"Small improvements in the levels of diversity of senior appointments is welcomed, but much more progress is needed across the financial system" - Central Bank of Ireland

08 March 2019 Press Release

Central Bank of Ireland

  • Analysis shows applications for regulatory approval of the most senior roles in financial services firms by age, gender and nationality.
  • Small improvement in the proportion of applications for regulatory approval for female appointments, with most marked improvement in the banking sector.
  • Continued evidence of a lack of gender diversity at senior levels in regulated firms is a cause for concern in the culture, risk management and decision-making of firms.

Read the full report

Today the Central Bank of Ireland publishes an analysis of over 5,000 applications for approval to occupy senior roles within regulated firms in Ireland (under the Fitness and Probity regime) in 2018.  The Central Bank has committed to publishing this analysis on an annual basis as part of its continued focus on the importance of diversity in regulated firms. This is the third such publication.

At an overall level, there has been an improvement in the number of female applicants, rising from 22% 2017 to 24% 2018. While some firms are starting to make progress, much more needs to be done to increase the diversity of experience, thought, background and attributes at senior levels to:

  • reduce the likelihood of groupthink;
  • reduce overconfidence and improve decision-making;
  • enhance culture and improve risk management; and
  • increase the level of internal challenge in financial services firms and reduce excessive resistance to external challenge.

 Key developments in 2018 include:

  • primarily due to Brexit, there was a 50% increase in the number of applications submitted during the period, compared to applications made in 2017;
  • the most material change in composition was in the banking sector, where 31% of applications were for women, compared to 25% in 2017; this was even more pronounced in the applications for board positions, which increased from 23% in 2017 to 36% in 2018;
  • approximately four out of five applications for board positions were for men, marginally down on 2017 (82%); and this remained even more imbalanced for the most important Chair of the Board and Chief Executive positions, 84% of which were for men; and
  • the analysis continues to show a pronounced gender imbalance at board level and in revenue generating roles.

Deputy Governor, Prudential Regulation, Ed Sibley said:

“Diversity matters.  Similar people looking at similar information and facing similar circumstances are likely to rely on similar assumptions and make similar decisions.  This type of groupthink contributed to the depth of the financial crisis internationally and in Ireland and contributed to many of the conduct scandals that have subsequently emerged.

While it is positive to see some progress, this is from a low base. More needs to be done to meaningfully address the acute lack of diversity at senior levels; this requires:

  • more ambition, including in targets and measures;
  • more than lip service being paid to diversity programmes;
  • better building of pipelines of talent;
  • considering the overall construct and functioning of the executive management teams when making appointments; and
  • identifying and reducing barriers to change.”

Director General, Financial Conduct Derville Rowland said:

“It is positive to see improvements in gender diversity at senior roles in regulated financial services providers, but it is also striking that there remains a pronounced gender imbalance at board level and in revenue generating roles.

The Central Bank considers a lack of diversity at senior management and board level to be a leading indicator of heightened behaviour and culture risks in financial institutions.

We intend to keep up the pressure on firms to ensure diversity also in those senior roles that are central to how they make their decisions, set their risk appetites and treat their customers.’’


  • Rowland, Derville: Balance makes for better business, address to Women in ETFs International Women's Day Event, Euronext (8 March 2019).
  • This is the third time that the Central Bank has published such data. These reports (covering the period 2012-2017) and more information on Diversity and Inclusion in Regulated Firms.
  • “Application” or “applicant” refers to applications to the Central Bank for approval of individuals who have been offered senior level roles by firms. It is not a reference to the number of applications financial firms received for roles. Applications are made when the individual has already been offered a role, contingent on approval from the Central Bank.
  • The Fitness & Probity regime came into effect on 1 December 2011 for all regulated financial service providers other than Credit Unions. The regime was extended to Credit Unions from 1 August 2013. It prescribes that the prior approval of the Central Bank is required before an individual can be appointed to certain roles, known as Pre-Approval Control Functions (PCFs).
  • The core function of the Fitness and Probity regime is to ensure that persons in senior positions are competent and capable, honest, ethical and of integrity and financially sound.
  • There are 51 Pre-Approval Controlled Functions, covering both board and management level appointees