'Wake up and recognise that people have value — and you need to pay for it,' argues specialist finance broker on topic of diversity

Last week, Bridging & Commercial held a virtual roundtable in partnership with West One to discuss why the specialist finance industry is failing to attract a diverse workforce.

The live webinar — which took place on 31st January and was moderated by Medianett’s publishing director, Beth Fisher — welcomed West One’s group marketing director Haley McPherson.

Alison Houghton-Corfield, national relationship director at Master Private Finance; Aaron Noone, sales and operations director at Master Private Finance; Sarah Tucker, founder and managing director of The Mortgage Mum; and Jason Berry, group sales and marketing director at Crystal Specialist Finance made up the rest of the panel.

The discussion started by focusing on last year’s AMI report, ‘The Viewpoint on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in the Mortgage Industry’, which found that many inequalities develop and remain unchecked within the market due to a lack of transparency around pay and reward.

Aaron urged businesses to pay their staff what they’re worth and change the “Victorian approach” of running companies by focusing on the profit, underpaying workers, and telling team members not to talk about salary. 

He advised that companies should actively review the pay of existing staff when recruiting others at the same level. 

“Once a business has taken [someone] on, they go, ‘Amazing, I’ve got that person for a steal, and I’m having to pay a little bit more for this person,” he said. “However, you might find that the majority of those on lower salaries are female and, at that point, you’ve inadvertently breached the law.

“If you are recruiting somebody and you’re prepared to pay the salary you’ve negotiated, which is higher, you then have an obligation to review the people who have been loyal for a long period of time.”

He highlighted that the “operational mindset” of running a business needs to change. “It’s time to wake up and recognise that people have value — and you need to pay for it,” he stated. “Those who fail to adapt, won’t survive the future.”

Haley added that creating a ‘speak up culture’ in the workplace and reporting on gender and ethnicity pay gaps is “critical” and makes a huge difference. West One has launched its own diversity and inclusion and ESG forums, which Haley is chairing. 

“This is a great conversation to be having, because this industry is predominantly made up of white men,” she noted. “However, if we start making changes now, in 10 to 20 years’ time, I reckon we won’t be having this conversation.” 

On the topic of work-life balance and integration, Jason suggested that if anyone in the team is picking up the phone outside of work hours, then that flexibility also needs to be offered to them if they need to pick up their children from school or work remotely, for example. 

“Business leaders have to accept we’re not in a clock-in, clock-out society anymore. That employee-employer relationship dynamic has changed for the better in recent years.” 

Alison is of the opinion that the industry needs to collaborate and speak with people from minority backgrounds in order to tackle the lack of diversity in the specialist finance market. “It’s got to form part of the business’s strategy, and they have to be held accountable.”

Trust does take a while to build, and Sarah feels that businesses are currently accused of ticking boxes when it comes to D&I. “Trust takes time, it takes authenticity and a willingness to communicate and really understand what different people need.” She believes leaders and board members now need to let their guards down, “become less British”, talk about money and things that are uncomfortable, embrace therapy, and discuss all the things we’ve been taught all of our lives not to need, that we actually do need them. 

“That’s what’s going to be the solution; open your heart, have a brave conversation and act on it. What people need to do is become more human.” 

The full virtual roundtable can be watched, below

The 19th issue of the Bridging & Commercial Magazine is out next week and discusses the AMI report in detail and how diversity and inclusion can be improved within the specialist finance market. 

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