Principality CEO Julia-Ann Haines: ‘Improve diversity in financial services’

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Julie-Ann Haines joined the Principality in 2007 before becoming boss in 2020

Diversity in financial services must be improved, the new boss of Wales’ biggest building society has claimed.

Julie-Ann Haines is the first woman chief executive of the Principality in its 160-year history.

It has introduced blind shortlisting of candidates and ensured job adverts are inclusive. But Ms Haines wants more done by the industry.

“Financial services have got a long way to go,” she said.

“I recognise that I have a platform as the first female CEO to really make some changes, not just in my organisation, but to set the tone.”

“I think that there is a lot more work for Principality to do, and indeed the wider environment here in Wales, to make sure that we are adequately representing people, not just of gender but of diverse populations.”

Changes at the building society have resulted in more women in senior roles, including on the board, she said.

A recent Financial Conduct Authority report found just 17% of the most senior roles in the sector in the UK were held by women.

It also found there had been little improvement on that in 15 years.

The report said while there had been some advances at larger companies, there was a lack of women in senior roles at smaller firms.

And it raised concerns male-dominated firms engaged in more risk-taking.

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Ms Haines said there were practical changes the industry could make.

“Being the first female CEO gives you that licence to challenge and ask questions,” she said.

“To necessarily look beyond the skill sets that maybe have been valued in the past.

“Whether that is about recruitment, looking for apprenticeships, making sure that we are really searching far and wide.”

‘Promising news for future generations’

She said firms should be checking that they are using blind recruitment and breaking down barriers to create “fantastic opportunities” for people.

“For example, we have a financial services graduate scheme where we partner with other leading Welsh financial services organisations,” Ms Haines said.

“Why wouldn’t we want to look at particular schemes for ethnic minorities or for gender rather than just for graduates of any background or experience?”

Insurance company Admiral has just appointed its first female chief executive, Milena Mondini de Focatiis, which some see as another sign that the financial sector is changing.

Ms Mondini de Focatiis takes up the role next year.

Cerys Furlong, chief executive of gender equality charity Chwarae Teg, said: “It is welcome news that the under-representation of women in senior roles within the financial services sector is being recognised, and that moves are being made to tackle the problem.

“Our own research has shown that a lack of female role models in senior positions has a real impact on young women’s aspirations too, therefore the commitment shown by Principality is promising news for future generations, the sector and the economy in Wales.”

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