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Diversity — bold action needed

Investment bankers tend have a built-in sense of infectious optimism that helps them to convince issuers to mandate them or investors to buy securities and other financial products, and also gets them through tough times. So it is only natural that, while rightly recognising the terrible human cost of the Covid-19 pandemic, they should be searching for silver linings.

In this case, there aren’t many.

However, one ray of light that some have spotted between the storm clouds is that the world of banking will emerge from the crisis as a more flexible, more diverse — perhaps you could even say a kinder — place to work.

It has long been noted that great upheavals and wars, notwithstanding the trauma and loss of life, often bring with them social innovation and progress.

In the case of Covid-19, banks now appear to be paying more attention than ever to the wellbeing of their staff, especially the juniors, while the disruption to their recruitment practices is having the knock-on effect of increasing the range and diversity of candidates that they are considering for graduate programmes.

Importantly, the candidates that this is bringing into banking are not just from a wide range of ethnicities, but also from different socio-economic and educational backgrounds. And not just at board level, but at the grassroots.

This is good for everyone — the candidates themselves and the banks that stand to benefit from the well documented improvements in performance that come with the representation of different viewpoints and ways of thinking.

However, it should not take a pandemic to accelerate such change. Banks need to be more proactive.

The unique apprenticeship launched this year by Standard Chartered, which is open only to school leavers without degrees, is an example of bold action that others should look to follow.

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