Eighteen percent of the 381 people who joined its London and UK regional offices in September, were hired because the firm replaced its old system that focused primarily on academic achievement in August 2015.
The figures come shortly after a report from the UK government’s Social Mobility Commission slammed the investment banking and life science sectors for being elitist and hiring predominantly from private schools and top-level universities.
Julian Young, a partner in financial services at EY, said the policy was intended to build a “broad and diverse workforce” and create “a better working world”.
The firm changed the entry criteria for its 2016 graduate, undergraduate and school-leaver programmes. It said students no longer had to have a minimum of 300 Ucas points (equivalent to 3 Bs) and a 2:1 degree classification to make an application. Instead, EY uses a new and enhanced suite of online “strengths” assessments and numerical tests to assess the potential of applicants.
Young, who joined the firm some 20 years ago, said: “Having a wider range of people will lead to better debate internally and better ideas for our clients. We remain focused on recruiting bright, young talent, but while academic performance is valuable, it is too blunt an instrument to use on its own. We realised we needed to look more widely.”
EY’s investigations into hiring policies found no evidence that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.
“Anecdotally, we have seen other organisations in very similar positions,” said Young. “To only filter academically doesn’t allow us to see a full range of people.”
Another of the so-called Big Four audit firms, PwC also removed Ucas scores as entry criteria for its graduate roles in 2015 in an attempt to open up the firm to under represented socio-economic groups.
Although the firm did not have comparable figures to EY, a PwC spokeswoman said: “This year we have hired more students who attended state school (73%) and 7% of our intake were eligible for free school meals. We’re also hiring from a wider range of institutions, with students joining from 88 universities this year. 35% of our hires are black, Asian and minority ethnic. Around half will be based in our regional offices.”
PwC hired around 1,500 graduates in 2016 and 161 school leavers, including higher apprentices.
KPMG and Deloitte, which have also implemented similar policies, said they did not yet have comparable data available.
Young said EY would be proud of the initiative when introducing the new intake to clients. He said: “It is the right thing to demonstrate the firm’s diverse culture. Our intellectual standards have not dropped, we are still bringing in the brightest and the best, but now we are accessing a broader set of skills. It has never been the case that we have demanded a certain degree.”
There has been no change to its remuneration package following the recruitment change.
Young said its recruitment drive was a “huge undertaking” and that it had worked hard to access as broad a range of educational institutions as possible. “In future, more of our recruitment will be done digitally,” said Young.