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Where to start with collecting social mobility data in financial services firms

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Fahy Sheila
Sheila Fahy

PSL Counsel

London

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Image of Zoe Jensen
Zoe Jensen

Senior PSL

London

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01 January 0001

Accelerating the pace of change on diversity and inclusion has been a high priority for the PRA and FCA for some time. Social movements like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter, together with sector-based initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter, have led the way in calling for change in financial services. The regulators are keen to keep the momentum going. Their D&I discussion paper was published last year, and firms, large and small, have been waiting to see what changes are on the horizon once their response is published next year.

The regulators are keen to keep the momentum going. Their D&I discussion paper was published last year, and firms, large and small, have been waiting to see what changes are on the horizon once their response is published next year.

In a recent speech at the ABI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference, the FCA Executive Director, Sheldon Mills, acknowledged the progress made with gender and race, but said that not enough was being done with social mobility, as only 20% of firms collect this type of data. 

That 20% will appreciate that it is not a simple or binary task. Socio-economic data is one of the most complex categories to measure because it’s multifactorial, subjective and aspirational. An individual may consider that they have moved from a working-class background to a professional or intermediate one the moment they secure a highly paid job. Others may always consider them working class because of their accent, education, or connections. 

Employers have grappled with these complexities over the years, asking questions about free school meals or whether parents went to university, but none have hit the right mark in terms of response rate or value. The good news is that there is now one question that firms can ask that is easy to understand and gets the highest response rate, according to the Social Mobility Commission:

                 What was the occupation of your main household earner when you were about aged 14?

For the 80% of firms not collecting data on socio-economic background, it’s a good starting point and a step that is not too onerous to implement. Neither would there be too many GDPR hurdles, as this data would not be considered special category data.

 

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