Are trading floors really full of misogynistic racists with a low tolerance of homosexuality? Or does this kind of allegation help win court cases?
Peter Lewis, the former head of equity trading at HSBC who last year lost a claim that he was dismissed from the bank on the grounds of discrimination because he's gay, is re-launching his case alleging that the bank discriminated against him due to his sexuality.
Lewis, who apparently joined HSBC on a 1.6m guaranteed package over two years, is in the Financial Times today claiming that his own team of several hundred traders at HSBC included no women at all and "very few" people from different ethnic backgrounds. He also says banking lags behind other industries when it comes to diversity, and that diversity guidelines in employee handbooks don't usually match what happens on the ground.
Andrew Pullman of HR Consultancy People Risk Solutions - and a former head of capital markets HR at Dresdner Kleinwort - says Lewis' claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. "He seems to be re-launching a legal case and is going to want to make HSBC look bad," says Pullman. "I don't know HSBC or this case well, so I can't comment about specifics, but my feeling is that most organisations these days are fairly diverse. When I was at Dresdner we employed over 65 different nationalities across the bank in London alone."
Pullman admits women can be hard to come by on trading floors, however: "Very few apply. They're all frightened off by the stories about discrimination in the press!"