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Seonaid Mackenzie, Sturgeon Ventures

Flexible working needed to get more women in financial services, says Sturgeon Ventures

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The introduction of compulsory flexible working hours would open the floodgates to more women working in the UK financial services industry, according to Sturgeon Ventures, a regulatory incubator firm.

Sturgeon has submitted four pledges to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, which has been released by the UK government this week.
 
Sturgeon is also launching a campaign for the government to initiate tax breaks for those start-up companies in which women account for at least half of senior management.
 
Seonaid Mackenzie, managing partner at Sturgeon, says: “There are many women all across the UK with a tremendous amount of experience and who could re-enter the financial services industry but can’t because of the insurmountable difficulties of juggling family care with inflexible nine to five working hours.
 
“Financial services start-ups could benefit enormously by tapping into this overlooked workforce and the government should be actively encouraging this by offering them tax-breaks, especially for start-up financial services companies appointing women to 50 per cent or more of their senior management roles. Such moves would add substantial dynamism to the UK financial services industry, which is especially relevant in the wake of the Brexit vote.
 
“At Sturgeon we firmly believe that diversity amongst our team improves innovation, decision-making and the way we deliver our services. Women today represent 80 per cent of our workforce and we aim to always maintain 50 per cent in senior management in accordance with our Charter pledges. We take immense pride in the fact that our endeavour to be a responsible organisation ties in so well with the aims of the UK Government's Charter and we are delighted today to release our initial four pledges as a charter signatory.”
 
Sturgeon was among the first signatories to the treasury’s Charter and the only regulatory incubator to do so. The 77 signatories so far range from Virgin Money and Mizuho Bank to start-ups such as Affinity Capital, which is managed entirely by women.
 
The Charter requires signatory firms to formulate a strategy for achieving greater diversity within their organisations, particularly at the senior and executive levels, set Internal and Externally reportable targets to improve diversity in the workforce and publicly report on these goals.
 
Sturgeon Ventures’ four pledges are to:
 

  1. Support five women into senior management/board level roles at the financial services clients it works with, and maintain at least 50 per cent of their own senior management team as women.

 

  1. Support five women who wish to continue their financial services careers to be retained in consulting, contracting and other permanent positions in the sector. This includes encouraging and supporting continual training of these women.

 

  1. Support five women, who would have otherwise been lost to the industry, to continue or return to careers. This would likely include giving working mothers flexible hours with the option to work from Sturgeon’s office or at home.

 

  1. Support schools in the UK – to speak to at least two schools from Year 11-13 in the next financial year on gender diversity in financial services and encourage aspirations to work in front-office roles with no gender bias.

 
Sturgeon also encourages the start-ups that it provides with regulatory to exploit the ‘Gender Dividend’ by implementing similar measures to its own.
 
The number of regulatory ‘incubator’ or ‘umbrella’ firms in the City of London’s institutional financial sector has grown to 52, according to Sturgeon Ventures, which was the first such firm to launch 18 years ago.
 
Regulatory incubators, also known as FCA Umbrella or Regulatory Hosting, provide third-party investment management, investment advice and compliance and eventually direct authorisation support to start-up financial services businesses until they can be directly regulated in their own right. The service has been particularly in demand since the global financial crisis, with many individuals leaving large institutions to set up their own operations.

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