Making banking more socially mobile

  • Laura Bruce
  • 16 December 2019
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

As one of the UK’s most sought-after industries, banking and finance is inevitably a competitive sector to break into. While there is much positive work being done by firms to diversify and reflect all aspects of society in recruitment practices, there is still much more to be done to increase social mobility and diversify the workforce.

Young people face many barriers when trying to access a career in banking today.

By forcing young people to rely on financial support from parents and friends to gain vital work experience, unpaid internships prohibit many young people from less advantaged backgrounds from crucial career entry points.

Elitist Britain

Our Elitist Britain 2019 report revealed that people in the UK’s top jobs are five times more likely to have been to a private school than the general population. Recent research by KPMG revealed that some 41% of financial services employees had parents working in the same sector. Educational background and connections still seem to play too large a part in determining entry to the sector.

The Sutton Trust champions social mobility because we believe that every individual should be able to unlock opportunities. Not only is it important for society, but there are economic benefits too. Research we published with Oxera found that only a small improvement in social mobility in the UK – bringing it in line with the western Europe average – could increase annual GDP by £590 per person, equating to a total boost of £39bn in the long-term.

Socio-economic duty

The Sutton Trust is calling for social diversity to be adopted as a key mission across the whole of British society through the enactment of the ‘socio-economic duty’ clause of the Equality Act 2010.

Financial barriers to entry to leading industries and professions – such as unpaid internships of over four weeks – must also be challenged through employers nationwide complying with National Minimum Wage Regulations. Leading social mobility employers sharing best practice is crucial to widespread adoption of positive measures towards diversity and equality of opportunity and access.

Employers using contextual recruitment and open and transparent recruitment practices – such as openly advertised internships and entry-level jobs – could also go a long way to helping young people from under-represented groups to get a foot on the ladder.

Making these routes and opportunities visible to all is key to improving social mobility in the sector.

The Sutton Trust is a social mobility charity that supports 5,000 high-attaining young people each year through educational programmes.