reboot.: Reflecting on one year of the financial services campaign

Noreen Biddle Shah details the achievements of ethnic diversity initiative

It has been a year since DiversityQ and sister publication ESG Clarity teamed up with the reboot. campaign to spotlight the journeys of ethnic minority professionals in financial services.

The initiative was set up by Noreen Biddle Shah (pictured), head of marketing and communications at Numis, the reboot. network has released a series of videos and blogs on LinkedIn with Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals redefining the corporate world.

Here, Biddle Shah exclusively reflects on the past 12 months and progress reboot. has made.

When you first launched reboot., what were you hoping to accomplish? Has this changed in any way?

We started with an open mind and a clear strategy: to create an emotional resonance with people who could make or influence positive decisions around race and ethnicity in the workplace. We simply wanted to share stories of what ethnic minorities face in the workplace and really humanise the issue. The financial services media has been exceptionally receptive in supporting us, which has been a key component of our success.

Pre-Covid and Black Lives Matter, I think many people had become somewhat desensitised to issues affecting this cohort of diversity. Progress had been made, and, for many, there were other things to worry about.

But we launched in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and Covid, which thrust the story centre stage – and we wanted to dial up the volume on the debate and hopefully create positive change on the material, deep-lying issues.

The first year exceeded our expectations, and this success has emboldened us to raise our sights higher.

Looking back at the year, what are some of the achievements you are most proud of?

The minutes of our first board meeting show that we hoped to have 15 ambassadors. Now we have way over 50, and by mid-2022, I anticipate us having closer to 100.

These are all people who can generate positive change, both in their organisations and more broadly across the industry.

Our reboot. community includes a Baroness (Helena Morrissey), an OBE and several chief executives. All who genuinely care.

We published a major report in October 2021, Race to Equality, and a few months later launched a landmark index that measures financial services firms on their diversity performance. This really helped paint a clearer picture of how the UK financial services is faring on race equality. And the results were sobering. Now that we have a reference point, we will at least be able to measure progress year on year.

reboot. is a large team of people – not just me – and the whole team should be proud of everything we’ve achieved.

What have been some of the biggest challenges?

When we started, we were all successful in our fields, but, really, we were hardly influential.

But we had determination and good timing, riding the pressure wave generated by Black Lives Matter and getting the right backing, such as the CEO of State Street EMEA, who told us to come to him directly if we faced obstacles. Without much pushing, we got in front of a remarkable number of leaders across the industry with the power to embed meaningful race and ethnicity diversity into their organisations and corporate cultures.

The big challenge ahead is persuading those who don’t genuinely understand the importance of diversity. How can we make them realise they’re absolutely part of the solution?

Some groups have announced a focus on ethnic diversity on boards in their company engagement – is this enough? 

Our goal is positive progress. And the increased focus on board diversity is certainly that, which is very pleasing to see.

Is it enough? Of course, it isn’t – but we need to think more about the direction and velocity of travel than the milestones we pass.

Overall, this is a large and complex societal issue that requires a range of solutions. Diverse boards constitute one answer. But you have to add in training, policies, quotas, data and regulations to start completing the picture.

How has this journey with reboot. shaped you?

None of us started as race and ethnicity experts, so we’ve spent a lot of time educating ourselves, and this has been profoundly rewarding.

It is also tremendously satisfying to have built strong relationships with many reboot. colleagues, allies and partners. The industry genuinely cares – at least those we engage with! – and we see our role as harnessing that to create impactful change

How do you see reboot. evolving over 2022?

Let’s not forget the challenges are still there: from board homogeneity to racist microaggressions. The latter remains a serious issue, with eight in 10 ethnic minority employees experiencing actions or words that they found offensive, embarrassing or hurtful.

So, we’ll continue to grow as we encourage management teams to listen to all their employees, evolve their training programmes, develop role models, set the right tone and empower HR teams to review their recruitment practices.

I mentioned above that some aren’t really engaging in this theme – whether that’s understanding the moral argument or the proven case that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. This is why we also need regulation. For those who aren’t making progress in creating a fairer workplace, then regulation such as mandatory reporting will provide companies with the opportunity to create a more inclusive workplace once they have that transparency of data. We are already seeing this with gender pay gap reporting.

We will be partnering with other organisations, charities and industry bodies through the new year to bring light to this issue and hopefully take reboot.’s journey to the next level as our impactful stories start to create measurable change.

To see the full reboot. series run by ESG Clarity click here

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