President’s Message - May 2021

WIBF President, Anna Lane's message to members.

I hope everyone is well and looking forward to 17 May and the next stage of lockdown restrictions being eased. Not only will it mean that we can enjoy indoor hospitality – definitely great given the wet and windy Bank Holiday weekend – but we can once again enjoy cinemas, museums and theatres. From my time on the board of the Young Vic Theatre, I know first-hand just how hard the sector has been hit by the pandemic, but that can now change. So, if you haven’t booked tickets for an evening out and feel it’s safe, I urge you to get online and support these vital mainstays of arts and culture.

Culture is also still firmly at the top of the agenda for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – and something of a permanent fixture in this post-SMCR world. In a speech at the March launch of the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter Annual Review, Nikhil Rathi, the FCA’s CEO, outlined that 10 of the 19 appointed to the FCA’s board or executive committee are women, and the team is expanding its diversity and inclusion remit.

As well as other projects, Nikhil talked about an initiative underway with the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to formalise the regulatory approach to diversity and inclusion, and set clear expectations for the sector. This is good given the pandemic has clearly highlighted just how vulnerable large sections of our society are and the FCA is clear that all financial services firms need to respond through product design, flexible consumer service and communications. We know diversity and inclusion can also address concerns about our sector’s ability to understand and meet the needs of the different communities we serve.

The sustainability that these initiatives deliver is also being backed by another force for good.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is front of mind for many investment and wealth management organisations now investors have realised they can hold companies to account for the impact they have on the world. For WIBF, it’s the social aspect that is important, given greater diversity and inclusion is part of that debate.

At the moment, however, although investment analysts and fund managers are asking for significant levels of data about diversity and inclusion from the firms in which they invest, these same standards are not always being applied to their own organisations. Research released by Morningstar in March 2021 revealed that more UK funds are managed by men called Dave than there are female fund managers!

This is a conversation that that we are keen to pick up at WIBF, with the FCA and with investment managers. The case for change is growing and it would be good to see significant change happening more quickly than we are seeing at the moment – despite the efforts of WIBF’s members and partners. Given the commitment being demonstrated by the FCA and the PRA, perhaps that is finally becoming more likely.