Financial Services – FCA Insight
Financial Services – FCA Insight

press to zoom
Financial Services – FCA Insight
Financial Services – FCA Insight

press to zoom

Businesses have faced ever greater scrutiny and criticism over gender diversity – with few industries more in the spotlight than financial services. But despite bold targets and high-profile initiatives, there have been only pockets of progress; senior levels of finance are nearly as male today as they were 15 years ago.

25 October 2019





The last few years have seen a major focus on gender diversity in financial services, with concerns that male dominated firms are inherently more risk-taking and that firms need to represent the society of consumers they serve.

But despite the scrutiny and public commitments to evolve, financial services have seen little if any improvement in gender diversity.

Our research shows the proportion of women in approved person roles (typically more senior positions) is just 17% in UK financial services - almost unchanged since 2005.

That is not to say there has been no change at all. For example, the proportion of women in approved roles has risen at some systemically important banks, potentially reflecting the high level of regulatory focus on these institutions since the crisis. But even there the rise has come off a low base and only takes this group to just above a low overall industry average.

Meanwhile, other sectors in finance have lagged well behind and some remain the same `old boys clubs’ that they ever were. 

Analysis of ‘Approved Persons’


Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) data provide a unique lens on gender diversity among more accountable individuals in UK financial services, thanks to the historic Approved Persons register and its newer incarnation in the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR).

We studied the approximately 400,000 individuals that appear in these FCA registers between 2005 and 2019. As of June 2019, individuals in the register represent about 5% of the financial sector workforce, with a skew towards more accountable positions. These roles are either senior management or client-facing and as such are crucial to the culture and operation of UK financial services.

In most cases, we estimate gender from title (Miss, Ms, Mr, etc). In cases where titles are ambiguous (for example Dr) we used first names as a proxy to determine gender.

While not guaranteed to be a perfectly accurate predictor of gender in every individual case, this approach gives us a statistically reliable basis for estimating gender diversity at the overall level and for meaningful subgroups, given our large-scale data set.


One in five


Our headline analysis reveals little has changed on gender diversity at more accountable grades in the past 15 years.

The notional data show a marked dip in 2016 before rising once again (see blue line in the graph below). This coincides with the introduction of the SM&CR system which in aggregate saw a reduction in the number of client-facing roles approved by the FCA – a change also reflected in the drop in absolute numbers of individuals in the database shown by the bar chart.

The SM&CR introduction affected types of firms and roles differently and created a mix shift in our database: the group of people no longer covered from 2016 were slightly more likely to be female. We estimate that the change in estimated gender diversity that year represented a non-fundamental, one-off effect...continue to read here

Buysidewomen web back2_edited.jpg