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ICAEW joins socio-economic diversity taskforce

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 24 Mar 2021

A new government-backed taskforce designed to break down socio-economic barriers at senior levels across the UK has appointed 30 cross-sector leaders in the financial sphere, including ICAEW’s Chief Executive Michael Izza.

Backed by HM Treasury and BEIS and run by City of London Corporation, the new taskforce aims to challenge the lack of career progression for those coming from non-professional backgrounds and explore the intersections with other protected characteristics, including gender and race.

The taskforce was launched in November 2020 and has now appointed 30 members from different subsectors, regions and backgrounds, including ICAEW’s Chief Executive, Michael Izza.

“I am honoured to be part of this important new taskforce,” said Izza. “The impact of coronavirus on our communities and economy makes it more important than ever to ensure Britain’s financial and professional services remain open to all and retain those who can help bring about positive change.”

Recent research from the Bridge Group showed that 89% of senior roles in financial services were occupied by people from professional backgrounds (defined by parental occupation at 14) – nearly three times the UK working population, with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds taking 25% longer to progress. This gap could not be explained by performance and increased to 32% for people from those backgrounds who also identified as black.

“Businesses must seize the opportunity not only to ensure equal access to the sector for everyone,” commented a taskforce statement, “but importantly to retain high performing talent, through fair and equitable progress.”

Chartered accountancy ‘a positive escalator’

Izza firmly believes chartered accountants can play a vital part in achieving the taskforce’s goal as it aligns with ICAEW’s focus “to develop an even more diverse pipeline for not only our own profession but for the wider professions”.

“Studies have shown that training as a chartered accountant is a positive escalator for many young people and, as a professional body, we are proud to support our accountancy firms as they attract, develop and retain diverse talent and build pipelines of progression towards senior leadership,” said Izza.

Izza added: “We have seen clear progress thanks to early-stage, pan-profession interventions like Access Accountancy, and by offering a wide range of entry points such as apprenticeships, school leaver and graduate programmes. However, there is still much more to be done to boost diversity, equality and socio-economic opportunity and to embrace and value difference.”

To achieve this, the taskforce will address three areas:

  • Lead an industry consultation on how government, regulators and sector bodies can incentivise firms to take action to improve socio-economic diversity;
  • Create a membership body/peer network for financial services, focused on progression. This offers an opportunity where employers can benchmark against each other and share best practice on delivering socio-economic diversity at senior levels;
  • Produce a productivity analysis, to build the business case for increasing socio-economic diversity at senior levels in financial and professional services.

The taskforce itself is formed of a diverse group of members which is crucial in setting an example for others, both in financial and professional services and more broadly.

They will be joined by six observers who will also be attending the high-profile taskforce meetings. Full membership of the taskforce will be finalised in due course. It will be supported by PwC, Deloitte and MyKindaFuture. The City of London Corporation will report back on the findings of the taskforce by November 2022, with the first formal meeting due to take place in May 2021. 

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