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Matheo: »I have not seen a single black manager«

Nine persons tells how difficult it is getting into the Swedish finance industry if you have a foreign background, and that advancing in your career is just as hard. Here is Matheo’s story. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

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The large gap in unemployment between foreign and Swedish born people that Finansliv’s study has found doesn’t surprise Matheo.

He has lived in Sweden for five plus years now and is originally from southern Europe. He has a master’s degree in finance from a Swedish university and speaks Swedish fluently. But he noticed a difference between the Swedish and the foreign students right after his graduation.

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– My fellow Swedish students got a job right away. Meanwhile me and the students from other countries struggled a bit.

But he was lucky, he says, and got a job not that long after his graduation. The manager who hired him also came from southern Europe.

– That probably had something to do with it, Matheo says.

Just as the others Finansliv has talked to, Matheo believes that contacts and informal relations play a key role in the hiring process. Studying at the same school as the manager, play at the same golf club or having a country house in the same area makes it easier to get a job.

– You don’t feel like there was a due diligence process where 3-5 candidates were compared based on qualifications. Instead, it’s more like »oh, you have worked with Fredrik, we went to the same school«.

It starts with the internships, Matheo says. Students from Handels with the »right« background and connections will get internships easier.

– I don’t think a lot of foreign-born people have those connections. And if you don’t get the internship, it will be more difficult to get a job, and then the gap only gets wider and wider.

95 percent of the hiring process is handled by managers, and they want to play it safe.

The bank he works for now does have recruitments focused on hiring people with a »different background«, but only around 10 a year.

– 95 percent of the hiring process is handled by managers, and they want to play it safe.

The language is another problem, according to Matheo. Even though many of the larger Swedish banks claims to use English as an operating language and the positions that Matheo has applied for involves no costumer contact, he still gets tested on his Swedish skills.

– I haven’t been to a single interview without them asking if I speak Swedish, even when it’s not required for the job or even mentioned in the ad. I don’t think it should be a criteria at all.

The lack of diversity is obvious in the two Swedish banks he has worked, Matheo says. Especially on management level.

– In my team we are probably 80/20 Swedish and foreign born, but you will not find that in middle management. It’s very, very seldom to see someone not Nordic. I haven’t seen a single black manager. It strikes a little bit.

Some parts of the banks are more homogenic than others, according to Matheo. In particular Markets and Investment banking, which is also confirmed by the other people Finansliv has talked to.

– Me and a colleague of mine jokes about that sometimes, that they are all blond and half of them are named Carl-Johan or Carl-Philip, Matheo says.

He also believes that there is a payment gap between foreign and domestic born employees. When Matheo had a more junior role in another bank, he discovered that his coworkers hade higher salaries than him. When he found out that even a colleague several years his junior was higher paid, he got angry.

– But I didn’t say anything. I don’ want to be that person, pointing out that another guy is paid more.

Also, it is very difficult to prove that you have been discriminated against, Matheo says.

– You either accept it, that you have to work harder, try to network harder to get where you want. Or you resign and move away.

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