 year career as a diplomat not only showed her the poverty and deprivation too many people still face, but also convinced her that lasting change requires both a financially inclusive environment and people who have the skills to navigate that environment effectively.
Series Fourteen, Episode Seven Transcript
Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equity, inclusion and diversity in the financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. Before we get started today, I just want to take a moment to thank our friends at City AM. They have given DiverCity Podcast, a new home at Impact AM, their pages dedicated to ESG, impact investment, DE&I and more. We really appreciate that they publish and promote both our episodes and our supporting blog series so their readers can stay right on top at the very latest diversity, equity, and inclusion debate. Thank you to City AM.
I’ve been really looking forward to this incredibly important conversation regarding financial inclusion. Today I’m joined by Dr. Rajiv Prabhakar and Sian Williams. Dr. Rajiv Prabhakar is a senior lecturer in personal finance at the Open University. He is the author of a book called Financial Inclusion: Critique and Alternatives. His current research explores financial inclusion and taxation. He teaches on you and your money at the Open University and it’s really interesting to note that between 2021 and 2022, he was a parliamentary academic fellow at the House of Commons Library conducting essential work on financial inclusion. What a joy to have you on the show,
Rajiv. Thanks for being with us.
Dr. Rajiv: Thank you, Julia.
Julia: Joining Rajiv today is Sian Williams. Sian Williams was the Director of Policy and Innovation at Toynbee Hall, a charitable institution working to address the causes and impacts of poverty in the east end of London and elsewhere. She leads on Toynbee Hall’s approach to co-designing and co-producing a fairer and happier society. Her system’s thinking approach to financial inclusion helps leaders and policy makers just as much as frontline staff. It’s all about understanding how we’re each financially affected by the way in which organisations do their business. A 15 year career as a diplomat showed her not only the poverty and deprivation too many people still face, but also convinced her that lasting change requires both a financially inclusive environment and people who have the skills to navigate that environment effectively. Sian, thank you so much for being with us.
Sian: Thanks for having me. I’m really looking forward to it too.
Julia: As I ask all our guests, I’m so curious to know what you are focused on right now and I wondered if I could come to you first Rajiv, what are you focused on?
Dr. Rajiv: I’ve been looking at things since writing my book on financial inclusion: critique and alternatives in 2021. I’ve been looking at things such as what do we mean by financial inclusion and what’s happened since COVID and now a global cost of living crisis is how we think about financial inclusion in those terms. Actually my thinking on this has developed and altered with the current challenges. In some ways financial inclusion was often about vulnerable groups being excluded from mainstream financial services. But I think what’s new, and what I’m looking at a little bit more now is how in some ways financial exclusion is going mainstream in the sense that we have things such as fuel poverty now, which could affect our majority of say UK households for example.
What that means about how we think about financial inclusion, not simply being about the access that people have to mainstream financial services such as savings, banking, and insurance, but also the income that people have. I guess this opens up a new line of research into can we get a fuller sense of what we understand by financial inclusion that’s not simply about access but also about money flowing through the system. It’s connecting those dots that I’m really interested in at the moment and it ties nicely with some of the work that Sian’s been doing previously at Toynbee Hall.
Julia: A beautiful moment to bring in Sian. There are so many questions I have coming just from these early thoughts from you there. So thank you very much in indeed. But Sian, tell what do you focus on?
Sian: At Toynbee, we work in collaboration with people across East London co-producing solutions to persistent problems. And oh my gosh, are there persistent problems around financial inclusion. We’re looking at issues around how do you help people cope within a cost of living crisis when digital tools are not meeting their needs? For example, direct debits are still incredibly unfit for purpose for people on low and precarious incomes. How do we make sure that people have access to the right cash in the right place? Thinking about the closing of branch networks and ATMs, how do we stop that and put other things in place.
Rajiv’s point around income is so powerful. How do we make sure that people both get the income that they’re entitled to through benefit uptake, but also that jobs pay a living wage. And finally, how do we bring together in a world that has increasingly precarious incomes through zero-hour contracts and part-time work for people in particularly difficult circumstances, how do we make sure that the financial products and services available to them really stretch the value of their income so that they’re not paying that poverty premium?
Through all of those thoughts, we are thinking around how do we help people cope with the now and how do we make sure that people who are facing those challenges have a voice. Lived experience, co-production work together. But we’re also looking to the future. How do we make sure for example, that there’s a just transition to a net zero economy. In my new role at Switchback, a charity that supports young men leaving prison to rebuild a life that they could be proud of, one of the financial inclusion issues is that so many people leave prison without a bank account. And if you don’t have a bank account, you can’t get a job. If you can’t get a job, you can’t support yourself. For someone leaving prison, that automatically pushes them back into a life of re-offending.
Thinking around how we make sure that people who really need it have access to a bank account at the right time in the right place and then are able to use that to rebuild their life, it is really important. So all the time, how do we help people cope now, how do we build a better future and how do we make sure the people most affected have a real say in designing that future?
Julia: Let’s begin to unpick and sort of unpack that a little bit, because in my corporate life we’re talking in the world of payments, we’re talking banking, finance, international transactions, we’re always talking about financial inclusion and how important financial inclusion has evolved as a topic of concern. It’s interesting hearing you talking about closing ATMs and closing branches. I’m hearing more and more people talk about the validity of cheques, for example. Now I would imagine in this conversation about digital transformation that feels very alien. But this is a very, very solid conversation about what’s the populous, the citizenship of countries really need as human beings.
I wonder, Rajiv, if I could come to you, first of all, you said your thinking has developed and of changed a little. Are there any particular groups that you are concerned about that you think are being particularly financially excluded at the moment? Sian’s talked there about young people who’ve experienced prison and their reality. I’d love to hear your thoughts about who we should be paying attention to as well.
Dr. Rajiv: We’ve been quite aware of certain groups who have been routinely excluded from mainstream financial services in one way or another. For example, we can think about gender, the way in which women routinely have what is called a gender pension gap in the sense that they have lower incomes than men on average in retirement. Also historically we think about different ethnic groups and also low incomes. But actually I just want to pick up something that Sian mentioned about precarious employment because actually this is an area where there is, on the one hand, product innovation if you like. So I’m thinking of Azure, all those contract workers, those working in the gig economy and also actually it can cover groups that sometimes haven’t received attention they deserve like they self-employed and how they can sometimes fall between the cracks.
For example, in the UK when there was a regional furlough scheme, when COVID first came in, it had to be adapted because there were concerns about what provisions they have for the self-employed. Why is this important? Obviously we’ve got this traditional group that is very important to maintain a focus on, but if we are thinking about new groups that haven’t got the attention they deserved, if we think of people like those working in the gig economy or the self-employed, which can also cover as it happens, younger people, who intend to work in these sectors more than men for some of them. And so how do they go about saving for a pension. If you’re not part of a company scheme and you’re jumping between jobs, how can you actually save for retirement? But more importantly, and this is where the cost of living pressures come in, what happens if you need to tap into your savings?
Traditionally, if you’ve saved into a defined contribution scheme, it’s locked away until you can access them upon retirement. But what happens if you have an emergency and you need to get it straight away.On the one hand, all of this is very important. And so here we are thinking about access, but the reason why I mentioned fuel poverty and just briefly on that, is the way in which financial inclusion actually is going to have to evolve. Because one of of standard examples given about why financial inclusion matters is that people would say, well, if you haven’t got a bank account, you can’t take account of direct debits which will allow you to take advantage of cheaper fuel deals, and thereby it puts you in fuel poverty.
The problem we have at the moment, or recently is actually whether or not you’ve got a direct debit, it doesn’t really matter that much in some ways because everyone’s fuel bills are going up. In those situations where people are actually financially included, they’re now also struggling. So if at times financial inclusion is thinking about how will we being connected to the financial mains, if you like, well, just in the way that electricity flows through the grid, we think about money and how that flows through the financial system and other innovative ways in which people can get access to money.
Julia: Sian, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well because just thinking about your former role at Toynbee Hall, heart of the city of London, but also with a very clear sense of the community of the east end of London and beyond, and therefore the lived reality of many of your, I’m going to call them constituents, clients, customers on your doorstep, listening to Rajiv’s remarks there about the dynamics of poverty right now and in the context of financial inclusion. Love your thoughts.
Sian: Tower Hamlets sits in a fascinating locality. We’ve got the city of London to one side, we have Canary Wharf and all of that incredible city wealth sitting within our borders, and yet Tower Hamlets has persistent poverty. We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. We have very high proportions of people on incredibly low incomes. We’ve got huge income disparity. If you think about people who are earning large sums of money in Canary Wharf versus the Uber driver or the cleaner who’s living around the corner. Tower Hamlets is really an ecosystem which serves as a microcosm for the huge discrepancies in access and wealth in this country.
What is driving that financial exclusion here in the East London area? Well, firstly its income. Financial services exist to make money. They don’t exist to provide a social good. There are of course financial services who do fall into that second category. They would be responsible lenders in the CDFI sector or the credit union sector for example. So of course they exist. But the majority of this country’s financial services are provided by firms who have primarily a responsibility not to their customers but to their shareholders. Under the Company’s Act, their primary responsibility is to maximise their resources, their firms work and effort to provide a return on investment to shareholders. That’s really important to note. Of course there’s a huge lobby right now trying to get a change to that so that firms have to think about not just their shareholders but their customers, their communities and the wider environment. That’s something that’s really important if we want to create a shift in thinking.
The second factor is that when we think about how a firm looks at a customer or a potential customer and they’ve got that lens of how do I make money from you? We know that all of the data shows us that people in low incomes are not going to be high profit generators for financial services firms unless they’re in default of some kind, unless they’re paying very high fees and charges. We’ve had huge success over the last 15 years in being able to legislate out some of that financial penalty around fees and charges. For example, we managed to win fee-free bank accounts for people on the lowest incomes. We’ve managed to get a cap on the highest cost forms of credit. Whilst we’re doing great work in the sector around improving the protection to the people, of course what that also does is it starts to reduce the amount of money that firms can make from low income customers in financial services. That’s a really important dynamic to think about.
If you look at credit for example, how do we get credit? We get credit because our credit ratings agency collects lots of data about us as an individual, about our current and former history around not just our financial services, but around whether we’re on our electoral role, whether we are a landlord, whether we are a homeowner, whether we’re a renter, whether our name is on a contract, whether we’ve paid our utilities on time, all of these things. If you’re a low income, if you’re not a homeowner, if you are not the person with a rental contract and most rental contracts don’t contribute to credit scores anyway, if you’ve either not had credit or you got behind on credit, all of these things are constantly working against you. And so the lower income that you are on, the less likely. If you’ve got a good credit score, and that pushes up the cost that the firm is going to charge you to lending to you.
Access to credit remains a real challenge. Access to banking, yes, we’ve got fee-free banking accounts in place, but we know there’s another hurdle to getting a bank account, and that’s proving who you are. The regulator places heavy fines on banks who open accounts for people who are not who they say they are, primarily around money laundering and tariff financing. But obviously most people who open an account with incorrect documentation and neither of those things. But the firms respond really well when the regulator puts a fine. And so firms make getting a bank account really hard if you don’t have a passport or a driving licence. The majority of people in the low income in this country don’t have both of those documents, they certainly don’t have three months worth of back bills for a property because they’ve not been the bill payer. So accessing an account is really difficult.
There’s all these fundamental reasons why it’s hard. Then there’s the environment within which people are living. If you don’t have much money, it’s really hard to put down a deposit on a sustainable tenancy. So you might have to move around a lot. If you have to move around a lot because you keep getting evicted, it’s much harder to show that you are a reliable, stable person and that’s completely out of your control because you can’t stop your landlord really evicting you. We need to stop that kind of practise and we’ve won the removal of no fault evictions, but it’s still very difficult to prove that that’s what’s happening.
Then there’s also the issue around trust. We know that the data shows us that if you come from a non-white background, so if you are black, if you are Bangladeshi, if you’re Somali, firstly you’re going to get a lot of perception amongst your community that financial services firms in this country will treat you badly because that’s what people’s experience has been, and word of mouth matters. Secondly, the hurdles for you to access an account, or credit, or insurance, or savings, or a pension will be much higher. If you are not born in this country and you don’t have all that documentation in place, it’s much harder to access. So the complex interweaving of the financial services firm behaviour, the regulatory environment, the wider environment that a person is either born into or grows up in or currently living in, plus low incomes, instability around housing, instability around employment, and then add on to all of that, the layer of culture and trust. And it’s really easy to understand why so many people are financially excluded.
Dr. Rajiv: I’d say a couple of things on top of that. First is that there’s a temptation, it might be for some people to think, oh, well financial inclusion now is just targeted at a set of small vulnerable groups and not me, but actually, and this is all unfolding at the moment, is actually this is a peril that’s going to become much more mainstream. To give an example, we’ve not talked about so far financial capability, which is the idea of the knowledge, skills and confidence to make financial decisions. This is often seen as a compliment to access to services. For example, it’s not enough for me to have access to a bank account, I need to be able to know what to do with it and budget and so on. Now why is that important? I think a lot of the data and evidence I would say is that actually people on low incomes are excellent at budgeting because they have to make every penny, pound currency stretch, and so they’re very good.
Often people on low incomes are divided, ah, well, they don’t know how to household budget. Actually, I think the reverse is the case. They’re very good. The issue, and this is where cost of living I think is adding the layer of complexity onto what Sian has set out, this is going to make this much more effect large sections of the population. And yes, if you are being relatively comfortable, you might not have bothered for example, setting up that direct debit, but you might not have bothered about your pension contributions and so on. And on the one hand that might give you a spare, so you could be more financially included even though you’re being relatively comfortable because you’ve got to make ends meet. So to some extent it can widen financial inclusion because those groups who’ve not suffered in the same way as certain groups, they may feel the need.
But the other point is also I think money. Income is going to be increasingly crucial. We’ve already seen not just the UK government, but in France and in Germany, they’ve been one off payments to help people with fuel bills. In France at the end of 2021, they announced certain targeted help. Same in Germany, the same in the UK and also in the US theres been three waves of economic impact payments, so-called, COVID-19. But all these point to the ways in which governments are looking at ways of helping people with that other ingredient of financial inclusion, I think, which I keep harking back to money increasingly in what I’m researching and writing. I think that’s what I would add on to Sian.
Julia: Sian, please.
Sian: Thank you, Rajiv, you honestly raised such brilliant points there. I’ve just been thinking about the role of cash and one of the pieces of work I contribute to is the Cash Action Group, which is the CEOs of the banks together with UK finance led by amazing chair, Natalie Ceeney, putting together an action plan to ensure access to cash for people who need it. As we know, cash is declining and one of the things that I’ve been looking at is both what is stopping people moving to digital payments and who’s going to need access to cash over the next decade. What we are currently seeing is that cash use is going up not down even though the trend overall is down. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen cash withdrawals particularly from the post office leap, and we know the reason for that, don’t we?
We know it’s because when money is tight, cash is certain. Digital payments, online banking, paying with a card all increase your risk for two really clear reasons. One, because you can’t be certain exactly how much money you’ve got left in your bank account because you can’t be certain, have all the payments gone through, can you remember everything you did? Do you get a receipt if you use contactless? No. So how do you keep track of exactly how much money you’ve spent when you are trying to budget now increasingly to the penny. There’ve always been people, as you’ve talked about, who’ve been brilliant cash budgeters on very low incomes. And I totally agree with you that the uninitiated into this topic think that financial education is the solution for tackling financial exclusion and debt, isn’t it? It’s increasing incomes, you’re absolutely right. And so we’re seeing more people withdrawing cash because cash is the safest budgeting tool of all to know exactly how much you spent.
The second reason that cash is the safest budgeting tool of all is because no one can take it from you other than robbing you. Whereas if you’re using digital payments, card payments and really importantly direct debits, someone can reach into your account digitally and take money from you. And of course added onto that is the additional layer of worry about fraud and scams. We absolutely know that one of the reasons that people on the lowest incomes or with the most precarious incomes or who have got a history of debt often shy away from any form of digital banking at all. They stay with cash because it gives them absolute control. Cash is tangible, it’s physical. I know how much I have, I know how much I have left to spend. I know whether you have my money or whether I have my money at any given point.
Digital tools do not meet those needs. And until the financial services sector can make digital tools for payments replicate all of those features of cash to the level of confidence that cash currently gives, we will not see the final rump of people who are using cash move across digital payments. And my hunch is that over the next year as the cost of living crisis reignites in people a confidence in cash as the budgeting tool of choice, actually we will see a slower decline of cash over the next couple of years than we would otherwise have seen.
Julia: This has been a fantastic conversation. I’ve just enjoyed so much listening to the two of you speak because it does a number of things. One of them is it really shines and its sharp relief, the reality of what’s going on for citizens in the UK and also how this is extending and affecting us all. Thinking about listeners who are employers, people who are in HR roles, thinking about what’s actually going through the minds of their employees. Obviously in the world of digital and transformation and innovation, there’s a really interesting point of view about the value of cash and access to cash and the importance of cash. And then the other piece is the skills development and actually the ability and just recognising that actually in order to maybe change some of these dynamics that the budgeting skills, the capability, the financial capability that you were talking about earlier is coming through as well. I think this is a great moment to, if we may just support the discussion to welcome in Cynthia Akinsanya who has some research to support this entire debate.
Cynthia: A new economic divide will fragment the retail and financial landscape of 2022. A study by NielsenIQ has identified five financial cohorts in the UK based on the pandemic’s economic impact on their financial security and associated spending patterns. The study looks at consumers within these separate groups, each shaped by their unique circumstances and approach to endemic living. 23% are strugglers. They experience financial insecurity during COVID-19, which continues today. 21% are rebounders who experienced financial insecurity during COVID-19 but are back on track today. 38% are cautious. There is no impact on their financial security, but they remain cautious with their spending. 12% are unchanged, there is no impact on their security and they continue to spend normally. And finally, 6% are thrivers. They have saved money during COVID-19 and feel more financially secure than prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Julia: Thank you Cynthia, as always for that research. And let me just take a few moments if I may, just to remind everybody how to find DiverCity Podcast and links to this research can be found on our website. It is divercitypodcast.com, divercity with a C, not with an S, divercitypodcast.com. And you can find all our episodes and sign up for earning notifications to future recordings. Please do also sign up for our newsletter. It’s called DE&I That’s Caught Our Eye. And that’s where we share new stories and updates so you can stay right on top of what’s current.
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It’s been a fantastic discussion and I wonder if we could just pivot the conversation slightly with just to think about the levers of change. We’ve talked about the conversation about policy has come out, the bank’s attitudes towards developing products and services versus recognising the value of cash, the dynamics of the human beings and the citizens that are also important as customers that may not be the most profitable customers. And I can’t help but think to return to two of them. And I wonder if I could invite each of you to take one of them. Sian, can I come to you, first of all? I’d love to just hear your thoughts on regulation. That would be great. Do you think that there is a role for a regulator to step in?
Sian: Absolutely. We know that the challenge that the regulator faces is that it cannot tackle social policy issues. It can only implement regulation for its powers. One of the big asks that we amongst others including the Financial Inclusion Commission where I’m vice chair that we’re asking for is for the government to give the FCA a power that it must have regards to financial inclusion. The reason we’re asking for this is because at the moment, financial services firms have to think about their customers, but they don’t have to consider people who are not their customers. If there’s no product that works for a particular set of people, for example, mortgage prisoners, mortgage prisoners being people who are stuck in a situation where new affordability rules mean they can’t remortgage, they’re paying more than they would do under a new mortgage. So the affordability rule is complete nonsense when applied in this case, but the loophole that we’re trying to solve.
At the moment there are issues around financial services firms individually have to serve their customers and they have to do that well and responsibly and they have to have regard to vulnerability. But no one has to care about inclusion, not even the regulator. We want the government to introduce legislation that makes the FCA have to consider financial inclusion. In doing that, it would then be able to say to firms, you have to broaden your scope. You have to reduce barriers to entry, you have to create inclusive products. And it could think about the whole remit, it’s really important. There’s a new consumer duty and we absolutely hope that that will be implemented well. But implementation is the key. One of the things when we’ve been working with people with lived experience of exclusion and we’ve asked them what will make the biggest difference, the consumer duty asks firms to put themselves in the shoes of their customers.
This is really what people have been telling us from the communities across East London.
We would be a far better country if ministers put themselves in our shoes when they create policy. And it goes the same with financial companies. If you have diversity at all levels in your workforce, then surely your decisions you make for products and services will come from a place where people know how it’s to live, where if your fridge breaks down, you need to get a loan to get a new one. Well, probably the people that are making the decisions in the big banks right now, they’ve probably got the savings that they could just go out and buy that fridge. It’s not just about the regulator as a kind of faceless entity, it’s also about who’s making the regulation, who’s implementing the regulation, and who in firms are making big decisions. In the context of this particular podcast, diversity at all levels within the organisations will help us create better financial inclusion, but we absolutely need the regulator to have regard for financial inclusion in the first place.
Julia: Well, thank you so much for your thoughts on that. I know that everybody’s listening in will be really paying attention to these thoughts and these considerations and also essentially it feels like a call to action. We love that on the podcast. Rajiv, can I ask you for your thoughts, one of the other big leaders of change and drivers of change is competition? Love your thoughts on that.
Dr. Rajiv: I think it’s not an either or, in the sense that markets are not just born free, but they’re created. And so government sets the rules and the kind of regulations within which companies, firms, banks, building societies and so on operate. This is actually just another side of the coin from what Sian was discussing with their regulation in the sense that markets aren’t just freestanding. The government can create the environment in which firms and other organisations operate. For example, if they did have the duty to pay regard to financial inclusion that Sian suggests that would therefore affect market behaviour. There are lots of benefits that are well known with competition. It drives innovation, it can ensure consumers get a better deal and so on. But it’s also wise to remember actually government plays a role in shaping that.
And to that extent, the regulation side shouldn’t be unpicked from that. But also, and just to tie into some of the earlier discussion, government has already across the world began to think creatively about things like income. Put its simply consumers need money to spend. For example, in Wales, they’ve recently announced in 2022 a pilot of basic income type scheme for people who are living care, the pilot is around 500 young people. We’ve seen governments, as I say, in the UK, government give payments directly to people who are on benefits to which they can get access to cost of living support. What’s important here is that the resources that people bring to a competitive markets are also important. It’s not as if things such as regulation, government intervention onto income and so on, it should be seen as separate. But I think it can be seen as part and parcel of a competitive market system.
Julia: This is the really thoughtful discussion about the dynamics at play. And so often the market will say, actually let the market decide and others will say there’s a case of regulation. It’s wonderful to hear both of your thoughts on regulation and competition. I feel as this conversation, I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of it. I’m just immensely grateful for both of you to take the time to offer your thoughts. I wondered if I could ask you the same question I ask all our guests.
As we close out the show today is just your thoughts on as we navigate increasingly challenging times, I think that’s a kind of undeniable truth statement right there, and given everything we’ve talked about today, for those who are listening, there is a risk that diversity, equity, inclusion may well fall down the corporate agenda of the organisations at which they work. I would love to hear your compelling reasons why they absolutely must remain high. Rajiv, may I come to you, first of all?
Dr. Rajiv: I think the key thing is that diversity matters to all of us. All of us have complex identities, all of us. And so rather than seeing this as niche, all of us have to do with income, with regard to gender, our age, our occupation and so on. To that extent, dealing with understanding diversity is part and parcel of just dealing with society because society isn’t just one homogeneous block. All of us are diverse and ignoring that means we ignore society. And so it doesn’t make any sense to me to overlook diversity because it’s part and parcel of who we all are. To that extent, we’re all in this together.
Julia: Thank you very much for your thoughts there. Sian Williams, could I ask you the same, why must it remain high?
Sian: I absolutely agree with those comments. When I think about how complex our relationship with money is on a personal, emotional level, and then you add in the complexity of our lives and the fact that we each have a different history, we each come from a different place. We each heading to a different future. We each walking a different path. Good financial products and services must be designed to cope with that complexity and to meet the needs of that complexity. Great financial services are designed in a way that they help us each make the most of our opportunities and to take the opportunities that that life offers us. In order to create great services, you have to start from that, understanding complexity. I think you can only have that level of understanding of complexity turned into action within a firm or a sector if you have a diverse workforce.
Going back to the lived experience, expert comments that I talked about earlier, people’s views are, don’t have a firm, don’t have a regulator, don’t have any system really that is made up of one kind of person, if you’re trying to meet the needs and serve a much more diverse group of customers. It’s logic. At the end of the day, really diverse firms supported by diverse staffed regulator can create products and services that allow individuals and communities take opportunities and thrive. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to achieve?
Julia: I could not think a better way to end the show. I can’t tell you how much I’ve really enjoy the discussion. Thank you both for all your thoughts. Rajiv, thank you for being with us today. Really appreciate it.
Dr. Rajiv: Thank you very much Julia and Sian.
Julia: Well, likewise. Sian, thank you for your time.
Sian: Thank you. I had a great time.
Julia: To everybody who’s joined us today on the show, thank you so much as always for listening in, I’ve been Julia Streets, thank you for listening to DiverCity Podcast and we look forward to bring you a new episode very soon. Thank you.
Cynthia: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by Roshan Roberts on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. You can find out more about the guests from this week’s show on our website. That’s www.divercitypodcast.com. That’s diversity with a C and not an S. Whilst you were there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. All our episodes are available in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast app. If you enjoy DiverCity Podcast, remember to share on social media and give us a rating or review. And finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.