Reflections of the CEO

Diversity & Inclusion | ISLA AGM & Securities Finance Forum 2021

Just under a week ago, we saw the end of the European Championships. Notwithstanding my personal disappointment of seeing England fall at the last hurdle, we must congratulate Italy on their historic win. It is often said that sport can be a mirror of society more generally, and during the Euros I certainly felt, as did many, that despite falling short in the Final, we saw the England squad change the perception of elite soccer, making it more representative and inclusive. We should congratulate them all for their courage and willingness to stand up for these values. There is no doubt that sport can be a strong advocate for change, but all aspects of our professional and daily lives should not be immune to these fundamental shifts in the way we think about the sort of society we want to live in.

Thinking about these issues, I noted with great interest the publication on 7 July of a joint Discussion Paper (DP) entitled ‘Diversity and inclusion in the financial sector – working together to drive change’ by the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England. In an echo to comments made recently by Governor Andrew Bailey, the DP sets out a very clear objective of building a resilient financial services industry that reflects those that it serves. It goes on to consider that despite years of discussion and many research studies, the conversation about diversity and inclusion in many ways is still in its infancy. The DP highlights how conversations tend to be about diversity rather than inclusion, simply because diversity is often easier to achieve and measure.

There is clear momentum for change, which is building around the world. Social movements and increasing investor focus have led to global conversations, in particular about gender and race. These have engaged the attention of regulators globally. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues are rising to the top of the agenda for corporates, investors and wider society. This will hopefully serve to keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of the minds of boards, executives and staff.

Inevitably, when we look at high profile sports personalities or the pronouncements of regulators, we may ask, “So what does this mean for me and what can I do to be part of the process of change?”. I feel that the answer to that question lies simply in how we think about these important but at times complex issues. Rather than being accused of either conscious or unconscious bias, we need to get to a point where we naturally bring diversity and inclusion into everything that we do. Consequently, ISLA will be considering this DP in detail, and working with member firms to respond to its salient points. As we look further out, it will be increasingly important for organisations such as ISLA to play an important and active role in the process; a case in point being our recent podcast collaboration with the Bank of England and Women in Securities Finance.

Whilst we are all familiar with issues associated with areas such as gender diversity and balance, the DP also delves into less recognised and at times misunderstood areas such cognitive diversity, and how that can charge how an organisation both thinks and behaves. If we think for a moment about what that means for an Association such as ISLA, I was struck by the breadth and organisational diversity of our new members in the first six months of this year (BNP Paribas Tri-Party, Raidah Investment Company (RIC), Trading Apps, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), HQLAx, REGnosys, and more).

Without exception, all of these firms represent a different form of membership profile, either through geography, product focus, or market segment than some of our traditional membership base. In thanking all of these firms in making this commitment to the Association and our industry, I expect that their arrival will bring change as we reflect their different views and perspectives.

Finally, as we think about heading off for the summer, the autumn brings with it optimism that in-person, or at least hybrid events will once again become a permanent feature our corporate calendars, alongside the fully virtual flavor that is here to stay. With that, many of you will have seen the announcement that ISLA will running the ISLA AGM & Securities Finance Forum 2021 virtually over the 6 and 7 October. At that point in the year, we will be looking at how key influences such as regulation, sustainability, social responsibility, and digital technology are shaping much of what we do ahead of 2022 and beyond. At the same time, and in a world where ‘influencers’ too can impact beliefs and drive outcomes, we are seeing an increasing prevalence of interest groups and digital-led offerings driving innovation and change. Together, they represent a series of ‘new frontiers’ that will define the debate and discussions over the two days. Further details of the event, including the in-person networking reception that we would very much like to hold in London on 7 October, will be made available in due course.

Like many of us, this blog will also be taking a break until after the summer period, therefore in closing and until September, I would like to wish you well until then.

Andrew Dyson, CEO

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