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Series Three, Episode Three: From valuing diversity to valuing difference

Sally Todd, President of City Women Network (CWN), and Chris Newlands, Editor of Financial News, discuss ways to improve the diversity balance in business, The #MeToo Movement, addressing pipeline dynamics, increased media and reader appetite for D&I-related stories, the reluctance of some organisations to implement change, flexible/agile working, how regulations are driving cultural change and increasing D&I in the world of journalism.

Sally Todd

Sally is President of City Women Network (CWN), one of the longest standing businesswomen’s networks in the U.K. and the first to be established in the City of London in 1978.

She is Director of marketing and communications at Northill Capital, an asset management business investing long-term equity and seed capital in specialists investment boutiques. which she joined in 2014. Previously, Sally was Managing Partner at Penrose Financial, the financial services communications advisory consultancy. After the sale of Penrose to Engine Group in 2010, Penrose completed a merger the same year to co-found MHP Communications where she became Managing Director and a Partner at Engine Group. During her consulting career, Sally advised asset management and pensions businesses on strategic communications and corporate affairs including transactions and crisis management.

Previously, Sally spent four years at Moore Capital Management within the London-based Strategy Group. She started in public relations advising European technology and electronics businesses before moving to financial services in 1997.

She is Chair of the Communications Committee at the Alternative Investment Management Association and is a former Girls Cricket Board member (2012-14) at Chance to Shine.

She holds MSc and MA (Hons) degrees from the University of Edinburgh.

You can follow Sally on Twitter @sallyetodd.

Chris Newlands

Chris Newlands is the editor of Financial News and the former asset management editor at the FT as well as the ex-editor of the FT’s fund management pages, FTfm. He is also author of the Virgin Money Maker, the personal finance guide published by Virgin Books, and has written for the Wall Street Journal, Marketwatch, Barron’s, FT Wealth, FT Money, The Banker, Euromoney, TimeOut, CNN and the Guardian. Chris Newlands has been named winner of CFA UK’s prestigious ethical and professional standards award. The award, presented annually by the association of finance industry professionals, recognises the journalist who has done most to advocate high standards of ethical and professional behaviour in the financial sector over the past year. Chris is a graduate in Economics.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @newlands_chris.

Series Three, Episode Three Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in 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. And today, I’m joined by Sally Todd and Chris Newlands. Sally Todd is President of City Women Network, one of the longest standing business women networks in the UK, and the first to be established in the city of London back in 1978. Her career has included senior tenures at Northill Capital, Penrose Financial, and Moore Capital Management, and she is chair of the Communications Committee at the Alternative Investment Management Association, and a formal girl’s cricket board member at Chance To Shine. Sally, welcome to the show.

Sally: Thank you. Nice to be here.

Julia: Chris Newlands is the editor of Financial News, delivering breaking news, analysis and commentary to the international financial services industry. A former asset management editor at the FT, Chris is an ex-editor of the FT’s fund management pages, or FTFM, author of Virgin Money Maker, the personal finance guidance published by Virgin Books, and has also written for a wide range of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Banker, Euromoney, and many, many more. Chris has been awarded the Chartered Financial Analyst UK or CFA Ethical and Professional Standards Award, recognising the journalist who has advocated the highest standards of ethical and professional behaviour in the financial sector. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris: Thank you, Julia.

Julia: And as always, at the start of the show, we invite each of our guests to take a minute to tell us what they’re focused on. So Sally, let me start with you. What are you particularly focused on at the moment?

Sally: Okay. So as president of City Women Network, I have a focus on three particular areas which I’m aiming to drive, and lead the board in terms of providing a platform which our members can engage with and meet other like-minded women. We provide a curriculum of professional and personal development events to help advance our members’ careers, and for them to share information. And we also try to use our platform purposely to stimulate debate around issues that matter to our members, but also to collaborate and propel debate around addressing gender and diversity, and balance in business. So those are our three primary pillars of our mission at the network, and that in fact, over the years, they have been quite steadfast. But as a relatively new president coming in in March, I’m really, really focused on driving forward our diversity agenda and really trying to attract a more diverse pipeline of individuals into the organisation.

Julia: Well, we’ll certainly get into how you can make that possible for sure. So let me at that moment then turn over to Chris. Chris, what are you up to at the moment?

Chris: So as usual, chasing stories and trying to get scoops. As a publication, we are focusing a lot on MeToo and areas of diversity, and so it’s great to be here today to talk about that.

Julia: Well, let’s start with, Sally, from your perspective, running one of the oldest women’s business networks in the city … it goes back to 1978, and you’re now the president – congratulations on that. As you look at an organisation that’s come from some legacy behaviour, what has particularly changed, and what are you focused on?

Sally: Well, what’s interesting is that, if you like, the original roots of the network were around providing a supportive platform for like-minded women to come together. In 1978 there were very few women working at a senior level in the city at the time. It was actually founded by an American law partner with the aim of really identifying and supporting other like-minded women to share information. The original intent of the network is very much in place, but it’s been the job of the presidents over the years to really progress that agenda and to make sure that the network remains relevant. So one of the things that I’m very focused on is moving the network, or continuing to move the network, from its roots in law, accountancy and banking to include a more diverse kind of sector balance in terms of industries represented through the network.

So that’s been a positive stride, and I think the evidence of the growing diversity of the sector diversity of the network became apparent already in the early 90’s, so I’m really focused on continuing to attract a more diverse industrial balance into the network. The other thing that’s really important is that we remain mindful that when we talk about diversity, we really mean difference, and that’s really about appealing and working with a whole range of individuals, so that’s not just gender focused, that’s looking at lots of different individuals at different stages because we really feel, obviously, if you’re trying to solve problems, you really need a range of perspectives – different behaviours, different approaches to converge and try to keep innovating. So that’s very much present in my mind.

I think to keep attracting accomplished women to help drive those initiatives, you need to remain relevant, and one of the things that we did in 2015 was to establish a partnership with an earlier stage career women’s network, which is called FE, and they really work with women in the first 10 years of their career, and I think that’s been really important for us in addressing pipeline dynamics, and really to make sure that we continue to flex our thinking and don’t make assumptions when we’re looking at how to bring on the next gen, or how to address the desires and the ambitions of the next generation of contributors.

Julia: Because the world is going to go through perpetual change at the moment when you think about FinTech, and there are so many roles and jobs now that didn’t exist five years ago, let alone in 1978. And then also, where young talents coming through – the digital talent and digital skills. So are you running streams particularly for young entrepreneurs coming through, or young innovators?

Sally: So we’re a network for senior business women, and that’s very deliberate because whilst we have a growing sector diversity, we want our women to be able to mix with their peers. So discuss the same kind of challenges, but maybe in a different industry, and that gives them a bit of a different perspective. But where we really try to focus on the next generation is really partnering up with our earlier stage career women’s network, FE, to help them and advise them on what their membership is concerned about. So we really work quite flexibly together. It’s a really nice dynamic, because especially when we’re talking to prospective corporates who want to partner with us, we’re definitely noticing, in the last few years, that the real priority for them is not just to provide an external network for their senior women leaders, but also how to address the aspirations of millennials. And that’s been a really effective way for us to really collaborate and give them a proper balance of events and opportunities to collaborate with us, not just on a one-dimensional level.

Julia: And let me turn to you at this point Chris, because you watch the world from the outside lens, if you like, looking at the way that things are changing, and clearly thinking about what Sally was saying about starting in 1978 and how that world has shifted. Plus also the dynamics that come to play, the young aspirations of new workforces coming into the industry. And yet I wonder whether the city has a reputational challenge about whether not just female talent, but actually young talent, wants to come here when actually there are sexier industries to go to. Particularly when we all need digital skills and different types of employees these days. When you look at change, do you think there have been some pivotal moments that have driven greater diversity and inclusion, from what you’ve seen in the industry?

Chris: Yeah. So as I mentioned earlier, the MeToo movement. It’s very recent, but it has sharpened the minds of the press and the media. It’s certainly gone up the agenda for editors and for journalists as a topic to cover. These stories will make the front pages of newspapers. Maybe, I don’t know, five years ago, they would have been inside stories or perhaps not even written about, and now they’re the top stories. I know I tell my reporters “these are the stories that I want. I want stories where there’s bullying, people are not getting jobs because of their skin colour or whether they’re male or female”. And there’s a big appetite amongst our readers for those stories as well, so you can feel a sense of change. So yeah, recently, I think MeToo caused that. In terms of young people coming into the industry, I know the 2008 crash is certainly cited as a moment that put off a lot of people coming into finance. It was an element of trust. And obviously, there’s been the rise of Google and Facebook. Report after report shows that their most talented graduates now want to go into those industries and those companies, rather than go and work for the major banks or the big asset managers. Perhaps that came from the crash in 2008.

Julia: And are you seeing at the moment that financial institutions are waking up to the fact that if they want to continue to attract that kind of talent, they have to perhaps think and behave and present themselves slightly differently as well? Do you think organisations think that? The heart of the question for me is, which is why we set up the podcast about, there’s a lot of talk about commitments to D&I, which is wonderful. There’s a lot of discussion about change, and we’re trying to look for the sticky moments where people go, “Yeah, it’s all good on paper, but actually it’s not that easy to do.” And whether you see organisations beginning to change the way they present themselves or the way they behave.

Chris: Certainly, there is a desire to change. I think that’s certainly true what you’re saying. Whether that translates into people actually doing the right things, is questionable. But there is certainly a desire to change maybe the way the company operates, promoting women into more senior roles. We saw recently, Anne Richards took over as chief executive of Fidelity. That’s a big statement by that company. And all of this will make a difference. But I agree with you that there’s more a desire for change than actually change happening. I would agree with that.

Julia: And Sally is that your experience, as you work with corporates who are connecting with your network as well? Is this just marketing spend, or actually your firms coming to you and saying “help us change”?

Sally: I think there are still some companies who want to show intention, and think that it will benefit them to accelerate some of their initiatives that they’re starting to put in place by partnering up with somebody like us, and that we certainly can accelerate and assist with some of those initiatives. But we still find that there are some businesses that are a little bit passive, and some who are really, really engaged, and really want to make a difference in their organisation. So I think I would agree with Chris. I think there’s definitely some intention there. I think there’s still some businesses that are struggling to understand how they’re supposed to put some of these initiatives in place. And I think a little bit of lip service being done in that area, but I certainly think there is a great deal of momentum and some of that’s government initiated through some of the reports and initiatives into addressing gender imbalance.

So I think it’s a good time; it’s a good time for organisations like CWN to really leverage that momentum and try to make a difference. So I think it’s mixed. I think it’s mixed, but I definitely think there’s a palpable change afoot.

Julia: And we hear a lot of people coming on the podcast talking about “we’re investing in conscious and unconscious bias training, we are really looking at our senior management have been very committed to demonstrating…” say for example, Chris, the hire of Anne Richards, and I’m not suggesting for a second that’s why she got the job, because she’s a woman. It’s because she’s just really good at what she does. And there is a question always about merit has to be part of it.

I’m just very interested to see to what degree are people doing the same thing that they’ve always done, such as training courses, etc, and it comes back time and time again, two or three specific areas, which will be great to explore with you. One is around culture of the organisation. The second is around flexible working practices, and then the third is the middle management layer, and thinking about how some of those entrenched middle managers who have been in the city for 25, 30 years, who naturally have been hired in a certain way, trained in a certain way, behave in a certain way, how, how their mindset is having to shift as the world around them moves.

Let’s start by talking about culture, Chris, in terms of where you look at organisations and have been reporting on them for a number of years in, in the world of financial services, are you seeing that organisations are making changes, or are more greatly aware of the culture that they perpetuate in terms of attracting and retaining talent?

Chris: Definitely. That’s definitely true. Sadly, a lot of it is triggered by regulation. So the fact companies of a certain size have to publish their pay gap figures has meant that they’re being transparent for the first time. I remember six years ago when I took over at FTFM, we would go around to the biggest asset managers and ask them for just a simple breakdown of the number of women they hire compared to the number of men. We asked the 50 biggest companies around the world. I think one company told us, and that was just the resistance we saw. It was just a simple question, why don’t you just provide this data? The story didn’t need to be negative. Obviously, the insinuation there is that data wasn’t very good, so let’s not publish it.

So it’s taken regulation to have that data published now. So there certainly is movement. I’m a cynic, I’m a journalist. A lot of it has to do with a change in rules rather than, let’s just put this stuff out here. Actually, in fairness to the asset management industry, the Diversity Project was set up, and we don’t have that in journalism. Journalism has a problem with diversity, and so sometimes, it’s difficult to call out these other industries. The Diversity Project does a lot of good work, and last year, they published figures on the breakdown of staff. The stats weren’t very good, but at least they’re out there in the spotlight, so you have to applaud that. So that was spearheaded by Helena Morrissey who’s doing some fantastic work, another woman that I think men and women can really look up to. Does that answer your question?

Julia: It does. It does indeed. So it’s thinking about the culture side of things, and then moving onto, I imagine another key question which is on the minds of your members as well around flexible working, and particularly some of those younger generations coming through, about how do we work more flexibly. But also looking at it from the perspective of senior managers, because you have to be still very present, arguably, to be driving a team and driving performance, or do you?

Sally: Well, I think that’s a subject of much debate, and I think there’s some stigma around flexible working, so let’s call it agile working. I think that seems to be a better kind of reflection of the state of mind. But I believe that there’s a lot of entrenched behaviour in workplace culture at the moment. A lot of it’s coming from the top, and I think that when men and women are able to work as flexibly as each other, or let’s say men are happy to work as flexibly or agilely as women have needed to, to date, then we’re going to start seeing a bit of a shift and a shift in behaviour and culture about how present you need to be, and I think there’s a lot of initiatives in place, for example, people not working on a Friday. Admittedly probably in smaller businesses, but I think some of these initiatives like, for example, at PWC you can take unlimited holiday, and I think these things are a real signal to the workforce about engendering a greater sense of trust and autonomy, and ultimately, productivity amongst their workforce.

And I think it’s some of these bold moves by some of these businesses … when they start becoming questions asked by millennials in when they’re interviewing for jobs because balance is much more important to them than it was to my generation starting in business, for example. And I think some employers are realising that to be able to attract and to retain talented people, they’re really going to have to start changing some of these criteria. So we’ve got a long way to go, but I think some bold steps by some well known successful organisations hopefully will start ringing the changes.

Julia: Perfect. Well, I think that’s a natural moment to turn to Cynthia and Robert who have been doing some research to support the discussion today.

Robert: There have been many changes in financial services, particularly with regards to ethical practices. In 2012, the Ethics Centre carried out a survey of 500 financial services professionals across the US and the UK. The results were alarming. 24 percent of respondents said that financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. 39 percent of respondents said that their competitors were likely to have engaged in illegal or unethical activity.

Cynthia: 26 percent said that they had observed or had first hand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace. 20 percent of respondents said that they were unsure or had serious doubts about how the employers would handle a report of wrongdoing. In 2016, the Institute of Business Ethics carried out its annual survey on the attitudes of the public to businesses in Britain. With over 2000 respondents, the perception of the general public was that British business behaviour was not as ethical as it had been in recent years. For the first time since 2012, less than 50 percent of respondents felt that businesses in the UK were behaving ethically.

Julia: Thank you, Cynthia and Robert, and links to the references and research can be found on our website, You can also sign up for early notifications or future episodes, and please do follow us on Twitter @DiverCityPod, and you can find us on all good podcast channels. If you’ve enjoyed the show, we’d really appreciate a rating. It all helps promote the episodes.

A couple of things have come out of the discussion so far, because I was really interested what you were saying about the world of journalism as well. What is your makeup at Financial News like?

Chris: In terms of the breakdown of men, women, ethnicity?

Julia: Right, the way across the diversity spectrum.

Chris: So we have a reasonable mix. I think at the senior levels, we’re too male-heavy, I would say. And I’ve been in the job for just a bit less than 18 months. That’s something I would like to change. We have good people within the company. So things don’t have to change, but we have female editors who had been promoted recently to those positions, and hopefully, they can carry on and progress, but I’m very mindful that we need to be better, quite frankly, because we cover very difficult stories in terms of diversity across the spectrum, and for people take you seriously, you have to be doing it within your own company as well. We certainly are mindful that we need to do better, but these things take time, and that’s why I have sympathy for the big banks, the big asset managers, the insurers. I know they want to do things, and it does take time because I can see it in my own company.

But as I said, I’m a cynic, and I see a lot of white males talking about this. And then the next year I see the same white males talking about this. More needs to be done.

Julia: It’ll be interesting to see what’s going to drive that change as well, and I wonder whether, Sally, if I come to you about there’s this question around, it’s a women’s network, and there’s a risk I think, that if we work in isolation, that ultimately doesn’t drive change because you’re just talking in an echo chamber mentality. Are you pushing out right the way across the diversity within your network? Slightly leading question. I’d expect a yes in response, but then also, how do you join up with other networks as well?

Sally: Yes. Well certainly, I think I mentioned one of the things that I’m very keen for us to do is really to move from just valuing diversity to really just to valuing difference across the piece, and that’s really trying to work more harmoniously with all relevant individuals to solve problems, keep innovating. Ultimately, my view is that different perspectives and collaboration brings about greater success. What we do is we partner up with other organisations where it makes sense to do that, where we can be stronger as a pair, so we’re very flexible in that regard. And it may be that to be true to our mission, or what I would love us to do, is that we start bringing in more males as advisors because I’m very conscious that in the past, businesses have set up women’s groups or similar as special interest groups over at the side. And my view is we’re never really going to move the needle if we continue to talk to ourselves. So I have a very collaborative mindset when I’m looking at what City Women Network can do to actually make bigger strides quicker.

Julia: Fantastic. And I’d really like to wrap up the show by thinking about, as we look ahead a little bit, things we’re optimistic about. Because clearly, that intersectionality will drive greater engagement. Chris, let me come to you. What are you optimistic about in terms of diversity and inclusion as you look forward?

Chris: That things are changing slowly, and regulation is forcing this change through. Companies will have to be better, and I know that’s going to mean some people have to be dragged into this moment where they change, but that’s just a really good thing. Diversity of thought certainly makes companies a much better place to work – they perform better. If you look at the fund managers for example, there are so few women who run portfolios of money, but the data shows that they’re better at it. Whether you believe the data or not, that’s a different question, but certainly, you need a healthy mix of people in a company for it to perform better. I spoke recently with Andrew Bailey, the FCA chief, and he outright said the lack of diversity in the city has contributed to the number of financial scandals over the years. At the FCA, they have very ambitious targets at their own organisation, and I know that he would like companies to follow that. So I am optimistic, but I also come from this from an Eeyore cynic background, but I think things would improve for the better, certainly.

Julia: And Sally, let me come to you. What are you optimistic about?

Sally: To Chris’s point, the introduction of certain regulations to mandate companies to publish certain figures, the gender pay gap, obviously. Certainly, my view on that is whilst the figures themselves, I’m not sure we can take them at complete face value yet, they certainly do throw into contrast the problems that we’ve got and make people feel that they have an obligation to address some of these issues. So I do agree that we’ve had to regulate for some of this change, but I do think that it is propelling the more forward-thinking companies who really think about talent retention and productivity to take some really bold steps in trying to address it more obviously and voluntarily. So I think, as I said before, it’s a great time for networks like ours to really ride that momentum and be ambitious about saying that we can help organisations to make some of these strides.

Julia: Fantastic. Well, it’s been a wonderful conversation. I’d like to take a moment to thank you both for coming in. Sally and Chris, thank you.

Sally: Thank you.

Chris: Thanks very much.

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, Whilst you’re 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 promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.