United Packagers Association: Check your firm’s race record

It seemingly resurfaced with Big Ron (presumably the Big now stands for ‘Big Mouth’) letting slip his now infamous Marcel Desailly on-air, off-air tirade. It was further fuelled by young boarding school ill-educated Lucy Buchanan of Channel 4’s Shipwrecked, incarcerated in her cocoon of ignorance and the channel’s other show, Big Brother, that seems to have a mandatory racist per series.

It’s hard to know what the last ‘celebrity’ Big Brother taught us when Shilpa Shetty was subjected to ignorant catcalls and whispering. Live TV appears to have, one way or another, revealed an unacceptable and unwelcome underbelly in Britain harking back to the dark ages when Bernard Manning ‘performed’ on stage in his aplomb.

I read recently that Paul Ince transferred from Macclesfield to MK Dons, thus preserving the token black manager to operate in any of the top four football leagues, which has 92 clubs. Can this be right when 11 players of the Euro 2007 England under-21 squad were black?

You would have to be naïve to think this legacy does not cross industries but I ask: does it enter ours? Maybe a measure is to look at your company’s client bank or around your office, then consider who visits you from your outside contacts. You may also want to think of those that attend industry events such as the Mortgage Expo, versus those you see at the various awards ceremonies.

For my part, upwards of 100 lenders visit me, which equates to about 180 senior management representatives, and I can only think of three non-white individuals. It may be a coincidence but all three are from banks that have been established since the mid-1800s and are large enough to stop and consider if they are being fair in their promotion assessments.

Perhaps some would argue this situation is to be expected in an institutional environment and that is why many choose the self-employed route and form their own brokerages to avoid this type of bureaucracy and nonsense. Surely, shouldn’t the opportunities be there in the first place? Furthermore, at the Secured Loans Summit, which involved some of the largest industry businesses that began at the entrepreneurial level, there was only one Asian face, and not one black, among the delegates.

Racism is, of course, not restricted to colour. I read recently that one of the high profile sub-prime lenders, backed by a global organisation, had extended its solicitor panel to allow virtually all legal firms in Northern Ireland. Commendable on the face of it, but why did it restrict them before? I’ll hazard a guess that it did not trust them. Likewise, some lenders choose not to lend in Ireland at all and others reduce the loan to value. Have they concluded that it is more risky before they have had personal experience?

‘Foreign nationals’ is a generic term used in the underwriting process but as the machines become more sophisticated, don’t be surprised if this is broken down for a different return from a different nationality.

Statistically certain nations might experience more fraud, for instance, but does that give lenders the right to tar everyone originating from such a place with the same brush?