In a city of white shirts and grey suits, don’t be afraid to embrace your background, stand out and celebrate the diversity we have in the industry, says Suresh Mistry, head of sustainability at Alquity in this month’s Reboot video interview.
He talks about why he initially left the industry as he didn’t feel he fitted in, and how social mobility is also a barrier for ethnic minorities.
ESG Clarity and Reboot have teamed up for this video interview series to celebrate ethnic minorities making a mark on the corporate world.
Please note ‘reboot.’ has rebranded to ‘Reboot’.
The full transcript of the video is below:
NK: Hello, and welcome back to this video interview in conjunction with Reboot, we are interviewing individuals from the financial services industry that are making a mark on the corporate world.
So today I’m joined by Suresh Mistry, head of sustainability at Alquity. Thanks so much for coming in today, Suresh.
So let’s get to it. First of all, how have you got to where you are today?
SM: Well, I’d like to say masses of personal commitment and drive.
I’ve had two careers within the financial services industry, when I first started in the nineties I was in retail banking and it was a very unusual place for, and I think particularly in the management space, I wasn’t in the operational side I was in management, and I was quite an unusual character to have.
And I realised at the time that actually I just didn’t fit in. And one of the things I did was leave the industry at that time because I didn’t really see an opportunity for myself to shine.
Then I went into other industries, other sectors, and then I came back in through asset management and setting up Alquity.
And I realised at the time that actually setting up my own business and working with colleagues that treated me on what I did rather than who I was actually the best way forward for me. So avoiding that large corporate culture in financial services, staying within that more entrepreneurial area is where I believe has been what’s been successful for me.
NK: I’m really glad you got to pursue what you wanted to do. And so what would you say are the barriers for progression? And what can we be doing to challenge that?
SM: The industry has changed a lot since when I left originally. We’re talking in the 1990s and there were clear barriers at the time and they just based on how you looked.
I think today there are less of those barriers. I think what we have now is the barrier is less your ethnicity but more of your social mobility. I think social mobility is a barrier now.
I think the fact your background doesn’t fit with the organisation in a way where you’re applying is more of an issue today than necessarily the colour of your skin.
But saying that social mobility and colour of skin are often quite closely connected. So I think it’s about, you know, companies talk about diversity, but embracing diversity across the economic spectrum as well as in other areas.
And I think that’s where you will actually encourage more people from the ethnic minorities and other groups to actually participate in this great industry that we have.
NK: What about for the individual? What tips could you give them to push forward?
SM: Demand to be treated on the quality of your work rather than who you are. And that’s difficult because you can’t make off to make that judgment. But you’ve just got to put the effort in, put the work in.
And I think it’s about not being embarrassed about who you are and the and your background.
I think one of the things I mean, even for today, I put the shirt on specifically for today, because I think colour is often one of the things that’s neglected in this industry. I walked through the City this morning and everybody’s in white shirts, blue suits, etc.
And if you go to an ethnic or an Indian wedding or a black wedding, it’s just a riot of colour. And I like wearing colour, but in work you don’t. And I think what we need to do is learn to be ourselves. And if that means wearing a different colour, standing out, don’t be afraid of doing that because this is about celebrating diversity and using that diversity to make a difference.
And what I encourage employers who are looking to create an environment in which their employees feel welcome is to celebrate that diversity, whether that’s through festival or whether it’s through mentoring the individuals from ethnic backgrounds or different backgrounds into their organisation by allowing them to be themselves.
NK: Oh, I love that. Thank you very much for sharing that. Great to have you here.
SM: Thank you.