UK regulator says white male bank culture ‘difficult to take’

Financial Conduct Authority’s Megan Butler says UK unlikely to see a female chief executive at a major bank for five years

Megan Butler speaking  at the Women In Finance summit in London. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Megan Butler speaking at the Women In Finance summit in London. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

The financial industry’s “white male” culture is not changing quickly enough, according to the UK regulator’s head of supervision, who said the country is unlikely to see a female chief executive officer at a major bank for at least five years.

“It’s extremely rare that in my professional life I have a conversation with a head of desk at an investment bank or a global head of business that is anything other than a white male,” the Financial Conduct Authority’s Megan Butler, said at a Women in Finance summit in London. “I’ve increasingly come to find that a little bit difficult to take.”

Ms Butler, who permanently took up the role of supervision head at the FCA in May, said a lack of diversity could lead to “group think,” which was one of the problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

While the FCA would not go as far as to introduce gender quotas, she said the regulator was exerting pressure on firms through discussions about compensation and the appointment of boards and senior executives.

Targets

“For 20 years I was completely resistant to the idea of having targets on gender. I found it patronising and insulting, and I didn’t want there to be any taint on any achievement I ever had,” Ms Butler said in an interview after the conference at Bloomberg in London. “But I look back, and there hasn’t been significant change quickly enough.”

While CEOs are often receptive to improving diversity, the most common problem identified is a lack of a pipeline of senior women to promote. One issue is the “unwritten rules” around office hours, and the social culture that prevents women with children from climbing the ranks.

Criticism

However, as far as having a female chief executive of a major bank goes, we are still some way off, says Ms Butler. “I’m going to say five years, which is an awfully long time. I find that quite depressing as I say that.” – Bloomberg