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Dan RobertsonMar 1, 2024 8:05:26 AM6 min read

Your guide to the new diversity and inclusion legislation in the financial sector

Your guide to the new diversity and inclusion legislation in the financial sector

The financial sector is set to undergo a strategic shake-up as UK governing bodies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), announce new diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) regulations.

These regulations, which seek to promote more inclusive work cultures, reduce groupthink and utilise untapped diverse talent, provide a standardised DE&I approach for workplace practices in the across the financial sector.

This new set of regulations may come as a welcome change for many, as, for example, 66% of ethnic minority employees working in UK financial services have experienced discrimination at some stage in their careers. In addition, the FCA estimated that the finance sector won’t achieve gender equality until the year 2107, with just 19% of C-suite positions in finance being held by women. Furthermore, figures published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that 40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees experienced harassment in the workplace.

In this article, Dan Robertson, MD of FAIRER Consulting, explores the details of the new regulations, discussing its key provisions and what it means for organisations, possible associated challenges, and what businesses need to do to prepare for this strategic change.

What is “groupthink”?

The term “groupthink” was coined in 1971 by Yale University psychologist, Irving Janis. Janis used the term to identify a psychological phenomenon where, in a group setting, people will adopt the opinion of the group and disregard their own personal views in a bid to conform with the wider group. Often, groupthink interferes with one’s ability to make effective decisions, resulting in irrational or unproductive decision-making.

The new legislation explained

In September 2023, the FCA and PRA published consultation papers (CP23/20 and CP18/21), which sought to boost diversity and inclusion within the financial sector. The new regulations are set to come into effect in 2025, and aim to improve understanding of diverse consumer needs, improve internal workplace culture and governance, and enhance decision-making and risk management.

The regulations set out new rules to standardise policies and guidance around non-financial misconduct, such as bullying and sexual harassment, encouraging firms to take appropriate action against these behaviours and maintain a healthy workplace culture.

Below are the key provisions within the regulations:

DE&I reporting requirements

One of the fundamental provisions of the FCA/PRA requirements relates to mandatory demographic reporting. For firms with more than 251 employees, the FCA and PRA require the comprehensive collection of employee data, including the following characteristics:

  • Employees’ dates of birth
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Organisations are further encouraged to collect voluntary data, such as socio-economic background.

This detail-oriented approach to data collection aims to obtain an in-depth view of the workplace, allowing firms to drill data down and spot patterns, for the purpose of promoting a culture of transparency and accountability. However, it should be noted that the “prefer not to say” option will be available to employees.

DE&I as a non-financial risk

The new requirements sets out to incorporate non-financial misconduct when assessing “fitness and propriety” for certain roles. In other words, issues such as bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination will be inspected alongside conventional employee assessments, such as competence. This policy therefore supports a shift towards workplaces that are physically and psychologically safe, where employees feel respected, supported and valued.

Setting DE&I strategies and targets

The regulations call for firms to utilise evidence-based strategies in order to promote DE&I initiatives. Organisations are therefore expected to outline their DE&I objectives and targets, plans for meeting said targets, and information on how these targets will be measured. To reduce risk of discrimination, organisations should establish open communication between HR and DE&I leads, and targets should align with wider DE&I strategy and address specific underrepresentation issues. 

Furthermore, organisations are required to publish these targets annually to demonstrate the firm’s commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture.

Establishing employee sentiment

Acknowledging the importance of measuring employee sentiment, the regulations calls for employee surveys to contain specific inclusion questions. As with objectives and targets, firms will be required to publish the results of these surveys annually to disclose DE&I progress and to hold them accountable.

The table below summarises the objectives of the new regulations, alongside steps for measuring success:


What will this achieve?

How will we measure success?

A healthy culture

Higher standards of conduct

  1. Clearer guidance on nonfinancial misconduct and discriminatory practices
  2. increase in instances of firms reporting disciplinary actions
  3. Seek to measure success through improved staff inclusion scores on the proposed DE&I regulatory return

Reduced groupthink

Improved decision-making, risk management and more effective challenge

  1. Improved staff inclusion scores on the proposed DE&I regulatory return
  2. Willingness of employees to provide constructive challenge.

New talent unlocked

Widen the sector’s talent pool and help make the UK financial sector a more attractive place to work and do business

  1. Board, senior management and employee diversity increases on average across regulated firms
  2. Measured through the proposed DE&I regulatory return.

Greater understanding of and provision for diverse consumer needs

Increased competition on product innovation and products and services that better cater for a diverse consumer base

  1. Improved consumer feedback and improving rates of financial inclusion
  2. Products and services being better tailored to consumers’ needs


Challenges and concerns of the new regulations

While the new requirements seeks to adopt a culture of accountability and transparency in the workplace, it also presents some challenges for organisations seeking to observe its principles.

First, there is concern regarding the prescriptive nature of the regulations and its impact on promoting meaningful change. The mandatory data collection policies outlined by the FCA / PRA should be considered benchmarks for progress rather than a box-ticking or quota-filling exercise.

Second, organisations should keep transparency at the forefront of any hiring and promotion decisions, and strategies should seek to encourage applications from underrepresented groups to enhance diversity. While positive action can be legally leveraged to uplift employees from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, organisations must be mindful not cross over into unlawful positive discrimination.

4 ways organisations can prepare for the new legislation

There are several ways financial firms can prepare for the impending requirements:

  1. Compliance with data protection and legal requirements. Organisations should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance surrounding data collection. This includes adhering to data protection laws and establishing secure data practices. This is particularly pertinent for global organisations where local data collection laws vary.
  2. Establishing open communication between HR & DE&I leads. Firms should seek to form clear lines of communication in order to cement DE&I targets with wider strategies. A culture of collaboration will support DE&I initiatives and ensure that they are embedded into organisational structure.
  3. Transparency of reporting. DE&I reporting and monitoring should be underpinned by transparency, and organisations should annually publicise targets and reporting progress to indicate a commitment to meaningful change. However, organisations should be aware of legal constrictions around reporting and be mindful of keeping within the parameters of positive action without crossing over into positive discrimination.
  4. Align DE&I plans with your wider business strategy. When preparing for the new regulations, financial firms should align plans with the unique makeup of their individual organisation. This requires flexibility and, depending on the needs of the business, bespoke solutions.

Let us help you

FAIRER Consulting offers customised DE&I solutions and strategies based on the specific needs of your business. Our expert consultants have worked with over 200 businesses worldwide, guiding organisations through strategic planning for long-term DE&I success.

Explore our existing consultation services, such as Developing a DE&I strategy or our Take5 policy review & business audit. Alternatively, get in touch to see how we can help with a customised solution. Our specialist team is here to help you.


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Dan Robertson

Dan Robertson is MD of FAIRER Consulting and Global Head of ED&I Advisory Services at Hays International. Over the last 15 years Dan has spent his time supporting global business leaders to transform their ideas into meaningful action, with a focus on inclusion as a strategic management issue, bias mitigation and inclusive leadership.