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Professional Services Conference

Inclusive and Sustainable Leadership

At our annual Professional Services Conference 2021, our sector experts, delegates and panellists came together to discuss how the sector can translate ESG objectives in a meaningful way, with particular focus on the social dimension and Diversity and Inclusion.

These videos summarise the conversations from the conference, highlighting some key strategies and considerations for the professional services sector.

Inclusive and Sustainable Leadership

Hear from our industry experts including Ray Dempsey, Group Chief Diversity Officer, Tanja Gihr, Managing Director, Head of ESG Advisory EMEA, Barclays Investment Bank and Laura Barlow, Group Head of Sustainability, discussing the importance of inclusive and sustainable leadership in the Professional Services sector.

D&I is a practice that enables people to meet the expectations of stakeholders and preserve their license to operate. And it is a competitive advantage in their pursuit of talent.

Ray Dempsey

Group Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays

[Ray Dempsey – Group Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays]

Good morning. The microphone is on, I guess that means it is time to go to work.

[Tony Williams - Principal, Jomati Consultants LLP, Visiting Professor, The University of Law and SRA Board member]

This is a great work opportunity for the professionals.

Many of the ESG issues individually are issues law firms and others have advised on for many years, but there’s a need to pull together the advice and provide it in a comprehensive way in the way that they haven't done before.

But of course, I think there's also and perhaps much more recently, an understanding.

If I'm going to advise on that, perhaps I'd better have my own house in order.

And I think that's been the challenge.

[Tanja Gihr – Managing Director, Head of ESG Advisory, Sustainable and Impact Banking (SIB), Barclays]

I think we all know this is not going to go away.

So why not being on the front foot on that and making this a business opportunity.

I think that is often forgotten and we just see it as a threat and we need to do and it's work.

But no, it also it presents a great opportunity for the companies.

[Laura Barlow – Group Head of Sustainability, Barclays]

My ambition is that my role should become redundant once sustainability is just embedded in the way that we do banking.

[TW]

I think the area of ESG where law firms - with the professions - will actually have the most impact is on the whole issue of diversity in all of its senses.

[Iffy Onuora – Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Premier League]

All the stats out there will tell you that diverse organisations operate better, are more profitable, and that is a consequence of people with different experiences coming up a similar topic from a different area and challenging that; check and challenge - it always drives progress.

I think any organisation that doesn't tap into that is really missing the trick.

[Lubna Shuja – Vice President, Law Society of England and Wales]

Diversity and inclusion should be at the centre of all business planning prioritised in the same way as other fundamental strategies.

[IO]

In the past there was a sense that it had to be a bit of a top-down approach.

OK, we've got a problem here, we'll start at the top and do what we think is the right, take the right approach instead of involving the people that lived experience.

That’s the encouraging sign I see now, that's starting to happen.

Actually building those people who have experience into the organisation, into the conversations right at the start.

[RD]

For decades now, corporations have done work around diversity and inclusion, but it's rested too much in the in the context of good intentions.

We say what we'd like it to be and what we'd like to accomplish, but we don't create the accountability constructs that allow us to expect the progress and the outcomes.

Prioritising it, measuring it, monitoring it and holding people to account in the same way we do all other business priorities is the real access to accelerated progress.

[IO]

The impulse to stay the same is bigger than the impulse to change and that’s any organisation or, you know, it's just human nature, so you actually have to be intentional and make sure you drive those things.

[TW]

It's been seen as important to have a diverse workforce.

But I think in an era now, I mean, we're seeing the hottest labour market I've ever seen in 40 years.

It's also important the firms are able to articulate what their deal is, not just in terms of money, but how do we treat people?

[Tiernan Brady – Global Director of Inclusion, Clifford Chance]

Probably the first thing is that getting our own firms to realise how important this is to the people that we want to have in the building.

I think everybody that comes to work now understands before they start work that they're going to have multiple careers in potentially multiple places and multiple countries.

So, ironically moving away from this job for life model didn't disempower people and give all the power to employers it did the opposite.

It totally empowered individuals and gave them a set of frames about well, why would I work here?

That probably didn't exist before.

What's coming back all the time inclusion, values, ESG. I think all of that's wonderful.

But if your business isn't hard-wiring it in to everything to do with your recruitment then you're not going to get the people and you won't keep the people that you do get.

[RD]

I see the biggest opportunity for growth in professional services to be sort of the new horizon of the way work is done.

The role and the impact of professional services firms to help shape strategies, to help build ideas and then to help implement change and progress in organisations means an entirely new landscape of possibility and opportunity.

Professional Services outlook

[Ray Dempsey – Group Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays]

The experience of the last 20 months or so has told us that many of the things that we used to believe about the way we worked, the way we collaborated, the way that we sought input and ideas can be done in a very different way.

And with that true, the role and the impact of professional services firms to help shape strategies, to help build ideas and then to help implement change and progress in organisations means an entirely new landscape of possibility and opportunity.

[Segun Osuntokun – Partner in Charge, UK, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner]

Coming out of the pandemic I think the most pressing challenges and I think opportunities for professional services firms, law firms like ourselves, are myriad.

You've got a workforce that is increasingly mobile, I think we've all heard about the shortages of talent and the war for talent, quite frankly in the legal services profession.

So, it is how to remodel our business models really, to put ourselves in the best place to be attractive to talent.

It's more than just compensation, it goes to the values we espouse as professional services firms.

So, I think it gives us an opportunity to rethink the way we relate to our people, the way we relate to clients and to look to future proof our firms to reflect the way people want to work.

[Lubna Shuja – Vice President, Law Society of England and Wales]

Covid 19 has highlighted a number of challenges.

One of those is that there has been an issue with the gender pay gap and the other problem that we've seen is that people from diverse backgrounds have particularly suffered during the pandemic.

We've moved forward on the technological front in ways that we never could have envisioned before the pandemic happened.

But it's also had a negative impact in the sense that we have many vulnerable clients who have struggled to use technology.

Those are matters that we still need to address and make sure are addressed going forward.

[James Morris – Managing Director, Barclays]

So, ESG is without doubt one of the key subject areas that all firms and companies are dealing with. It’s no different in professional services.

I think the sector is slightly behind and needs to catch up, but is working hard to do that.

We think, it's just a great area to level with all our stakeholders because it's not about trying to buy or sell products or solutions.

It's a real societal issue as well that we all need to address and lock in on.

So, we think, our advice would be to really get out there, start the debate and learn and go on the journey because it's exciting and it's really important.

[Tony Williams - Principal, Jomati Consultants LLP, Visiting Professor, The University of Law and SRA Board member]

When firms are looking at their resilience if you like going forward, we have had a difficult 18 months.

But actually, they've come through that very well.

But I think that experience actually did make people do more planning, more thinking about their business, understanding the drivers of their business, understanding the fragility of their business, understanding the cashflow implications of certain things.

So, I don't think you can ever be complacent, you're never totally prepared because you never know exactly what's going to happen.

But I think there is now a level of resilience within most businesses and a level of recognition that leadership have to have a range of plans in their top drawer and have to be prepared to execute them when the trigger events occur.

Watch our sector experts discuss the key trends facing the professional services sector in the near future, including the rise of the mobile workforce and the importance of attracting talent from diverse backgrounds.

Spotlighting Diversity and Inclusion within ESG

Hear from our sector experts on the value of creating a D&I strategy and the moral and business importance it brings to the sector.

Professional services should be the centre of inclusion in the corporate world because we are people centered.

Tiernan Brady

Director of Inclusion, Clifford Chance LLP

Creating a D&I strategy

[Lubna Shuja – Vice President, Law Society of England and Wales]

The key elements of any D&I strategy within a firm have to be getting your senior leaders on board, absolutely.

It's also about making sure that your business plan, your business strategy, the actual heart of your business, is focused on your EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] targets.

Setting targets, looking at what you can change, how you can change it.

But it's got to happen from the top.

If you're not seeing it in the senior leaders, you're not going to get that confidence going through the organisation.

It's about culture, it's about changing the culture.

[Jenn Barnett – Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing, Grant Thornton LLP]

So the key elements of a successful D&I strategy are, first of all, to build it with the people that it impacts, because everybody has a different lived experience depending on where they are coming from and depending on their experience in life.

And support people in power to understand what they can do practically, every day to make change happen.

[Tiernan Brady – Global Director of Inclusion, Clifford Chance]

I think the key elements of a successful D&I strategy are about realising the people of the solution.

If culture is something we all are every day, then your strategy has to be something that empowers people to see that they're the most effective ambassador for change in their own space.

Strategies for inclusion can't be about trying to sit down and admire the problem, explaining to people what's wrong with them, explain to people why they're sinners or why they're not perfect, and here's how they should become perfect when we've never mastered the art of making anybody perfect.

What we want is journeys to people want to be part of, and that means allowing people to see that they are the solution rather than the problem.

[Laura Rex – Relationship Director, Barclays]

For professional services firms that are at the early stage of their D&I journeys, the best advice that I would give would be to really listen to your employees and colleagues, especially by creating listening groups.

Another piece of advice I'd give would be around allyship, and focusing on creating allyship within your organisation.

[Ray Dempsey – Group Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays]

In many ways, the entire balance sheet of your organisation, the entire balance sheet of the professional services firm often is in its people.

And maybe for that reason, more than for many others, it's important to recognise that having a organisation, a workforce that represents the full diversity of the communities, the societies in which you operate, is an absolute imperative.

And be really clear as you start, that this is not just an initiative, it's not just something you're doing because it's the right thing to do, though it is.

Be really clear that this is a business imperative that underpins your ability to perform, to compete and to be successful as an organisation.

[TB]

I think the challenge for all firms is to realise it's a permanent journey.

Some firms are only starting the journey, but even within those firms, some people are well along the journey and some people are only starting the journey.

So, you have to campaign in a way that meets people where they are.

You have to work out how, where someone is on the journey and then build doorways beside them rather than building a campaign that is just one gigantic door and expecting everyone to march through it.

A great campaign is 100 doors because it understands people are in 100 places.

D&I: A moral and business imperative

[Tiernan Brady – Global Director of Inclusion, Clifford Chance]

I think professional services should be the absolute centre of inclusion across the corporate world because there are people centred.

We don't make aeroplanes, or beer, or shoes.

We literally only have one asset that we turn into something: solutions and innovative solutions.

So our people are the only asset.

So we can't be successful unless we are the rock stars of inclusion, we can't be successful unless we realise culturally and really build that hard wire that into our culture, that diversity of thought isn't a ‘nice to have’ for us.

It's an essential ingredient because diversity of thought and diversity of experience allows us to create the most innovative solutions to complex problems, using the only asset that we have, our own people.

[John Aldred – Industry Director, Barclays]

So, I think a big challenge for firms is how they sustain their cultures, create a sense of belonging for their people, whilst also, recognising there is a big benefit and an opportunity to having a flexible workforce, allowing their people to work where they want to work, when they want to work.

[Lubna Shuja – Vice President, Law Society of England and Wales]

The key elements of any D&I strategy within a firm have to be getting your senior leaders on board, absolutely.

It's also about making sure that your business plan, your business strategy, the actual heart of your business, is focused on your EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] targets.

Setting targets, looking at what you can change, how you can change it.

But it's got to happen from the top.

If you're not seeing it in the senior leaders, you're not going to get that confidence going through the organisation.

[Ray Dempsey – Group Chief Diversity Officer, Barclays]

Many organisations do struggle as they start to put D&I principles into practice, and one of the reasons why is perhaps that they haven't fully examined the why.

The business proposition, the business imperative that is diversity and inclusion.

Too often we think about diversity and inclusion as the right thing to do.

And indeed, it is, I wouldn't argue against that but much more than that, it is work that creates the opportunity for any organisation to achieve, compete and perform in a way that is borne out by research.

It is a practice that enables people to meet the expectations of stakeholders and preserve their licence to operate.

And it is a competitive advantage in their pursuit of talent.

Those three ideas, the ability to perform, to preserve licence to operate, and to attract talent, are those things that create a genuine business imperative.

Setting ESG goals

Where you really can make a difference is by spreading the word, not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. So, you really want to live and breathe ESG sustainability as a firm and then you have an opportunity to pass that onto your clients

Tanja Gihr

Managing Director, Head of ESG Advisory, Sustainable and Impact Banking (SIB), Barclays

[David Farrow – Head of UK Corporate Banking, Barclays]

Business has a really important part to play in driving a more sustainable future for all of us I think there's so many good business reasons to start with.

The first is that if you want to attract the best colleagues, people really do look at the ESG credentials of employers.

The second is that, if you think about people that you're selling to, more and more people want to understand your own sustainability policies, your social policies.

And I think going forward, you're going to find that if you don't get this right, actually, you're going to lose business.

[Tanja Gihr – Managing Director, Head of ESG Advisory, Sustainable and Impact Banking (SIB), Barclays]

Now, I think everyone talked a lot about the E. The E is important, and I think it's the easiest to measure, really but for a professional service firm, it's probably the lowest, part of the whole puzzle.

If you look at a rating agency like MSCI, they maybe give about a 5% weighting to the E, and all the rest is split between the social and the governance.

Where you really kind of make a difference is, I guess, by spreading the word by, not just, talking the talk, but walking the walk.

So, you really want to live and breathe ESG sustainability as a firm and then you have an opportunity to pass that on to your clients.

[Laura Barlow – Group Head of Sustainability, Barclays]

I think it comes back to what's the purpose of business more broadly.

And what makes businesses successful, what makes us want to work in them?

And I think it is that sense of purpose and how they serve society.

So I think there's an incredibly important role for the innovation and the pace and the capabilities of the private sector and in business to help address these critical issues, not just climate but biodiversity, but also social issues, social inequality.

[DF]

So given that business needs to recognise that ESG is so important, I think there's a number of things that we all need to be thinking about to move forward.

So the first one is having real clarity on policies, on our strategy.

And the second one is really then holding ourselves to account to that.

So, it's going to be dependent on what type of business you're in as to what that will mean for you.

It could mean, being more carbon friendly in terms of things like transport and logistics.

It could mean thinking more carefully about the social impact that you're having.

And where are you actually sourcing colleagues from, is it from a cross-section of society?

Or it could be that actually a governance really needs tightening up?

So I think the key thing is having a plan and then holding yourself accountable to achieving that, if you want to remain, a competitive firm in the future.

[TG]

We all have to start somewhere.

So, if you're early on the journey, I think we’ve quite a few investors we're talking to say, just get going. Right?

Nothing has to be perfect, ESG is such a fast moving topic, so there is no perfect solution. If we don't start, we can't improve.

So, I think break it down in an easy step and start with, having a big overarching goal and breaking that down.

And it's going to be looking much less scary and you can start.

[LB]

I think professional services are one of the great jewels in the crown, particularly in the UK, with tremendous amounts of expertise and knowledge and experience and innovation.

So, I think in ESG in particular, professional services have an absolutely critical role to play.

Learn more on the importance of ESG in attracting the best talent, and the need for firms to hold themselves accountable to their ESG policies and strategies.

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