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The Notebook: The City still has a class problem, and it needs to address it

Where the City’s movers and shakers have their say. Today, Paras Anand, chief investment officer of Artemis Fund Managers, takes the Notebook pen to talk about class, grad schemes and Rory Stewart.

Class shouldn’t hold you back in the City

In the last decade there has rightly been a focus on gender and ethnic diversity, particularly at financial services organisations. But what has been less recognised is socio-economic diversity, particularly at senior levels.

The not-for-profit membership organisation Progress Together released a report last year ‘Shaping our Economy’ which revealed that 33 per cent of senior leaders of financial services businesses have anxiety that their accent may compromise their ability to succeed in their career.

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Evidence from the Bridge Group shows that in financial services, 89 per cent of senior leaders are from higher socio-economic backgrounds, compared with just 47 per cent at junior levels.

Put more bluntly, being working class may not be good for your career in the City. It is even harder if you are black and from a working-class family (which is defined by your parents’ occupation when you were 14 years old).

Prior to joining Artemis in 2022, I worked in Singapore for a number of years, and it often struck me that socio-economic background in Asia was much less of an inhibitor than it is in the UK.

If the UK is to retain its hard-won and much-deserved status as one of the world’s leading financial centres, then surely the way you speak can’t be used as a reason for holding you back.

Artemis is a member of Progress Together along with a range of leading companies across banking, insurance and wealth management, where there is a common-denominator – they all have senior leaders from humble beginnings.

A more diverse workforce and leadership within financial services will surely create companies and outcomes which better meet the needs of all customers and clients in the UK.

One of Progress Together’s core messages is a simple one which we’re proud to support: “If we change the approach, the circumstances of someone’s birth and childhood will no longer hinder their career prospects.”

Exam season

Good luck to all the ‘graduates’ of the Artemis Profit Hunt programmes who are now taking A levels, higher education exams and university finals – a career in finance may beckon.

Artemis has been working with social mobility organisation Arrival Education for the last six years to give groups of year 12 students (aged 16-17) from state schools in low-income communities in London an understanding of what a career in finance might look like.

We have a virtual share-investing competition over a six-month period and try to give them some ideas about the kinds of careers available across the full spectrum of financial services from IT to investment banking and asset management.

Colleagues at Artemis from all parts of our business act as mentors during the competition and many of us have kept in touch with the students as they leave school to make their way in the world.

In the first five years, 294 students came through the programme. 88 per cent have chosen university as their next step, including 62 per cent at Russell Group or Oxbridge, nine per cent in apprenticeships and three per cent working. It’s another great example of unlocking the talent and potential in the state school system if it is only given the opportunity.

Hailing success

Many investors recognise Artemis from the side of taxis in London and Edinburgh and this month is the first time in four years that we have been out on the road again.

As a specialist, active investment manager, we hope the taxis are a gentle reminder that active management can thrive, even in the face of competition from passive or index investors.

We’re firm believers in being active, which we think is as much about what you don’t own in a portfolio as what you do own and this will be even more critical in the period in front of us relative to recent history.

Quote of the week:

“As a young accountant, I remember walking around steamy chemical plants in the north west of England, dumbfounded at the amount of fluid leaking onto the floor – not to mention my shoes.”

Andy Marsh, co-manager of the Artemis Income Fund, on the tangible benefits of ESG practices  

If Rory had beaten Boris

Like so many others, I’ve been a regular listener of The Rest is Politics podcast with Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart and I’m now part-way through Rory’s book Politics on the Edge.

Alastair spoke at the annual An Afternoon with Artemis investment conference back in February and did not disappoint with his punchy views. Interestingly, he described Sir Keir Starmer as a ‘ruthless’ politician, which he said was a good characteristic for someone aiming to lead the country.

Stewart recounts in his memoir the experience of a TV debate back in 2019 to be leader of the Conservative Party, which he lost to Boris Johnson. Rory comes across as a very decent man, and we can only wonder what the last few years might have been like had he won.