By: Faizah Tahir, Group Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Manager

This year, OSTC as an organisation participated in formal recognition of Black History Month for the first time in our history. We’re proud to have taken this step to recognise the history and heritage of our black colleagues and of the wider black community. While we’ve always taken pride in our diverse workforce, after events this year we decided it was clear that we needed to be more vocal in our acknowledgement of the challenges faced by the black community and by people of colour more widely, both within our industry and beyond.

Protests around the world shone a clear light on the systemic challenges still faced by the black community across all walks of life. It’s clearer than ever that we’ll only ever overcome those challenges through a collective effort, and that organisations like ours have a part to play in facilitating equal access for opportunities for black and other marginalised candidates. We’re listening, we’re learning, and we’re committed to making a change for the better.

Creating a genuinely diverse workplace

As an organisation, we believe not only that we have a responsibility and duty to facilitate this change, but that doing so is the best thing for us as a business. The benefits of having a genuinely diverse workplace, of avoiding “groupthink” and encouraging a variety of ideas and opinions – all of these things are well documented benefits. For too long, candidates from Black and other ethnic minority groups have been underrepresented in our industry and it’s time to put that right.

To do this, we’re committing to a series of changes across our organisation designed to further improve our ability to be inclusive, as well as to both provide a way into our industry for people of colour who otherwise may not have access to a career in trading, and to support these employees in our workplace as their careers progress. These changes are designed to create a foundation to allow us to improve the way we promote and embrace diversity in our workforce, permanently, and to affect the transformation the entire industry needs.

Key to improving diversity across our sector is ensuring that black and minority candidates have a clear and defined route into employment. This means working from the ground up to facilitate access to educational materials, vocational training and other support designed to empower young black candidates to pursue their chosen career. Fundamental to the success of this effort is in changing perceptions within the minds of young people; to make a career in trading an achievable goal and to assist them in working towards this goal. To this end, we’ll be working with a number of charities that support young adults from ethnic minority and/or reduced social mobility backgrounds throughout the coming year. For example, we’ll be continuing our ongoing work alongside City Mental Health Alliance, which works to provide tailored support to minority ethnic groups which are disproportionately affected by mental health issues.

Implementing change at the highest level

It’s important to us to be part of this collective effort alongside our charitable partners, but we wanted to give something back directly. So from 2021, we’ll be joining an external reverse mentoring programme, run by the Social Mobility Foundation, which will see our board of directors and senior management team directly mentor young people across the country and helping them navigate the path from education to career. And in the process our leaders will hope to learn about the challenges and pitfalls of what it means to be a young adult from a socially deprived background. In doing so, we’re directly investing in the next generation of leaders. It’s clear that work is needed to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow are supported in achieving a career within financial services and this long-term investment in young people is vital to improving diversity and representation in the long term.

It’s important for us to recognise that change is needed within our own organisation too. So we’re taking steps to ensure that we can practice what we preach when it comes to facilitating diversity. For example, in Q4 we will be forming our D&I Network group, designed to facilitate career advancement opportunities to offer psychological support and give a voice to our colleagues from Black and ethnic minority and other protected characteristic groups. But we know there’s still much more to do; so as such all our management staff will be participating in inclusive hiring workshops and courses, to ensure that our recruitment process is as fair and accessible as possible. We’re also running an ongoing assessment of our hiring processes and, if we identify any failings or room for improvements, we’ll be making these changes.

Accelerating our diversity agenda

Finally, as we’ve said, long term investment is what’s needed to really address the issues of systemic racial inequality. We want to put that aim at the heart of what we do, so we’ll be launching a brand new arm of our business, designed to improve diversity and representation. This “diversity accelerator program” will be set up to directly support young people, helping move them from education to the world of work and onto the trading floor. We’ll be creating a brand new role within the business to help head this initiative up, with the first intake of candidates planned in June 2021. It’s our belief that direct action like this is vital and our aim is for this model to serve as a blueprint for how organisations can take direct steps to affect meaningful change in the future.

As an organisation, we’re just beginning to take our first steps towards meaningfully improving diversity, and we’re committed to doing what’s necessary to change things in the long term – it’s increasingly clear that change is long overdue and it’s now no longer possible to stand by. That’s why we’re calling on other organisations across the sector to stand up and take action too. The only way we’re going to help solve the persistent issue of inequality, which has plagued financial services for too long, is by working together.