Four-fifths of senior figures in financial services think that the way candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds present themselves at interview is preventing them from getting a job in the sector, according to new polling commissioned through YouGov and published by the Sutton Trust and Deutsche Bank today.

81% of respondents in the finance industry cited presentation, a higher proportion that the just over three-quarters (77%) who said that school and university results were affecting the job chances of those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 62% said that employers thinking they wouldn’t fit in with the work culture was preventing their success at interview.

The survey quantifies the potential ‘brown shoes’ effect highlighted by the Social Mobility Commission last year. They found that young people from less affluent homes are often locked out of banking jobs because of their clothes, accent, dress and behaviour.

Previous Boston Consulting Group research for the Sutton Trust had identified an access gap in the banking sector: 34% of recent intakes and 51% of leaders in the banking sector went to independent schools, compared to 7% of the school population.

To find out how attitudes towards social mobility in the finance industry compares to others, 1,008 senior decision makers who operate across multiple different industries were polled.  Businesses which stated that they operate in finance and accounting were among the most likely to think that their business didn’t support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access jobs in their sector: 45% said their business didn’t do this well, as well as 37% of those working in the legal sector and 33% in IT.

But when it comes to responsibility for increasing the representation of those from disadvantaged backgrounds in their industry, senior finance and accounting leaders were the most likely to believe that it lies with the government. 25% of respondents thought they were responsible, compared to 15% of respondents overall. Almost a third of those in the finance industry (29%) thought the responsibility lies with businesses across their own sector, while 5% said universities and 2% said schools and colleges.

Today’s research is published ahead of an industry conference hosted by the Sutton Trust and Deutsche Bank that aims to address what remains a stubbornly ingrained issue within the banking and finance sectors. Speakers – including Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Rachel Blanshard, Head of Human Resources, UK & EMEA, Deutsche Bank and Dr Louise Ashley, Lecturer on Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour, Royal Holloway – will discuss ways to improve social mobility in the industry.

The two organisations are working together on a programme to widen access to the banking professions. Pathways to Banking, run in conjunction with the London School of Economics and Warwick University, will support three cohorts of students from low and middle income homes in sixth form to access degrees that can lead to jobs in finance. Participants will receive a targeted programme of support that includes residentials, mentoring and work experience.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment, said today:

“Finance and banking offer rewarding careers for talented young people. However, today’s research shows that it is very difficult for young people from low and middle income backgrounds to access them. Our polling shows that the vast majority of senior figures in finance and banking think that the way candidates from poorer backgrounds present themselves affects their job chances – the brown shoes effect.

“We’re delighted to be working with Deutsche Bank to enable young people from low and middle income homes to develop the skills and confidence they need.  Participants will receive a targeted programme that includes residentials, mentoring and work experience.”

Tiina Lee, Head of Global Markets, UK, and Deputy CEO, UK and Ireland, Deutsche Bank, said:

“We know there’s a social mobility problem within the banking industry and that addressing it makes economic and business sense. By reaching students while they are still in school, we hope to encourage more bright young people from poorer homes that a career in finance is open to them.”

Rachael Blanchard, Head of Human Resources at Deutsche Bank, UK and EMEA, said:

“The Sutton Trust has a long track-record of delivering programmes that really make a difference to young peoples’ lives. We’re delighted to be partnering with them to widen access to the financial industries.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 180 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. Deutsche Bank provides commercial and investment banking, retail banking, transaction banking and asset and wealth management products and services to corporations, governments, institutional investors, small and medium-sized businesses, and private individuals. Deutsche Bank is Germany’s leading bank, with a strong position in Europe and a significant presence in the Americas and Asia Pacific.
  3. Born to Be: Deutsche Bank believes in the power of education and that every individual is born to be something. Born to Be uses education-led programmes to unlock the potential of the next generation by aiming to increase achievement, develop employability skills and raise aspiration. Pathways to Banking will enable Born to Be to make a positive impact on students across London and Birmingham which will contribute significantly to the one million young people reached globally each year.
  4. The Sutton Trust also runs Pathways programmes in the following sectors: Law; Medicine; Coding; and STEM.
  5. The Boston Consulting Group research for the Sutton Trust on access to banking can be found here.
  6. The Social Mobility Commission research on barriers to entry in the banking sector can be found here.
  7. Survey figures are from YouGov Plc.  The total sample size was 1008 Senior Decision Makers, with 131 mainly working in finance and accounting. Fieldwork was undertaken between  5th – 13th September 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all business size.

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