Best for Diversity and Inclusion speaks to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme about their award-winning diversity and inclusion policies.

fscs company group photo


The Financial Services  Compensation Scheme may not have a dedicated diversity and inclusion team, but they make up for that with the passion and commitment they bring to everything they do. 

That passion has won them this year’s WM People Award for Best for Diversity and Inclusion as well as a string of other awards.  It is also a passion which is shared from the very top of the organisation to the bottom. Caroline Rainbird, the CEO of FSCS, promotes diversity and inclusion in her weekly messages to staff and indeed one of the things that impressed the WM People judges was an account by a member of staff of how the CEO had contacted her personally after a discussion about the impact of microaggressions.

Diversity and inclusion is something the organisation works at daily: everything is monitored and the statistics show the progress being made. Approximately a third of employees now come from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic  backgrounds. 67% of the Board are female and the Executive Team is made up of 12.5% LGBTQIA, 25%  Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic people and 75% female. When it comes to managers, 8% are LGBQT+, 43% are female and 16% are Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic.

Moreover, 11% of new recruits in the past 12 months were older workers. The age of employees in the organisation ranges from 16 to 74. The FSCS has also increased female representation in traditionally male-dominated areas such as IT and Data Management from 8% to 12.5%, with a target of 20% by 2022.

All of this is backed up by the FSCS’s annual People Survey where 91% of employees agreed with the sentence “I believe this company is an inclusive and caring employer”.


Diversity and inclusion starts with recruitment and the FSCS ensures all language in job adverts is gender neutral and avoids language or phrases that may signal to people that they may not feel safe or welcomed in the workplace. The organisation also avoids listing excessive requirements, for instance, that a job applicant must have a degree or 10 years’ experience and consciously challenges hiring managers to ensure that any aspects listed in job descriptions genuinely matter. It recognises that skills can be flexible and that many can be learned on the job.

The FSCS has also looked at the processes it is not directly involved in, such as the sifting process for applications conducted by its main external recruitment agency – which is well aware of FSCS’ culture.  The organisation has consulted experts on inclusive recruitment, for instance, to attract people with disabilities.  And it has provided e-learning opportunities for people who need a skills booster in order to apply as well as targeting managers with short videos to educate them about diversity.

The FSCS is also increasing its work on disability. Kathy Hoppins, People & Inclusion Manager, says: “Disability tends to be less of a focus for most companies when it comes to diversity and inclusion.” 

And it has been reviewing interview questions to see if they are inclusive for neurodiverse applicants. 

She adds: “We are thinking about how we interview people and training up a group of people from diverse backgrounds who could sit on recruitment panels to ensure that there is greater diversity. We are also looking at providing interview questions ahead of the interview and how we word questions so that we can level the playing field.  We are open to everything.”

She says that hiring managers are being asked to think more about what the interview process is measuring – the ability to prepare, what someone thinks about a particular issue or their ability to think on their feet. They also give candidates the option of answering questions online in the chat function.

From unconscious bias training to development support

FSCS addresses the issue of diversity and inclusion in multiple ways and at multiple levels. For instance, two years it refreshed and extended its offering on unconscious bias training to take account of developments in thinking on diversity and inclusion. It used to be face to face for all employees and now it is done via e-learning with most employees having been through two modules while more are being developed. 

Ad hoc sessions are run throughout the year and the FSCS works with leaders in the field, such as Business in the Community [BITC] on their Race at Work Charter to which it was a founding signatory. It was also an early signatory to Change the Race Ratio an is a Disability Positive Employer, a Mindful Employer,  a Menopause Friendly Employer and has signed up to the Women in Finance Charter. The organisation now has a gender pay gap which, unlike so many financial services employers, favours women. “We have done a lot of work to get to that position and have had lots of conversations about issues such as everyday sexism,” says Kathy.

Another way it is addressing the gender pay gap is through male ally workshops which help both to encourage conversations with men about different aspects of the barriers women face at work and to show how they can help.

FSCS also provides development opportunities for high potential women through its Women’s Leadership Programme RISE. The second session has recently finished and involved two cohorts – one for managers and one for the level just below where the focus is more on personal development. It is aimed at women who want to succeed in leadership and helps build their visibility and their network. Katherine was on the programme and was promoted to management as a result. “The aim is to build the organisation’s people management skills,” says Kathy, adding that the FSCS is looking to extend the programme to men too, with a focus on inclusive leadership.

Last year FSCS also launched its Black Talent Sponsorship programme after encouraging conversations about race in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement where people could share their stories and colleagues could listen. From that came focus groups with black colleagues on what might make a difference. Then the FSCS developed the programme and listened to feedback. It was keen that black colleagues did not feel the onus was all on them to come up with solutions. “We didn’t just want to put out a statement,” says Kathy. “We wanted to do something that would have an impact and bring meaningful change.” The programme aims to provide more opportunities for black colleagues, give them space, create a network and provide visibility. People can nominate themselves and they are matched with an executive sponsor and become mentors for the Aleto Foundation, an organisation for young people with high potential.

The FSCS is also looking to ensure everyone in the organisation can progress in the way that suits them and launched its career pathways programme last year.  It involves employees working with their line managers to identify the pathways that work for them and the steps they need to take to get to where they want to be. Through this anyone can be nominated by their manager as a person of ‘high potential’ and can be assessed for their engagement, ability and ambition. 

A flexible culture

All of this activity is backed up by a very flexible culture – all roles have been offered on a flexible basis since 2016. Flexible working is specifically mentioned in all job advertisements and FSCS’s recruitment partner also discusses this with all candidates. All employees structure their days and weeks as best works for them, something that is reinforced by messages using the tagline Your Day, Your Way. Senior leaders also role model this flexibility, with almost 10% working part time or compressed hours.

Alongside a flexible culture the FSCS is keen to promote a family friendly approach to work.  Its equal parental leave policy which offers 26 weeks of leave at full pay for parents from day one aims to address another part of the gender pay gap challenge and so far has had 100% take-up by dads in the last year. Its dependents leave policy, which was temporarily increased from five to 20 days a year during Covid to take the pressure off those with caring responsibilities, has become permanent. The organisation will use its surveys to monitor who takes it up and whether it needs to target messages more at men to ensure they know it is for them. 

The aim is to encourage greater gender equality at home and at work. So far it seems to be working and there is a strong feeling, evidenced by the People Survey, that the organisation cares for its workforce as well as a good sense of allyship. For instance, its menopause sessions have been well attended by men. 

Kathy says: “Policies like equal parental leave do not just impact our staff, but their partners and children. I want our workforce to be as happy as possible, but we also have a responsibility to wider society.”

*Profiles of all the winners of this year’s WM People Top Employer Awards will be published in our Best Practice Report coming soon.

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