A City of London diversity taskforce wants business leaders and regulators in the financial industry to “break the class ceiling” by boosting the number of senior leaders from working-class backgrounds.

The taskforce, which was commissioned by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020, has set a target for at least 50% of senior leaders within the financial and professional services industry to come from a working-class background by 2030.

It forms part of a broader plan to tackle poor rates of social mobility in the industry and the lack of socio-economic diversity at the top ranks of UK financial and professional services firms.

The taskforce has also published guidance for regulators, sector bodies and the government on how to support and incentivise employers to boost C-suite representation.

People from non-professional, or working-class backgrounds make up around half of all employees in the sector, findings from the taskforce published on 30 November show, but only 36% have climbed the ladder to senior levels.

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The pace of progression for individuals of a working-class background is also 25% slower than their peers, the taskforce found. In addition, they are likely to get paid up to £17,500 less per year “with zero link to job performance”.

“We need to break the ‘class’ ceiling,” said Catherine McGuinness, chair of the City of London Corporation-led Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce.

“Removing unfair barriers to progression is not only the right thing to do, it will enable firms to boost productivity, retention levels and innovation.”

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The taskforce is also urging UK financial firms of all sizes to sign up to Progress Together, a body that focuses on progression and retention to improve socio-economic diversity at senior levels in the financial services sector.

Andy Haldane, a co-chair on the taskforce, said: “We cannot grow as a country unless people grow. For too long, personal growth has been constrained by people’s socio-economic background.

“Today’s recommendations signal a break from the past, with financial and professional services playing a leading role in unleashing the potential in people, organisations and the economy at large.”

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To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Kristen McGachey

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