Trading hours on EU markets should be slashed to pave the way for greater diversity in City professions, according to two, major industry bodies.

In a 7 November joint proposal [1] sent to trading venues across Europe, including the London Stock Exchange, the Investment Association (IA) and Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) say: “We are convinced that the adoption of shorter market hours would not only improve market structure, but will have a significant positive impact on individual employees and indeed our industry’s ability to attract a more diverse talent.”

They explain: “Our members tell us that the existing long-hours culture has resulted in a number of substantial problems for both individual firms and the market as a whole. Anecdotal evidence from members is that trading remains one of the areas of financial services where staff face significant mental health issues. Although, due to the (historical) stigma attached to such conditions, individuals are often very reticent to report such problems.” As a result, they note: “empirical data is not readily available to demonstrate this connection.”

Nonetheless, they say: “We consider that the excessively long hours play a major contributory part in generating and perpetuating this problem.”

The associations are seeking a 90-minute reduction in trading hours to a “consistent and harmonised” 9am to 4pm (GMT) / 10am to 5pm (CET) – but their work won’t stop there. They add: “We intend to explore the impact on employees’ mental health in more detail. We have consulted with the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) to explore ways in which organisations can improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. We view our call for action on market hours as an integral part of our industry work on improving overall diversity and culture in financial services, including the IA’s recently launched Culture Framework [2] and Talent Strategy.” [3]

In a statement, AFME managing director, head of equities April Day said: “Equities trading risks lagging behind a wider financial services industry push for more diversity and inclusion, unless the long trading day is tackled by an industry-wide approach.” [4]

For decades, the City has been dominated by a high-octane – and largely testosterone-fuelled – stereotype of workaholic foot soldiers with a Darwinian attitude to the rigors of their profession. Are these proposals just what the City needs to smash that image?

The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “If we look at key wellbeing initiatives over the years, many of them have started out as moral crusades – but those initial efforts have eventually produced strong business cases. Indeed, it seems that it’s only when we articulate these issues in terms of business cases that they are widely accepted. And of course, we don’t want people who are fatigued and at risk of making poor decisions to be stuck behind their desks. Ongoing concerns about the working hours of junior doctors [5] show why that is so undesirable.

She notes: “Wearable tech may be one way of harvesting the deeper data in this field that certain professions are demanding. But the bottom line is that any sort of job or occupation that requires someone to put their physical or mental health on the line is questionable. So we welcome any initiative or scheme that says, ‘Yes – we understand the value of gender equality, inclusivity and employee wellbeing. We understand that we don’t want to cause mental health problems for people through the way we organise work. Therefore, let’s not just implement a framework of rules so we can be seen as good, responsible employers; let’s also be truly confident that we are looking after our staff and customers.’”

Cooper adds: “Ultimately, as our Institute companion Charles Hampden-Turner is so fond of saying, shareholders should come last – because if you have sound business practices in place to ensure you get it right for everyone else, profits will follow.”

For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on the healthy workplace

Source refs: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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