Everyone has a responsibility to foster financial inclusion as it is one of the main drivers of social mobility, according to Andy Mason, Halifax’s Head of Strategic Partnerships and Housing.

Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast, Mason said it was crucial that the financial services industry recognize this in its work and actions.

He said: “Financial inclusion is massive from a Lloyds Banking Group perspective, and we all have a social responsibility. We talk about privilege and if we are not careful, privilege begets privilege much like money makes money.

“You find yourself in an environment where you don’t have a real view of what life is like, you just have your sphere of influence, and you forget that there are people in the UK who really have financial difficulties.”

He added, “Homeownership is actually one of the biggest contributors to wealth, financial inclusion and social mobility in anyone’s life.

“The fact that people are really struggling to get off private rent, social rent and buy their own house is a huge disadvantage for people.”

Mason congratulated fellow guest Rupi Hunjan, CEO and Founder of Censeo Financial for working with the Genesis Housing Association to launch the shared ownership model.

He said Hunjan’s work in this area was “fantastic” because it gave people access to property as an asset, with the ability to own part of their home and benefit from any equity growth. .

Reflection of customers

Due to its structure allowing people to own a share of their home cheaply, host Bharat Sagar asked Hunjan if its workforce is deliberately diverse as condominium buyers tend to be diverse. .

Hunjan said that was not his original intention, as he set up his business in a “prestigious” location and wanted to offer co-ownership as something not just for blue-collar workers.

He said he simply judges his employees on merit and a diverse workforce is naturally created that way.

Hunjan said, “There is no politics; 50% of my team are from what we call BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), 48% are women, 10% are disabled.

“If you work hard and have the qualifications, we will give you a chance. And if you perform, you stay. And if you don’t, you end up leaving.

Hunjan said he had always been self-employed, so he believed that if you work hard, you take credit for it, and if you don’t, you accept blame.

He added that there “should be no problem if a business is run this way”.

However, he noted that due to its diverse workforce, its employees were often able to empathize with the company’s customers.

Mason agreed and said the industry needed to embrace Hunjan’s approach more.

“We recruit a lot of people from certain universities and former consultants. When you talk about shared ownership and social inclusion, a lot of these people have no idea what life is like for someone in completely different circumstances than their own.

“Sharing experiences like Rupi’s company should encourage people to think more about the composition of their teams,” he said.

Hunjan said that many people did not even have the opportunity to be interviewed and suggested the use of anonymous CVs, which was mentioned by Sagar, to reduce unconscious bias among recruiters and ensure that people from diverse backgrounds have at least that chance.

Mason added: “It looks like Rupi was very proactive.

“I think we all need to try harder. It’s no longer enough to have a shortlist of people and say ‘we tried to tick the d and i (diversity and inclusion) box, but we ended up with a shortlist of four guys because we didn’t get enough applications” – I think we all need to be more deliberate.

Hunjan said this was imperative, but also to bear in mind that ethnic minorities made up a small proportion of the population so as not to get caught up in symbolism when recruiting.

Listen to the podcast [31 minutes] below.

Shekina is the business writer for Mortgage Solutions. She has over four years of experience in the B2B publishing market, with previous industries including accounting, pets, funerals, hospitality, retail and jewelry. She currently reports mortgage market news and liaises with financial clients to produce sponsored content. Follow her on Twitter at @ShekinaMS