Putting inclusion at the heart of financial services marketing  

Written by Sharon Flaherty

24th April 2024

Look around your office. Or next time you are at an industry event, cast your eye around the room. Financial services is not very diverse, especially at the higher levels.   

There is lots of research that backs up what you are likely to have seen and experienced yourself. One recent piece of work found white men from higher socio-economic backgrounds are thirty times more likely to succeed in financial services than working class ethnic minority women.  

More diversity and inclusion in financial services

Improving diversity and inclusion has become an increasing priority for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).   

The regulator expects firms to make diversity and inclusion “part of how the UK financial sector does business”, it said in a 2021 discussion paper jointly published with the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Bank of England.  

This commitment is further reinforced in recent proposals drawn up by the FCA and PRA to introduce a new regulatory framework on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the financial sector.  

Consumer Duty comes in here too, with its requirement for firms to focus on the diverse needs of all customers at every stage of the customer journey, particularly those it considers to be vulnerable. This suggests the regulator wants firms to embed inclusion into their business practices, which would include their communications and marketing.  

The FCA is keen to remind firms that Consumer Duty is not “not once and done”. This year the regulator has said supervisory work to test firms’ implementation of the Consumer Duty and to improve firms’ delivery of good consumer outcomes will continue. Part of that means customers need to be able to understand your communications.   

In November, Nisha Arora, Director of cross-cutting policy and strategy at the FCA, noted good practice they’ve seen included firms simplifying language in customer communications and introducing more accessible formats.

Benefits of more inclusive marketing

As well as the risks of falling foul of the regulator, evidence is piling up about its benefits to companies, including those in financial services. According to a survey from the Chartered Insurance Institute’s (CII), published in March, practices such as EDI training for colleagues that goes beyond meeting D&I compliance requirements, or attracting talent from underrepresented groups, had led to positive outcomes. These included greater creativity, innovation and employee engagement.  

That furthers 2019 research from McKinsey showing that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. It had similar results for other indicators of diversity.   

Besides, at Folk we know that brands that show a genuine understanding of representation and inclusion have the power to deliver their ideas with more impact.  

So, the question is whether your firm is creating communications that all customers can understand and access, whether or not they are vulnerable.   

Assessing your firm’s progress in inclusive communications and marketing

Most firms that we at Folk speak to would consider themselves ‘on a journey’: they are making efforts to ensure their communications and marketing are more diverse, inclusive and accessible, but are not yet managing to do so consistently.  

A lot of attempts to make marketing and communications more inclusive aren’t grounded in strategy and may be the result of one or two individuals who are passionate about making things better, rather than a consistent, team-wide approach. 

People at many organisations lack confidence in their ability to put inclusivity and accessibility into practice. They may also need more guidance and suffer from the very common fear of getting it wrong.  

What is often needed is more rigour and an approach grounded in strategy. So, when we at Folk approach a D&I audit or review, we do so through the lens of six principles borne out of an eight-month academic project.   

These include, for example, ‘authenticity’: do your communications and marketing come across as real and genuine? This involves considerations such as co-creation, use of authentic settings and environments and avoiding being tokenistic.  

Another of our principles, ‘portrayal’, is about the messages are you sending about people in your comms by how you depict them. For example, do you avoid and challenge stereotypes? Do you portray people as individuals with ‘agency’? Do images avoid showing unequal power relationships.

Tap into first-hand insights

To put these principles into action, we created The Real Folk Panel, our collective of underrepresented communications consultants who can provide you with the peace of mind and answers your financial services brand needs to progress. They represent a wide range of lived experiences and skill sets, coming from different intersections of LGBTQIA+, ethnic groups, age, disability and more. All are from creative and comms professional backgrounds.  

Working with The Real Folk Panel allows you to tap into this wealth of knowledge and lived experience to gain first-hand insights. We can:   

  • Explore your existing creative and comms output to see what you’re doing now, and how it could be better 
  • Help you create an authentic inclusion strategy you can embed at an organisational and comms level 
  • Run bespoke workshops that help you get to grips with inclusivity, looking at the specific challenges you face as a business, gaps in your knowledge and missed opportunities in your marketing.

We can also help you in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, to inform inclusive communication for boards and senior management communication strategies, or to help in crafting inclusive customer messaging.   

That way, you can feel confident about ensuring diversity and inclusion is at the heart of your marketing and communications. And you can stay on the right side of Consumer Duty by meeting the diverse needs of all customers at every stage of the customer journey.  

Folk can help you ensure your marketing is truly inclusive and accessible, with a tailored audit of your creative and communications output. Contact us to find out more.

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