Research shows that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors.
Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to out-perform competitors.
We attended a National Chartered Symposium at the end of January, tasked with capturing interviews to camera with as many, and as broad a range of Chartered Financial Planners as possible. (If any of you are reading now, thanks for helping out.)
One of the things that struck me as I scanned the room of close to 1000 attendees was how overwhelmingly white, male and middle-aged the group was.
Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with being any of those things. I’m the majority of them- I’m holding off on the middle-aged bit. Not yet!
However, as I lined up 2 women, and a black man in his mid-twenties, having scoured the room for willing participants, I acknowledged to myself how ridiculous it was that I saw this “diverse” line-up as a major coup!
In fact, this “diversity” is not reflective of the industry. Here lies the problem. The industry does not reflect the great diversity of the UK. The differences in age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and socio-economic background of your potential audience must be acknowledged.
It must be reflected.
As a result, huge swathes of the population see the industry as somewhat irrelevant to them. And this is rooted in science.
The oldest part of the brain sits just on top of the spine. It’s called the amygdala. It’s often referred to as the reptilian part of the brain. Here, we make snap judgements on the people that we meet. It’s an unconscious decision, based on what we see and what we hear from that person. Ultimately, what they look and sound like. There are four categories that this part of the brain will put the other person into based on that data:
- Potential sexual partner
This data determines whether we will approach or retreat from that person- or remain completely indifferent. We then use data from our neo-cortex- the part of the brain responsible for language and analysis- to support that snap judgement. However hard you might try to build trust, it’s extremely hard to break down someone’s initial reptilian response to you.
Research from behavioural psychologist, Mark Bowden, says that we are pre-programmed to be indifferent. Our reaction to the vast majority of people is indifference. Once that snap judgement has been made, we switch off and stop listening.
Just looking at the visual make-up of the industry, and the tone of voice that prevails at the many public speaking events that we’ve attended, I’ve a hunch that vast swathes of the population are entirely indifferent to the financial services industry.
Now, we work hard to ensure that Financial Planners connect with audiences in a way that is human, intimate, authentic to themselves, and relatable. This work is so important when looking to build trust. However, there is only so far that this work can take you. If being authentic is still white, middle class, middle aged and male for the vast majority of the industry (again, nothing wrong with being any of those things), you’ll struggle to break down the indifference of much of the population that are not any of these things.
Looking at the four categories above, if you want to be placed in the category of “friend,” your audience are looking for someone that is like them. Are they one of my tribe? They want to see some of themselves reflected in you. This is entirely based in evolutionary behavioural psychology.
It’s not about asking Financial Planners to code shift, morph their accents and body language in order to imitate the client in question, hoping that they’ll be your “friend.” That would be ridiculous and likely very offensive. Please don’t try it. To succeed, you would need the transformative skills of an outstanding character actor to fully inhabit the inner and outer life of that person. Alas, my acting days are behind me. This is not the role to bring me out of retirement!
There’s a simpler, far more authentic, and less deceitful way.
Build an industry that reflects the cultural diversity of our society, and absolutely allow yourselves and your colleagues to be entirely authentic in the way that you communicate with clients. There’s no need to conform to any imagined conventions in terms of tone of voice, body language and behaviour. If there is a convention, (and there shouldn’t be) I’ve often noticed a tendency towards being a bit dull and stilted (sorry!), looking, sounding and feeling like people pulling back from their instincts. People want to see themselves reflected back to them. They want an industry that “gets them.”
Of course, you can’t change the make-up of the industry by yourself, over-night. But that doesn’t equate to: “ah just leave it then. It’s too big a problem.” We can all make a huge difference if we all commit to incremental changes.
So, what can we do?
- Acknowledge the problem – the challenge with unconscious bias is that it’s unconscious. By becoming conscious of it, we have the power to change it
- Don’t get defensive – rather than defending the status quo, our energy is better spent listening openly and gaining a better understanding to progress
- Take action – where you see prejudice or bias, in yourself or others, take whatever steps you can to counter it. All of our small contributions can add up to a big change over time.
- Be Yourself – Commit to expressing yourself as authentically as possible. Role-playing or conforming to conventions also massively reduces diversity. Even within the rather narrow cross-section of society that is currently represented, there is room for far more nuance, personality and the glorious idiosyncrasy that people being themselves inevitably throws up.
The more that the financial services industry, and every industry for that matter, reflect the huge sweep of diversity in our world, the more that society will see you as “friend,” rather than an irrelevance, or worse, potential “enemy.”
From our clients
The Speakers’ Gym is like the iPhone. You don’t realise you need it until you have it, and then you can’t live without it.
Magda Gonzalez, Group CFO, Monex Europe
It was completely practical and the open-forum feedback was so valuable. You created a safe environment for everyone to learn. Thank you!
Nicola Koronka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Missive
I was recommended by a friend who works in the same sector to contact The Speakers’ Gym to help me with my presentation delivery skills and I have not been disappointed with the results. Chris and Jonny work with you to provide bespoke training for your goals and needs. They are highly professional and make you feel at ease from the first minute the first session begins. I would highly recommend them to those who have a role which involves public speaking!
Julia Peake,Technical Development Manager, Sanlam
It has challenged both my thinking and approach and I will be sure to keep The Speakers’ Gym ‘fireworks’ readily available on my desk to refer to when not only presenting but also when needed through everyday management.
Liz Paradine – Chief Operations Manager - 7iM
Transact first engaged with The Speaker Gym late in 2018 where Chris & Jonny made a concerted effort to get under the skin of our business and understand how they could best help us hone our presentational and empathetic skills. The resulting sessions were hugely helpful giving my team plenty of opportunity to practice and also benefit from a great deal of feedback, not just from Chris & Jonny but by including the rest of the Transact team in the feedback and group learning too. I would highly recommend The Speakers Gym
Glen Sweet, Head of Sales, Transact
Working with The Speakers’ Gym has been fantastic. We knew what we wanted to say and who we wanted to speak to, so all we needed was technique. Or so we thought. Chris and Jonny helped us to understand the key elements of communication, through a structured process. We now think about communication in a completely different way. There’s a line they gave us that now resonates in my head, every time I write or talk to someone about what we do. We feel we’ve met two great guys and they’ve become an important part of us, our story and how we tell it to others.
Thomas Skinner, Founder, Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning
The impact of The Speakers’ Gym™ at Mako can only be described as transformational. Over a three month period, they helped transition a group of individuals into a highly collaborative and consultative leadership team. Chris and Jonny have a unique ability to connect individuals with their true purpose, driving them towards self-reflection and ultimately growth. Overall the entire experience of working with them has been a pleasure and I am deeply grateful for their impact. They more than surpassed my expectations and I look forward to working with them again in the future!
Trystan Morgan-Schauer, CEO, Mako
We engaged The Speakers’ Gym to provide us with clarity and direction in the look, feel and messaging of the Worldmaker brand in preparation for our official launch. From start to finish, the process has been truly collaborative. They worked with the expertise and experience in our team to create branding that truly represents who we are and what we represent, whilst moving us into a more modern, expressive space – which was our desire. We know that we’re in great hands with The Speakers’ Gym. We’ll certainly be continuing to work with them
Mollie Marti, CEO, Worldmaker International
They first took the time to understand our brief and delivered the programme incorporating our culture and brand throughout. They were thought provoking and their unique techniques very well received.
Mairi Cameron, Learning Manager, Nucleus Financial
The Speakers’ Gym gave me the skills and confidence to be my normal self whilst speaking and facilitating. They took the anxiety out of public speaking and gave me practical tools to prepare for and manage public engagements. They also helped me to engage more meaningfully with my clients, for which I am thankful. Highly recommend them.
Matthew Marais, Director, Vertus Capital
I found the sessions to be a revelation, and I wish I had known some of the techniques sooner. It has completely changed my mindset and focused me in on the needs of the audience. With that, the ability to achieve those aspirations has come more naturally. There is always room for improvement, and I will definitely be revisiting The Speakers’ Gym for a refresher from time to time.
Kelly Devlin, Wealth Management Consultant - St. James’s Place Wealth Management