Leading City banks are to put pressure on recruitment agencies to improve the diversity of candidates they recommend.
The Interbank Diversity Forum - a body of diversity professionals at the top banks - will meet with recruitment agencies in the New Year in a bid to highlight the business benefits of diversity and improve the variety of candidates put forward.
The IDF is concerned that recruitment agencies view an increased focus on diversity as compromising the quality of applicants.
IDF member Frank Howell, head of diversity at JP Morgan Chase, told the City Recruitment Conference that he has already unsuccessfully attempted to change the behaviour of recruitment agencies.
Howell has spoken at, and chaired, workshops for the bank's top 20 recruitment agencies to inform them how a diverse workforce will improve the industry's productivity.
He also hosted a cocktail party for more than 100 recruitment professionals from 80 agencies in a bid to get the message across.
"There is an obvious business case for diversity. As a bank, we attract stereotypical white, middle class, Oxbridge graduates. We have to ask ourselves 'will we be able to understand our customers and get business like this?'," asked Howell.
He told delegates at Business Forums International's conference last week that agencies are reluctant to adapt their practices.
"Agencies have told me they will not change just for JP Morgan Chase when the rest of the industry has different criteria," Howell said.
"So, next year the IDF will go to the agencies as a group of 10 large companies that pay their wages and say that we want changes," he said.
The IDF are also to meet sister organisation, The Interbank Recruitment Forum - a body of recruitment professionals in the city - to discuss initiatives to improve the diversity of staff.
Case study: JP Morgan Chase
Network groups focus on diversity
JP Morgan Chase is trying to increase the diversity of its staff by providing more support for ethnic minority employees, gays and lesbians, parents and its older workers.
Frank Howell, head of diversity, said that the bank's diversity focus is central to its aim of radically overhauling the firm's hierarchical culture.
The bank has a balanced scorecard based on its staff diversity survey, including questions on how diversity