On Monday 5 September, over sixty women who work in senior positions in financial services attended the Speaker Series event, Women in Financial Services Regulation. It was hosted by EY on behalf of the London Women’s Forum (LWF), and comprised a lively panel discussion, followed by a networking dinner for attendees to connect and share their experiences as leaders in financial services.

The event’s panellists were four of the most senior and experienced women in the financial services industry, providing perspectives from both regulators and financial institutions, with Tara Kengla, EY Partner and LWF board member, moderating the discussion.

The discussion opened with a focus on the recent changes in the regulatory environment following the aftermath of the financial crisis, with consideration of the achievements to date.

The panel provided a wide ranging response to this question, considering both the banking and insurance environments. It was agreed that the regulatory changes have created a more resilient financial system and have instigated a shift in accountability, the latter demonstrated by the introduction of the Senior Manager Regime in March of this year. However, it was cautioned against assuming the reform was finalised, with panellists noting that there may be unintended consequences from the reforms that must still be monitored.

Of interest to many audience members, the panel also considered firms’ culture, with particular attention to how women are helping to mould change.

The panel also discussed the raft of new regulatory policy items that have been introduced post-crisis, such as the remuneration code, the recently established Banking Standards Board and the Senior Manager Regime, and noted the importance of such cultural shifts being absorbed throughout organisations, as well as the significance of how conduct risk is articulated now by a firm. The question “what is culture?” was posed to the audience, with the panel remarking that a firm’s consideration of this complex concept could be assisted by breaking it down into its component parts (e.g. how does a firm approach recruitment, reward, whistleblowing etc.) in order to identify the elements that are absent and to how they can be rebuilt – the conclusion being that there is no one size fits all.

On reflection of the impact of women in the financial services sector, all four panel members discussed the importance of diversity in the workplace, particularly in order to provide creative solutions and improve decision-making. They noted that post-financial crisis, the rules of the game have changed and the more alternative viewpoints provided, the stronger the dialogue, helping to avoid group-think. But, the panellists concluded overall that it is not as simple as the just categorising men and women into different boxes; it is about diversity of thought in general, which reflects different cultures and nationalities as well as gender.

Finally, panellists were asked to discuss their thoughts on Brexit and what potential consequences this decision may have. They noted that it was too soon to tell what the long term consequences would be, but clearly firms, policy makers and governments are all working hard to think through the challenges and opportunities ahead and to prepare for different outcomes so that the UK market continues to grow and prosper. On resiliency of the system to cope with market volatility immediately following the referendum it was noted how well it has coped; demonstrating it was well prepared for the event.

Following the panel discussion, a Q&A session was held. Attendees raised a range of questions, including the challenges of attracting talent, the threats and opportunities to the banking industry from FinTech and the issues facing the next generation of female leaders.