🇬🇧 UK/No Sexes Please, We're British! - Changing the Face of the Financial Sector

By Kay Warner/UK

The financial services sector is very important to the UK economy. The City of London, The Square Mile, has consistently taken one of the top spots in the Global Financial Centres Index. (currently second to New York).

British bankers for many years had a staid, respectable image. Traditionally represented by the bowler-hatted, briefcase and brolly equipped, pinstriped, often austere male bank manager. Imposing and solid, just like the building and the system he presided over. That image has gradually been updated with more and more women in senior positions, but now "gender identity" has taken hold of finance, just like other industries and the British financial sector has lost its grip on reality.

The finance industry in the UK has two main regulators:

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

An independent body funded by fees charged to registered firms and accountable to the Treasury, which is responsible for the UK financial system, and to Parliament. The FCA is the conduct regulator for around 51,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK prudentially supervises 49,000 firms and sets specific standards for around 18,000 firms.

The FCA works alongside:

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)

The PRA is a part of the Bank of England and is responsible for the prudential regulation and supervision of about 1,500 banks, building societies, credit unions, insurers and major investment firms.

Note: The purpose of prudential regulation and supervision is to ensure that financial institutions and market infrastructures operating within the financial system are inherently safe and sound.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), in partnership with the Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Bank of England, launched a consultation paper on July 7 2021 on a draft code of conduct that proposes new disclosure rules with a view to improving diversity and inclusion for all businesses that come under its remit. Suggestions for improvement include:

  • At least 40% of the board should be women (including those self-identifying as women);

  • At least one of the senior board positions (Chair, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Senior Independent Director (SID)) should be a woman (including individuals who self-identify as women);

  • At least one member of the board should be from a non-white ethnic minority background (as defined by the Office for National Statistics);

  • The chosen gender of staff, rather than their legal sex, should be recorded.

This focus on diversity, equality and inclusion of listed companies really has nothing at all to do with the original purpose of the FCA, regulating the finance industry.

There are problems with these proposals as they do not take into account that:

  • Self-id is not recognised in the UK

  • The Companies Act 2006 already demands certain mandatory disclosures in annual reports

  • The UK has existing data collection and reporting with data protection rules

  • Certain protected characteristics are covered in the Equality Act 2010

  • The Public Sector Equality Duty set out in the Equality Act 2010 does not recognise self-id

  • The UK banking industry, although ahead of the game in recruiting women to senior positions, is behind in closing the gender pay gap and these proposals will likely skew those statistics

It is surprising that an independent body charged with the regulation of such an important part of Britain's economy appears to either disregard or be unaware of these issues. A closer look at the Financial Conduct Authority provides some clues.

The FCA is a paid-up subscriber of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme and is placed within the top 100 Employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

Note: Stonewall, a former bastion of LGB rights, is by far the largest and arguably most influential promoter of “gender identity” in the UK.

After a cash injection of almost £100,000 from the ARCUS Foundation in 2014/15 to promote “transgenderism, “ (more on ARCUS here) Stonewall added the “T“ to the LGB and went on to amass a following of around 850 organisations all signed up to its Diversity Champion and Workplace Equality Programmes, including over 300 government departments and public bodies. Stonewall also has a School and College Awards programme.

Often, pride comes before a fall and the information that Stonewall provides to its subscribers has recently been called into question, particularly misrepresentation of the Equality Act 2010. An independent report into the treatment of two University of Essex professors was critical about the influence of Stonewall on university policies. Akua Reindorf, the author of the report, described a “culture of fear” at the university and noted that Essex had adopted policies that reflected “the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is”. The BBC aired The Nolan Investigation into Stonewall's incursion into government and public bodies in October, asking why this LGBTQ+ lobbying group was being given unprecedented access at taxpayer expense. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Department of Education, the BBC are amongst government departments and public bodies that have since withdrawn their membership.

The FCA achieved 59th place in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers Rankings in 2020. (The scheme was suspended for 2021 due to the pandemic, but is now on course once again for 2022 with the introduction of new bronze, silver and gold awards.) There is a conflict of interest here as, in company with other public bodies, the FCA is required to submit all policies under the following headings to Stonewall to be assessed for the Workplace Equality Index.

1. Policies and benefits

2. The employee lifecycle

3. LGBT Employee Network Group

3. LGBT Employee Network Group

4. Allies and role models

5. Senior leadership

6. Monitoring

7. Procurement

8. Community engagement

9. Clients, customers and service users

10. Additional work

Clearly, to rise closer to the coveted position at the top of the Stonewall Equality Index the FCA needed to do more. As the appointed regulator, what better way to improve the ranking than to capture all those listed companies and financial services markets by imposing a new code of conduct compatible with Stonewall's requirements. Join up with the Prudential Regulation Authority and capture the banking and insurance sector too.

It would appear that, as another Stonewall Diversity Champion in this alliance, the Bank of England was already on-board with this new guidance, possibly even a prime mover in making the changes.

The Bank of England updated its policies on equality for “transgender”, “non-binary” and “gender-fluid” employees earlier this year. (None of these terms, unlike sex, are based in material reality or recognised in the Equality Act 2010). In guidance to staff it said: "If you are transitioning, the Bank will aim to work with you to ensure that you feel supported in the workplace. Transphobic abuse, bullying and harassment directed at individuals who are transitioning will not be tolerated and will be dealt with under the Bank's anti-bullying and harassment policy." The Bank has told employees they may be able to claim for genital surgery for the purpose of identity under a private medical insurance scheme. Such surgery can cost more than £30,000. Offering the procedure through health insurance could speed up a process that can take years on the NHS.

Banking giants Lloyds and Goldman Sachs have previously introduced policies to provide insurance to cover the medical costs of sex identity surgeries. (Read more here) Prestigious law firms Clifford Chance and Linklaters have similar policies. This is a big hammer to crack a very small nut, given the tiny part of the population that have identity issues related to their genitalia. We need to ask why these organisations appear to encourage more men to adopt this fetish. Having men presenting in the guise of women in the most prominent positions, visibly supported by the regulators, will make it almost a prime qualification for the ambitious.

The importance placed by these and other organisations on LGBTQ+ groups, networks and “allies” makes it very difficult for other employees to raise objections to these policies. This is in clear conflict with the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010.

The introduction of the policy at the Bank of England will lay down a marker in the City. Many other financial sector companies will undoubtedly follow suit, or rather follow skirt!

The face of the financial sector, and the City of London is indeed changing.

Across the Pond

Shortly after the FCA Consultation Paper was published, it was reported that companies listed on the Nasdaq, the USA’s second-largest stock exchange, were to be subject to binding new diversity rules. The requirement in each company will be for two “diverse directors” including an individual who identifies as a female and another who is either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ+.

Kay Warner, United Kingdom Women's rights, gained by previous generations, are under threat today from the insidious creep of the gender identity industry into all aspects of public life. https://www.facebook.com/71granhttps://grangry.blogspot.com/