Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Investment banks want to recruit disabled people

Graham Willgoss, graham.willgoss@haynet.com

Private-sector giants are working with a disabled employment charity to encourage more applications.

Ten leading investment banks have teamed up with the disabled employment charity Employment Opportunities to encourage students and graduates with disabilities to forge careers in the financial sector.

Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital are among the banks that offered more than 70 disabled students from across the country an insight into investment banking at a two-day event last week.

Participants were invited to test their management potential through workshops and role-play, experience the buzz of a real trading floor and question investment bankers about careers in the industry.

Four disabled graduates currently pursuing careers in investment banking also spoke about their experiences of the private sector. About 6.5 per cent of first-degree graduates have disabilities.

The event, Future Options, was held at a number of banks' headquarters across the City and at Canary Wharf. Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan and the Royal Bank of Scotland also offered their expertise.

All the banks involved in the initiative are members of the Interbank Graduate Recruiters Diversity Forum, which promotes investment banking to students and graduates who would not usually consider it as a career.

"People are familiar with the 1970s stereotype of investment banking dominated by white men wearing bowler hats," said a spokesman for the forum. "But investment banks have become committed to creating an inclusive and supportive environment that attracts candidates from the widest variety of backgrounds, irrespective of minority status."

Karin Pappenheim, chief executive of Employment Opportunities, called on other industries to follow the lead of the investment banking industry in recruiting people with disabilities.

"Investment banking is taking a positive approach to disability," she said. "We hope this becomes a trend with other sectors."

Employment Opportunities is offering six ten-week intern programmes with companies such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and UBS this summer.

Those students who are successful will be offered permanent graduate positions for the following year.

COMMENT

Barry Hayward, leadership recruitment manager, Diversity Works, Scope.

This initiative further highlights how the banking industry is at last recognising disabled people for their skills rather than for their impairments.

Scope's own Diversity Works initiatives have noted a change in the attitude of many organisations with which we have worked.

However, it can take some time for the culture of a sector to change, which is why it is essential that the business community embraces the knowledge of the voluntary sector and works with initiatives such as this one and ours to ensure that employers get the best people for their jobs, regardless of any impairment that a potential employee might have.

The voluntary sector must still continue working hard to raise awareness in the corporate world of the fact that disablism is wrong.

Disabled people should not be denied the right to succeed. After all, having the best people makes perfect business sense.

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