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UK watchdog ups pressure for more Black staff in financial firms

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Huw Jones
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: People walk through the Canary Wharf financial district of London
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By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's financial watchdog said on Thursday it was examining how it could use its powers to boost the number of Black employees in financial firms, particularly at senior levels.

The racism that many Black people face in the workplace is not overt, but subtle and insidious, and it adds obstacles for Black people to succeed, said Sheldon Mills, the Financial Conduct Authority's executive director for consumers and competition.

Only 10 of 297 chairs, chief executives or finance chiefs of large-capitalized British companies listed on the FTSE 100 stock index come from ethnic minority backgrounds, and none of them is Black, for the first time in six years, he said.

Fewer than 1% of investment managers are Black and, between 2009 and 2019, only 38 Black entrepreneurs received venture capital funding, he said, with just 0.24% of the total sum invested going towards them. Black women entrepreneurs received just 0.02% of the total venture capital invested, he said.

"We want to see improvements within firms, and we are considering how to best use our powers," Mills said in a speech on Thursday.

"That includes looking to our supervisory toolbox, and whether the diversity of management teams could be part of considerations for senior manager applications."

The FCA has already said it is exploring how listings rules could help improve diversity and inclusion.

Mills said the watchdog was also considering whether the firms it regulates should comply or explain a lack of diversity at senior levels.

"As a Black man, I have experienced racism and been impacted by the lack of availability of opportunity and resulting outcomes that many Black people face in the UK," Mills said.

"It’s clear that there are benefits to greater diversity, and Black inclusion is very much an important part of that."

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Bernadette Baum)