Paul Smyth’s Diversity & Inclusion Speech At FuSIoN (Financial Services Inclusion Network)

Paul Smyth’s Diversity & Inclusion Speech At FuSIoN (Financial Services Inclusion Network)

June 05 2019

FuSIoN (Financial Services Inclusion Network) and Top Tier Recruitment recently welcomed members of Ireland's financial services & Fintech industry to an evening of networking and lively discussion around the topic: 

Inclusive Ireland - A Destination of Choice for Financial Services & Fintech Professionals.

The event was hosted by State Street at their Irish headquarters.

Paul Smyth from Top Tier Recruitment gave the opening address at the FuSIoN (Financial Services Inclusion Network) event with an exploration of the concept of 'safety' and how it applies to financial services companies in Ireland seeking to improve their diversity & inclusion.

Listen to Paul's speech via the Your Pursuit Of Happiness podcast or read the notes below . . .



Paul Smyth's Diversity & Inclusion Speech At FuSIoN (Financial Services Inclusion Network)

I am delighted to have been asked to speak here tonight. For those of you who don’t know me, I am MD of Top Tier Recruitment. Myself and my wife set up the business 4 years ago and we are sector specialists recruiting across all areas of Financial Services and FinTech.

I have worked in recruitment for 12 years, predominantly in FS and actually spent two years great years with State Street where I ultimately managed recruitment for Ireland, Poland, South Africa and a couple of other smaller locations – it was a real eye opener not only to in house recruitment but to a global firm and, getting a very practical appreciation of different cultures.

I would have worked in Krakow for around 7 months which is actually where I met Patrick for the first time and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his efforts here tonight and for inviting me to be part of it.

Building an inclusive business, an inclusive culture, is a challenge.

Our clients are still looking for answers; wanting to know what others are doing; still feeling like whatever has been done, is not enough.

We wanted to do something practical to help our clients do more in this space so we simply posed the question ‘How do we make the Irish FS and FinTech industries more inclusive and more diverse?”.

Respondents included growing Irish FinTechs like AQM and Leveris, established firms like BOI, recent Brexit entrants like Pantheon Ventures, experts including Mark Fenton who will be on our panel shortly and, of course, FuSIoN, represented by Kate Brady in our report. 

Some spoke about the commercial benefits of having a more inclusive company. Leading by example was another theme and the fact that any initiatives need to be ‘lived’ and built on  authentic values. 

The idea of Inclusivity leading to diversity. And diversity not just in terms of gender, sexuality, race, etc. but of thought. After all, group think was pointed out as one of the major contributors to the financial crisis in the Nyberg report. 

We also have some practical suggestions around work life balance, flexible work arrangements etc., ensuring there are career paths for ‘women in tech’ for example. Encouraging employee engagement and feedback, raising awareness that there is an issue here was also a theme. 

Feedback to asking people to contribute was positive overall but there was challenge.

Some businesses could not contribute.

It was too sensitive a topic; communications couldn’t or wouldn’t sign off; the felt there were not where they needed to be to contribute.

I was curious about what caused this. To me, it seemed like a good opportunity for companies to talk about what you were doing, an opportunity to share knowledge for the common good.

My gut feeling is that it comes back to safety. Is it safe to try and get it wrong? Is it ‘safe’ to not know the answers? Is it ‘safe’ to talk about it even?

Is it ‘safe’ to be who you are, to bring your whole self to work? Are we so scared, as a culture, as an industry, of offending - without intent - that we choose to say nothing and therefore, do less than we could?

Is it safe enough to meet this challenge? 

I have am mid way through a course to become a qualified ICF coach and we was watching a video of a tennis pro turned coach called Tim Galloway. Some of you may have heard of him and his book, the inner game of tennis. Essentially it suggests that we all have it in us to play tennis just like we learned how to walk – trial and error. 

He makes the point that you were not ‘coached’ on how to walk. You probably fell down a lot, got frustrated but, tried again until you could. Nobody was there explaining the technicalities of how to walk but provided a safe environment to learn in. You were encouraged, given support etc. It was safe enough for you to overcome the challenge.

The point being, to overcome a large challenge, there needs to be enough safety otherwise, the challenge becomes a block and can lead to inertia.

D&I is a challenge!

If creating an inclusive environment was straight forward, we would have done it.

There may not even be a need for a group life FuSIoN or other groups. 

Why is it a challenge? What is it about FS specifically that it seems to be a larger challenge than for other industries? 

To help answer these questions, we need to ask AND we need to have environments which are SAFE enough to allow those questions to be asked and answered. On the other side, there must be enough safety for people to be themselves and answer these questions without fear of discrimination – it does somehow seem chicken and egg. 

As a society, we are becoming more open. 

Recent referendums prove that we are more open and also capable of change.

I believe it shows that a new generation are more motived to make change happen and want to live in a more inclusive culture. They, we, believe in choice, freedom of identity, change and, importantly for this specific challenge, are empowered to challenge safely. This generation, in my opinion, also believe that two opinions can coexist. That you don’t need to ‘confirm’. This generation want to be themselves.

We need to embrace this.

We have a unique opportunity with Brexit to attract people to Ireland who no longer feel they are in an inclusive environment in London or the UK.

Not just Irish coming home but non UK EU nationals who feel displaced.

Aside from just Brexit, we are at full employment. We see it more and more in the non technology side of our business but in technology, we often have to look outside of Ireland for key skills.

There are simply not enough people with the skills in Ireland to meet the demand.

But, the good news, is that we are able this challenge.

In our business, have found that with being able to put the time into proactively sourcing and pipelining from outside of Ireland, people are ready, willing and able to move here. And, not just move, but settle very quickly. I believe this is because as a society as a whole, we are open, welcoming, and an easy place to live and work regardless of your background; your gender; your sexual preference; etc.

I believe we have it in us as an industry to meet this challenge but that it fundamentally requires safety to overcome. To do this, I believe we need to create safe environments to allow all staff to be open and honest about what the real and perceived challenges are because I do think the positive intent, becoming more inclusive and diverse, is there.

Need Help?

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