A group of established leaders from across the Business, Professional and Financial Services (BPFS) sector have joined forces to create a network that champions diversity and inclusion in firms across the West Midlands.

The region is home to one of Europe’s largest and fastest growing BPFS sectors, with around 48,000 companies employing over 358,000 people. BPFS Black Leaders Network aims to promote and encourage best practice across the sector and demonstrate that diverse and inclusive leadership is a true driver for change.

A recent study by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy underpins BPFS Black Leaders Network’s belief that a diverse workforce is the key to unlocking the sector’s growth. They estimate that “the potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of race across the labour market, through improved participation and progression, is estimated to be £24 billion a year, which represents 1.3% of GDP.” And yet, the latest FRC (Financial Reporting Council) report on ethnic diversity at board level shows that 11 additional FTSE 100 companies now have a non-white director on their board, taking the total number of boards with diverse racial representation to just 37%.

BPFS Black Leaders Network aims to create a unified voice across the BPFS sector and help establish a peer network for senior leaders to connect, share and grow together.

Founded by Joel Blake OBE, CEO of GFA Exchange and President of the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, BPFS Black Leaders Network is encouraging positive engagement around diversity and inclusion with a six-part webinar series that starts next week.

The first event ‘Diversity across the Midlands BPFS sector: Introducing Black Leaders Network’ will take place on Thursday 13 May and bring together a panel of founding members of BPFS Black Leaders Network. Chaired by Joel Blake, the panel will also include Dr Karl George MBE (Founder and Managing Director at The Governance Forum and Founder of The Race Equality Code) and Yetunde Dania (Partner and Head of Office at Trowers and Hamlins).

Taking place between now and the end of July, the remaining webinars will include Setting the scene: Why race diversity matters now more than ever before; The Black Gap: the advantages of black leadership; Commercialising Diversity: Is it Taboo?; Cultivating Difference: How to nurture a diverse talent pipeline; and Colour Culture: Leading by Example.

Hosted in partnership with Prominent Digital, these events will welcome a host of the network’s founding members alongside special guests including Nicola Fleet-Milne, Chair of Colmore BID and CEO of FleetMilne; Professor Kiran Trehan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Partnership and Engagement and Director, Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership & Diversity at University of York; and Vanessa Belleau, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Consultant at High Fifteen who has worked with brands including Gymshark and Levi’s.

Founder of BPFS Black Leaders Network, Joel Blake, comments:

“Having a succinct strategy around how to make racial diversity more effective has huge commercial benefits and can aid innovation within a business. By focusing on practical and actionable solutions, alongside a commitment to diversity across the board, BPFS firms can secure their own future; open up new inclusive talent pipelines, reach out to new customer markets; and establish a leadership style and culture that better suits an inclusive and more modern workforce.

We hope that everyone, from within BPFS firms and beyond, joins us to engage in these important conversations as we create a safe space for people to celebrate best practice and learn how we become more inclusive together.”

Launched last year, BPFS Black Leaders Network’s founding members also include Alex Tross, Director, Head of Office Advisory at Lambert Smith Hampton and Deputy Chair of Colmore BID; Alfred Bartlett, Partner, Head of Birmingham Office & National Head of Commercial Agency & Development at Rapleys; Sharniya Ferdinand, Business Inclusion Manager, NatWest Group; Amos Simbo, Director at Black Professionals in Construction; Matt Burton, Director in Corporate Banking; Rebekah Taitt, a fellow banking professional; Jonathan Miller, Director of the Birmingham Food Council; Mac Alonge, Founder & CEO at The Equal Group; and Tara Tomes, Founder and Managing Director, East Village PR.