Unlock the Value in Diversity

Join us as our intern, Charlie Parkhouse, recaps his experience of  a  special day focusing on  diversity:


At BAFTA in the heart of London’s Piccadilly on Thursday 8 March, Nucleus Financial staged a new Illuminate event titled ‘Unlock the Value in Diversity’. Nucleus has signed up to the Women in Finance charter and set itself the target of 40% of all senior roles filled by women by 2021. Through this unique TED-style event, a selection of speakers outlined how diversity can often be undervalued and how we could in fact utilise it to great effect in financial services and beyond.


The event began with a short introduction from the Chief Executive of Nucleus, David Ferguson. Next to the stage was our very own Michelle Hoskin who had been given the privilege of hosting the event (on both International Women’s Day and her birthday!).  Michelle’s bubbly, charismatic approach set the upbeat tone for a day packed full of learning opportunities.


Michelle began by playing a video which showed different socio-economic groups of people relating to each other over different experiences in their lifetimes.  This gave a very clear message that it is easier to ‘assume’ than it is to ‘think’ – which is why we judge people and sometimes therefore don’t sufficiently allow diversity to be a part of the business world.


Michelle then introduced the first speaker of the day,  Suzy Levy from The Red Plate.


Suzy gave a history lesson on how, in the past, ‘different’ or diverse people have been excluded from doing certain acts, for example women not being allowed to vote. Some of the facts and figures Suzy quoted around historical exclusion were astounding. After leaving the audience a little shocked, Suzy went on to talk about how we can actually use diversity as an opportunity in the workplace. Diversity of nature and approach means we can all benefit from characteristics that some have more than others; for example, women tend to take less risks and are more motivated by investment with a purpose. Suzy rounded off with this statement: ‘Diversity is both the right thing to do and commercially relevant’, which we agree with 100% and became underlined throughout the rest of the day.


Next was Graham Cox of Boundaries Edge who delivered a presentation on the human mind and bias.


Graham started with some mind games and used this as a tool to prove how our minds have innate bias. He described how our subconscious mind is able to absorb huge amounts of information. However we can only process some of this information through our conscious mind. Therefore, as it passes through the lens of our conscious mind, the outcome is filtered. Drawing upon information that’s passed through both the conscious and subconscious mind can easily affect how we perform. He also described how 86% of the decisions we make are made with the emotional part of the brain and that our values lie in the logical part of the brain, which can be very hard to access. Learning how to recognise, and possibly even control, this behaviour will make our performance as inclusive humans a lot more effective.


To cap off the morning session Dame Helena Morrissey was welcomed to the stage.


With it also being International Women’s Day, Dame Helena’s’ presentation “It’s a good time to be a girl” was very fitting for the occasion. Dame Helena introduced the auditorium to the 30% Club, which campaigns for greater representation of women on the boards of FTSE100 boards (aiming to achieve a minimum target of 30%). She argued that diversity now means “diversity of thought” and that leaders need emotional intelligence, which is something most often associated with women. Some career advice Helena offered based on her experiences included “leap before you look”, “think big, start small and start now!” and to put an emphasis on mentoring, something that is key for an individual’s progression.


After Dame Helena’s presentation we had our first panel Q&A session, hosted by Michelle. Through an app the audience were able to ask questions which Michelle then put to the speakers. The general vibe from this particular panel session was around what advice could be given to women in financial services. All of the speakers answered and some of the main points they identified were to work alongside men more and not to create a divide between the genders, to be open and honest about any points you may have and finally to put yourself out there and not spend too long looking before you leap!


The second morning session of the day began with Iain Anderson of Cicero and a Stonewall Ambassador.


Ian introduced how to build LGBT-inclusive diversity into a small business. He made a major point that 78% of LGBT people in financial services go back into the closet. He therefore stated how important it is to run a business in which people want to work, with an open, welcoming culture that’s inclusive, and how nurturing a judgement-free environment is a large key to unlocking the value in diversity.


Michelle then introduced Neil Bage of Be-IQ Ltd, a leading financial behaviour specialist.


Neil set out to debunk gender-based myths and explained how these myths are often a reason why we don’t utilise diversity in the workplace. For example, myths that women are always more emotional or men are better at investing and women make more gut-instinct decisions. All of these can be proven wrong.  In fact, there is no meaningful difference between males and females based on gender alone, it’s just human behaviour that separates us.


After Neil, Graham Cox returned to the stage.


Graham’s second session explained perception bias, how we perceive exactly what we expect to see. This is a problem as our initial impressions are often combined with a strong resistance to change, which can mean we struggle to be inclusive and welcome diversity in many situations. The room was once again completely focused and engaged in the topic and Graham went on to say that, by having a mindset that is conscious about the past, present and future, we can personally master our bias and allow for more diversity in our lives.


Next up was Iona Bain of the Young Money Blog. Iona’s presentation opened up the area of diversity in age, she focused particularly on ‘millennials’.


She began by busting some myths about millennials, one being that they are all defined by the same experiences. In fact millennials are shaped by varying factors such as age, family, education and jobs. Furthermore, she went on to explain how more of this group will become involved in financial services, which is still an area currently dominated by an older age profile. Iona said millennials need education and that we should be rewarding them, both externally by recognising and welcoming younger-profile clients, and internally by promoting young talent within the financial services profession.

Empowering millennials may be another key to gaining more business value and unlocking diversity.


After a lovely lunch we returned for the afternoon session and kicking us off was Yasmin Sheikh, founder of Diverse Matters, a specialist in disability issues in the workplace.


The atmosphere in the room was very emotional as Yasmin introduced herself to the audience. You could hear a pin drop as she recounted the story of her spinal stroke. Her statistic, that 86% of people acquire their disability whilst of working age and are not born with it, was a real eye-opener. There is a very real likelihood that every business will need to respond to disability within its workforce. Yasmin made a key point to take greater care in considering the language used towards someone who is disabled, to consciously evaluate whether the words you are using are empowering or disempowering, for example, ‘wheelchair bound’ vs ‘wheelchair user’. She is not ‘bound’ to her chair, just the opposite, it has liberated her and is a tool for her to achieve more freedom. She also highlighted that disability isn’t just physical. A poll within one company returned a low level of responses amongst staff identifying as physically disabled, however the levels were much higher when staff were told to include mental illness within the categorisation.


Following Yasmin onto the stage was Andrew Fairbairn from SEO London.


Andrew’s organisation specialises in preparing talented students from disadvantaged ethnic minority or low socio-economic backgrounds for career success. He began by exploring what makes the businesses he works with engage in diversity planning? For some companies it would appear there are genuinely socially conscious motivators, but for others it’s purely money-driven, and the fear of losing out to more socially conscious competition. Andrew outlined a couple of ‘case studies’, individuals who deserved a chance to excel, and these brought to life how everyone has a back-story, and that everyone deserves a fair shot. For disadvantaged people to thrive, Andrew explained how they need to be valued and actively involved in the creation and delivery of value by the business. He explained how, for businesses to thrive, they need wide-ranging talent and that we all should be aware of our “talent pipeline”, ie where would we source our next recruits and how conscious are we to make the recruitment process as open to diversity of applicants as possible?, as well as focusing on maximising and retaining current talented individuals.


Next up was Anna Sofat from Addidi Wealth.


Anna is an award-winning financial planner and also one of Standards International’s clients, who we have worked closely with for several years. Anna has an amazing business and presented her story of its creation with real feeling. Anna’s main goal when launching Addidi was to build a trusted place, both for women in her team as well as for her clients with their money. The ‘Didi’ of Addidi in Hindi means older sister. An older sister will care for you, guide you, set a good example and will tell you the truth when they need to, which really summarises the kind of atmosphere Anna has created.  She stated that the link between wealth and wellbeing has always been at the forefront for her and how she truly believes in her client wealth plan structure; to create – invest – enjoy.


The final speaker of the day was from the Nucleus family, Kirsty Lynagh, Chief People Officer for Nucleus Financial.


Kirsty addressed how important diversity is in a business and, with the use of some clever illustrated slides, demonstrated how greater diversity links to better business performance. She started with a couple of strong slogans, that ‘businesses don’t create value, people do’ and how ‘inclusive is the new exclusive’. Her mission is to create value by bringing people in and getting them involved.

She explained how the opposite of inclusion is exclusion and that, with so few of us excelling at inclusion, perhaps we should all take some time to consider who we are potentially excluding (she gave an example of a dad within Nucleus who sought flexible working to spend more time with his children, something more commonly associated with female employees).

She went on to say that ‘humanity is our greatest competitive advantage’ and that we all need to call on our leaders to create greatness in other people. Kirsty believes that ignoring the ‘cult’ in culture is key. Culture can’t be controlled or manufactured, it’s organic. It’s also not normal for a culture to stay the same forever, it needs to evolve and we should embrace the opportunity this brings to open a more diverse debate. In terms of how she operates day-to-day within Nucleus, Kirsty gave the ‘spinach in the teeth’ analogy, that you should always tell the truth and don’t be afraid of what others might think of it! Kirsty rounded off her presentation by saying ‘don’t hire the best person for the job, hire the best person for the team’, which really struck a chord with the audience.


We then welcomed back onto the stage Michelle Hoskin for a final panel discussion and to round-off the day.


Michelle took us through the key messages from each speaker and some of the ones that stood out for her, including Dame Helena’s speech, which reminded us that we need each other to survive and that working together can add a greater value than anything. Also how Yasmin’s speech reminded us that, whatever happens, we can always turn things around and return stronger than ever. Finally, Michelle outlined her main takeaways, which were to show you care about each other, to commit to your bosses and your team, as you can’t do a journey on your own, to be aware and to listen more to what people are really saying, and last but not least, to surround yourself with good people, to try harder to understand them and, above all, to be kind – kinder to ourselves and kinder to those we value.


With that the event was closed and everyone retired to the bar to share insights from the day and tuck into some of Michelle’s WOWW! birthday cake, courtesy of BAFTA.  Thanks Nucleus for an awesome day – can’t wait till next time!


– Charlie Parkhouse

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