When we talk about financial services and we touch on the topic of inclusion, it requires us to ask two very urgent and complicated questions. Such as who the services and resources are designed for and who is providing the services and advice
It can become very easy, very quickly to exclude yourself from this conversation if you are part of a group that isn’t typically excluded from financial services either as a client or an employee. You can exnominate yourself from being tied to the very thing that’s causing your inclusion at the expense of somebody else’s exclusion. The ability to disconcerne yourself is a privilege, both a powerful and dangerous one.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva once wrote that neo-liberalism and meritocracy have created spaces where these questions are being ignored. Particularly on racial matters, they argued that people are taught that the cream rises to the top. Unfortunately, the included group seem unconcerned that the colour of the cream that usually rises is white
Looking at this more closely, financial services and advice does attract a certain demographic despite the fact that managing finances is something most people in society will have to do throughout their life.
Why is this? You have the fundamental principles that to have money you need to invest money and I too often hear the excuse that it’s people’s lack of education that leaves them unable to manage their money. But the social issues that surround demographics and the oppression of wealth are troubling and by no means new.
It’s not due to that person not working hard enough or their parents maybe not sending them to the right school. Excuses like this simply shift responsibility and accountability away from the culture that creates these societal issues. And the casual excuse of education becomes problematic.
So you may have a single mum that lives pay cheque to pay cheque, or a working class family that throughout generations have never been exposed to financial planning, or a young person thats just been released from the care system, or someone from the BAME community that has never had access to financial planning. These groups of people may have convinced themselves that someone in their position doesn’t have the means or relevant information to even begin to accumulate wealth.
My argument is that it’s deliberate that they don’t have the means or information.
If we look at the timeline of society, it wasn’t until recently in 1882 that women were allowed to own a house without needing to have a man on her side. Even more recently, it was only in 1928 that both men and women from working class backgrounds were able to vote. In the 1950’s there were signs denying access to non whites. But if you couldn’t rent a room or get a job because of the colour of your skin, how was you meant to get a reference that would be needed to take out a loan.
Even today, a study conducted by Solomon, Kara and Molyneux in 2013 looked at 52,000 households and access to consumer credit. They found that there was an evident dicrimination on the banking systems behalf towards those of minority backgrounds when approving applications.
More specifically, when analysing the problem with education, sociological theorists such as Samual Bowels and Herbert Gintis termed together the ‘hidden curriculum’ which theorises the ways that pupils of certain backgrounds are taught to accept the status quo and the social order that places BAME and working class individuals with lower expectations.
Going back to my examples, is it too far fetched to claim that we have a demographic in our society that are potentially so disenfranchised that they don’t even consider financial planning as an option? That their expectations are so low that planning financially for their future isn’t a priority? Or even worse, they’re so disenfranchised that it’s impossible to make financial planning a priority. And are we asking the complicated questions enough to determine what is happening here? Or even acknowledge that it’s deliberate.
Privilege either racial, socioeconomic, or gender grants you with options, and it’s a sad and harsh reality that there are people within our society that do not consider financial planning as an option. And this is something that people from various disciplines have been tracking for years.
Sitting across from this is an industry that does lack diversity in terms of who is employed. When analysing the problematic nature of education again, Anthony Giddens claims that during the process of schooling, many young people from working class or ethnic minority backgrounds come to recognise that they’re just not clever enough to get highly paid or high status jobs. This experience of academic failure teaches them to acknowledge their individual and academic limitations and having accepted their inferiority they move to jobs with limited prospects.
Nirmal Puwar also contributes to this when discussing invisibly visible bodies and the task of minorities and women taking up space that is typically reserved for white masculinities. But as i have mentioned, this is something that people from various disciplines track, so it isn’t just theoretical, it’s a reality.
The FCA’s 2019 annual report on diversity shows that there is a lack of diversity particularly among IFA and senior leadership roles. The FCA aims to have 8% of these roles filled by those that identity as BAME by 2020.Which of course shows that the figure is currently less than this. In fact in 2014 the figure for this statistic was as low as 2%.
The lack of diversity within the workforce does intersect with the issue of who is included and excluded from financial planning services. Henri Lefebvre famously wrote ‘each living body is space an creates itself in that space’. Within this context that may translate as who is employed will inevitably create a culture for who the services are provided to.
But should we not have a service that’ representative of the people we serve. Should we not be trying to serve everyone in society. Should we not be challenging the oppressive deliberate system to ensure each and every member of society has access to high standard financial planning.
So the topic of inclusion the two question of who is the service for and who will provide it, are as you can see very complicated. But when we open the discourse and create safe spaces for these to be answered, it provides people with insight and acknowledgement of the wider societal issues that moulds the financial industry, which can only strengthen our overall duty of care and bring us one step closer to finding solutions to these issues.
It’s not by chance that our clients may be of one demographic and it is not by chance that the current workforce is dominated by white masculinity. But unless we recognize this and create the spaces to analysis this discrepancy progress will not happen and the included will continue to exclude themselves from the conversation.