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Financial services 'less diverse than a decade ago'

16/12/14

Despite government efforts to increase diversity in financial services, the sector has gone backwards, a new report has concluded.

When the word diversity is mentioned in relation to the financial sector, it is usually to do with equal opportunities in the workforce, with companies working to reduce discrimination and increase representation among groups such as women and members of ethnic minorities.

Although this kind of diversity has increased, there is another sort that has gone into reverse: the actual range of financial services providers.

This was the central finding of the Building Societies Association (BSA) report on diversity in financial services. It concluded that the level of competition and consumer choice has got weaker during the recent, turbulent years.

For example, since its peak in 2004 the mortgage market has contracted by 20 per cent in terms of the number of providers, while the savings market is at its least diverse since 2000.

Economic secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom welcomed the report as evidence of the importance of government efforts to diversify the sector, noting the coalition agreement contained pledges to "promote mutuals and foster diversity within financial services".

However, BSA chief executive Robin Fieth commented: “This research shows that while there has been a renewed effort by government and a commitment from political parties to foster diversity, there is still much to do."

He added that this is why the BSA has launched its own Manifesto for Financial Mutuals, seeking more help to diversify the sector.

This view was backed by co-author of the study, Professor Jonathan Michie from the University of Oxford. He said greater commitments to financial services diversity should be included in all the party manifestos at next year's general election.

Candidates seeking jobs in the financial sector may find using the services of a specialist recruitment company is a good way to help understand their potential prospects, by understanding the scope of opportunities in the present market.

According to the coalition agreement, a key aim of increasing financial services diversity was to create a "banking system to serve business, not the other way round".

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