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Banks set to improve social mobility

Four of Europe’s biggest banks are to target recruits from low and middle income households, after research revealed the disproportionate number of finance employees from privileged backgrounds.

The initiative at Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Lloyds will be supported by the Sutton Trust, a charity dedicated to improving social mobility through education.

Research commissioned by the trust found 34% of recent intakes and 51% of leaders in the banking sector from the UK had been schooled at independent institutions, compared to 7% of the school population.

The survey of 500 leaders and 1,800 new recruits in the financial services also found that across the whole financial services sector (including banking, insurance, hedge funds, asset management and private equity firms), 37% of recent intakes and 60% of leaders were independently educated.

The research, carried out by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reviewed existing outreach programmes in financial services. It found they rarely targeted socially disadvantaged areas, did not start early enough, or did not offer comprehensive support to teachers and parents.

It suggested initiatives tended to be part of a company’s corporate social responsibility agenda rather than be embedded in the recruitment pipeline.

BCG’s report recommended the banks work more closely with schools to identify and support potential candidates before the age of 16.

It also suggested recruiters should work with parents and teachers to help boost students’ aspirations, offer relevant work experience opportunities, and provide on-going support to young people engaging in their programmes.

The Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Banking partnership activities will include Barclays staff offering mentoring to state school students.

HSBC has provided a five-year grant of £2 million to the Sutton Trust teacher summer schools’ national programme for state school teachers, and its staff will give talks on banking.

And Lloyds will work with the trust to identify talented school pupils and advise them on different pathways into banking.

Lloyds head of emerging talent Christopher Jackson said the project would allow the bank to “further identify talented school pupils, regardless of their background, and advise them of the widest range of pathways into banking”.

Deutsche Bank UK CEO Colin Grassi said the initiative would “open up opportunities for young people from less privileged backgrounds to become the next generation banking professionals".

The partnership model follows similar work between the Sutton Trust, the Legal Education Foundation and leading law firms which has supported 2,000 students from non-privileged backgrounds interested in a legal career over the past last seven years.

The trust’s chairman Sir Peter Lampl, said working with the banks would "reduce the waste of talent that blights this country”.

“Too many state educated students remain unaware of the careers available in banking and how to attain them, and I believe it is in the interest of the banks to attract talent from a wider range of social backgrounds," he said.