Not saying anything racist isn’t enough

10th July 2020

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Is it time to anonymise CVs to stamp out unconscious bias against BAME people in the financial services industry?

Could banks and financial institutions bring in a “Rooney rule”, as in American football, whereby people of colour must be on the interview list for senior jobs? Should  responsibility be shouldered by white “allies” to promote ethnic diversity rather than leaving the battle to be fought by BAME colleagues?

Those were among the ideas raised during a lively Labour in the City panel discussion this week entitled “how we can make Black Lives Matter in the City”, which generated a range of thoughtful contributions both from LITC members and from panellists.

The BLM movement has swept the world since the death of George Floyd, at the hands of brutality by Minneapolis police.  On the impact of the movement, Syreeta Allen, Head of Student Outcomes, King’s College, London, said: “There’s been a shift in what people perceive as anti-racism. Simply not saying anything racist isn’t enough. It’s about being active in combating and addressing racism.”

Calling upon all to get involved, Florence Eshalomi MP, Whip to the Shadow Treasury Team, said: “It’s in all of our interests to address this – not just in the interests of minorities. It will build a better society for us all.”

Practical steps suggested by our panelists included: asking questions about statistics within your organisation; listening to colleagues and initiating conversations about their experiences; investing in relationships, particularly with newer recruits; speaking out against racism whenever and wherever you see it.

Lewis Iwu, CEO and co-founder of the Purpose Union, said that at the very least, companies should tally records of speakers on their public platforms detailing how many are from BAME backgrounds – to make all-white panels, like all-male panels, a thing of the past.

Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Digital, backed a version of the Rooney Rule which puts more BAME people on shortlists for top jobs, and called, too, for exploration of another initiative gaining ground in legal circles – the Mansfield Rule – which calls for 30% of the candidate pool for promotions, leadership and governance roles to be women or minorities.

“We should certainly see the Rooney Rule in our football industry, and we should be looking at finance too,” she said. “We need a greater effort to reach out to talent of colour.”

Imposter syndrome, said the panelists, remains an all-too-common sentiment among BAME people working in the City. And it cannot be left to “the black people in the room” to push for progress. In order to turn BLM from a hashtag into reality, those who work in the financial industry must step up collectively and push for urgent change.

Florence Eshalomi MP has asked Labour in the City members whether they would be open to one of her constituents shadowing them for a day to gain experience and understanding of the financial services sector.  If you’d be willing to do so, please contact

Article written by Andrew Clark, Chief Operating Officer, Labour in the City