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Insights from the European financial sector during the Covid-19 pandemic - Responses from our expert panel

In the context of our second Diversity Network on the European financial sector's crisis management methods and suggestions last Wednesday, we invited Ms. Claire Godding (Febelfin Belgium), Ms. Autumn Le Lievre (HSBC Luxembourg), Katrien Goossens (ING Belgium) and Stéphanie Moulin (ING Luxembourg) to share their organisations' best practices. Here are the questions that followed the event.

How can you ensurefairness of choice if the pool you are choosing from isn't very representative? In other words, if you have a small number of people representing a specific group, aren't you favoring picking someone from that group rather than getting the best person for the job/position, assuming they are in a different group?

Claire Godding: If you want a profiles mix in a group, it is especially to become a better group. So yes, you may favor people of a smaller pond (women in some companies, or people with different visible origins), but you do that also to ensure that those people become visible role models, and will as such be able to attract more people who can identify with them.

Autumn Le Lievre:  Inherently, especially in these times of change, diversity has to be regarded as a value add. Our approach to “finding the best person for the job” has to move from traditional views of specific years of experience and keyskills. Rather we need to focus on adaptability and the ability to bring constructive challenge. We also acknowledge that some sectors simply lack appropriate representation in key groups because there ARE specific skill sets required – STEM being an example. HSBC will hope to providementoring in schools to try to help with the issue of diversity across the sector, by encouraging those in minority groups to take on studies and careers in, for example, traditionally male dominated areas.

During the pandemic, will online recruiting reduce or increasegender biases? 

CG: Thegender bias in recruitment can increase in companies who only look at this crisis as a situation from which you should – as fast as possible- get back to (the old) normal. In companies willing to learn from this,gender bias may actually reduce. On 6 banks interrogated in Belgium on how their recruitment was affected by confinement, 6 confirmed that attracting more women had remained a priority.

ALL: I think this depends how smart we are in how we write the adverts, and also share our approach to D&I during and before the pandemic, to ensure the widest talent pool is reached. Typically we are seeing reductions in the number of new roles across industry, but nonetheless we can support our recruiters by ensuring that they are particularly alert to unconscious bias in the online processes and conversations.

How do banks plan on organizing the “after-coronoavirus” workplace?

CG: In Belgium we have started a discussion at sector level, on how we can learn from this crisis, individually and collectively. Several banks have started surveys or focus groups to discuss this as well.

ALL: We were, as with other organisations, already largely WFH enabled, and we anticipate that this would continue. I think we have now all become, in what feels like a contradiction, closer and stronger together through this experience. I remember that we were planning a “bring your children to work day” at the start of the year, and now in fact we all have a lot more insight to, and therefore each others personal circumstances and the challenges that these may bring whether working in current mode, or when we return to the office. I expect that this will result in higher levels of empathy and compassion once we return to what may be a more office based environment. The health and well being of our employees will remain a top priority, and we do anticipate that more people may choose to WFH from time to time when we return to a more office based environment.

Question to Febelfin Belgium — We would like to talk aboutglass ceiling, because it is important to break it. Have you heard about programs encouragingmentoring for young women during the pandemic? 

CG: During the crisis, Women in Finance decided to produce several tools to help its members. One of those is a “starter kit” to launch an onlinementoring program. This is in its final steps, and should be sent to all members in the coming days. Another tool developed during the crisis addresses work life balance. Link to the work life balance recommendations : https://bit.ly/2zu523t

Question to ING — When it comes to the 70% principle, have you observed more visible trends or behaviours when you accumulate different criteria, likegender and age. Orgender and hierarchical level? 

Katrien Goossens & Stéphanie Moulin: Yes, we have. Like most other companies in the financial services sector, we still have a predominantly male senior management layer in the BeNeLux, concentrated in the 46-55 age bracket. Nationality-wise it really depends from one country to another: Luxembourg is very international already, for example, whereas in Belgium, the population is predominantly Belgian. The interesting thing here is that by creating clarity around the composition of teams through data and setting it off against clearly defined corporate diversity ambitions, you can really make sure you focus your actions on the right things.

Question to HSBC Luxembourg — Was the training on unconscious bias in place before the crisis or was it developed in response to it? Is it mandatory or on voluntary basis? 

ALL: This training was already in place before the crisis, it is a key element of our global diversity andinclusion programme. It was highly encouraged for line managers, and recommended for all.

Published on 25 May 2020