ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Push for Black representation in finance still crucial

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 18 Mar 2024

Momentum on diversity, equity and inclusion created by the Black Lives Matter movement has stalled due to pressure on businesses facing multiple economic challenges, body warns.

A tough economic environment is causing organisations to lose momentum on their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, says the Black Talent Charter (BTC).

The organisation, which focuses on helping companies achieve equitable Black talent representation at all levels in British business, is concerned that some of the energy created by Black Lives Matter has been lost as companies grapple with multiple challenges.

As the first professional body to sign up to the BTC, ICAEW wants to help recapture that early momentum of 2020 when the social movement exploded into our consciousness, and help organisations stay on track – or get back on track – with their DEI targets.

“People saw perhaps for the first time the issues that their Black colleagues faced, which they hadn’t realised before. However, four years on, people are struggling to maintain that focus,” says Laura Durrant, CEO of the BTC.

BTC and ICAEW collaboration

Durrant, a former lawyer, hosted a webinar in conjunction with ICAEW in February to raise awareness of the BTC and reiterate the goals and progress of the not-for-profit organisation. 

On the current trajectory, Durrant says it would take as long as 50 years to reach proportional representation of Black talent in finance and professional services, unless companies take active steps now to change it. Research findings of Bain & Company in conjunction with the BTC found that less than 1% of all senior leadership appointments in finance are Black. 

In 2021, only about 2% of finance, insurance and professional, scientific and technical services employees were Black, says the research. 

It is projected that it would take until 2071 for the number of Black employees in finance and professional services to have the same proportional representation (4.4%) as Black employees in the UK’s working-age population, according to the 2021 UK census. 

The research says it would take another 90 years to have the same proportional representation (8%) as the percentage of Black students in UK universities from which these sectors largely recruit.

Durrant says that businesses often blame the UK education system for the lack of progress in boosting Black representation in the professions. However, tentative research by the BTC shows that Black representation at university is higher than the Black representative population. So why are Black people still under-represented? 

“Black students are not choosing to opt out at that point, but it seems fewer than their peers are invited to job interviews, and even fewer get a job offer,” she says. 

An added complexity for Britain is that for historical reasons, the Black population is concentrated for the most part in London and the South East of England – London has a Black population of 13.5%. Finance and professional services are also concentrated in these areas, which can often skew data and progress. 

Force for change

To reinject momentum, Durrant says the BTC aims to collaborate with businesses to share lessons learned and bridge the gaps both with the academic world and certain industry sectors.

“The core strategic objective is to keep this issue front and centre of the agenda in this country. We do recognise that signatories will struggle to retain the focus in isolation and therefore we need to build that momentum and focus externally,” she says.

Currently, the BTC is developing a knowledge hub where signatories can access best practice information on a range of areas, such as what HR professionals should be considering when recruiting and advertising for candidates, and how to empower Black talent to make the most of the available opportunities.

Besides the knowledge hub, the organisation also offers exclusive events and bespoke training for signatories’ Black talent, fresh research as well as access to experts who can work as a sounding board for signatory ambassadors who want to discuss in confidence why a particular intervention hasn’t been as successful as imagined.

Signatories to the BTC, which include some of the UK’s leading law firms, the Big Four accounting firms, and some leading UK retail banks and top UK wealth management firms, commit to a pledge that includes the establishment of baseline data for Black representation, setting five-year targets relating to Black representation, and developing an action plan to achieve those targets.

ICAEW’s action plan has expanded that responsibility, going beyond the internal, and considers Black representation in the following areas: among its employees; within its membership; on its committees and advisory groups; and access to the profession.

Its focus last year was also to monitor retention as well as recruitment of Black staff and review advertisements for campaigns. 

The BTC was established in 2020 to address the low levels of Black representation in finance and other professions by committing firms to nurturing workplaces where Black talent is recruited, identified, developed and promoted on merit, for the benefit of individuals and the wider organisation.

Durrant’s focus for this year is to amplify the BTC’s agenda and work collaboratively with organisations that want to nurture Black talent at all levels and ensure the pipeline of talent is representative of the British population. 

She says: “That openness and willingness to engage with us on the strategy is really important. And that requires signatories to have that breadth of senior sponsorship and visibility across the company, which can be quite challenging.”

More about ICAEW’s targets and monitoring of its four focus points can be found on ICAEW’s latest Black Talent Charter update.

Diversity and inclusion at ICAEW

Diversity and inclusion is a key pillar of ICAEW's strategy. Discover relevant content, from topical articles on chartered accountancy to professional resources to help you thrive at work.

D&I hub promo

Our communities

ICAEW has created a number of communities aimed at supporting diversity and inclusion throughout the accountancy profession and beyond. Our communities offer tailored support and an opportunity to network with your peers. See a full list of our communities.

Hands joined together around a table
Diversity & Inclusion

Information and best practice guidance on the different areas of diversity, helping to educate, support and raise awareness.

Find out more
Black members polaroid
Black Members

A community created to inspire, support and develop Black ICAEW members and students throughout their career.

Find out more
Women In Finance polaroid
Women in Finance

Personal development and networking opportunities to help women in finance reach their potential.

Find out more
Open AddCPD icon

Add Verified CPD Activity

Introducing AddCPD, a new way to record your CPD activities!

Log in to start using the AddCPD tool. Available only to ICAEW members.

Add this page to your CPD activity

Step 1 of 3
Download recorded
Download not recorded

Please download the related document if you wish to add this activity to your record

What time are you claiming for this activity?
Mandatory fields

Add this page to your CPD activity

Step 2 of 3
Mandatory field

Add activity to my record

Step 3 of 3
Mandatory field

Activity added

An error has occurred
Please try again

If the problem persists please contact our helpline on +44 (0)1908 248 250