The Chartered Insurance Institute announced that it would start checking the effectiveness of diversity policies at Chartered Corporate firms from 2021 when firms renew their status.
The move will include Corporate Chartered Financial Planner firms and implies firms failing to visibly implement their own diversity policies may be unwelcome in future.
The professional body, the parent organisation of the Personal Finance Society, says it is making the change to ensure diversity policies are “delivering positive change for the profession and wider society.”
I know some planners have felt this is a step too far, not because they do not support the desire for a more diversified workplace, as nearly all do, but because they do not believe the CII should enforce this policy in addition to any existing legislation firms have to abide by. They have a point.
Most Financial Planning firms have made big strides in the last few years to improve diversity in what has been a largely male and middle aged profession until recent years. There is much more to do to ensure Financial Planning reflects the wider population but there is no doubt diversity is on the agenda for most firms. Many have signed up to the Treasury's Women in Finance Charter, for example, and there have been great efforts to support LGBTQ campaigns, Black Lives Matter and many other equality campaigns.
So should the CII take steps to check the impact of diversity policies at firms when they are already doing quite a bit?
Broadly, it has a right to. After all it devised the rules surrounding Chartered status and it is right it polices those policies. It's also right that those policies move forward and adapt to the times.
Chartered status has been around for a long time in one way or another so firms must expect change and modernisation.
However, it is a sensitive issue for many firms and the CII would do well to take gentle steps to encourage change rather than get out the big stick. It needs firms to embrace change, not feel it is being forced on them for reasons of political correctness.
Ultimately, the Chartered Insurance Institute says it wants to make sure that diversity and inclusion policies Chartered firms have in place make a “positive difference” to the profession. That's a positive step and Chartered firms need to support this campaign rather than fight it. A more diversified profession will be a better one.
If it works with the profession the CII can steer a positive and welcome course here but it must listen to firms and to planners if progress is to be visible and permanent.
Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with 30 years experience. This topical comment on the Financial Planning news appears most weeks.