The most senior black person in the private sector and the first black man to head a FTSE 100 company Prudential chief executive Tidjane Thiam is under pressure to resign his position after a shareholders revolt resulted in the collapse of the much reported £24 billion takeover deal for the Asian AIG.
Thiam born in the Ivory Coast and a former Government Minister in his home country has only been in the position for just over 14 months and already there is a concerted campaign to force him to resign by a section of Prudential shareholders.
Last year Thiam was forced to refuse a seat on the board of the French bank Societe Generale after his shareholders criticised the offer. Thiam eventually turned down the offer. However, the fact that he was forced to do so despite this being common practice among other CEO’s of major companies was surprising.
This latest incident saw the “rug pulled” from underneath Thiams negotiations which in real terms killed the huge takeover bid. The company has already invested near on half a billion pounds in legal and cancelation fees. The collapse of the deal is inevitably being seen as a huge personal failure of both Thiam and the Chair of Prudential, Harvey McGrath, who led the takeover bid. McGrath is sticking by his Chief Executive despite leading City investors demands that he should go, and so far Thiam has held firm and refused to resign.
The current attack on the country’s leading black figure in the financial services industry is reflective of a general trend in the UK where black men in senior positions are subjected to forensic scrutiny over and above that endured by their white peers. This then translates into a “double standard” application of accountability and expected professional standards. In short, the bar is substantially raised for the few existing senior black men and reflects an underlying racism that is prevalent in the private sector.
The reality is that racism in the financial services sector is rampant in the UK and the previous Government failed miserably to introduce effective legal protection for black workers. Furthermore, the lack of political will to impose new legislation compelling the private sector to adopt equality employment targets was lamentable. The new Government is also unlikely to do so despite the fact that racism in the UK’s private sector is rampant.
Thiam looks set to go the way of almost all senior Black men in positions of power. Unfairly targeted, held to a higher standard and then forced to resign all because his face does not fit the predominantly white corporate culture of the British private sector.
The Guardian newspaper has launched a poll that will close on Friday 4th June asking its readers if Thiam should resign. OBV is asking its supporters to vote in the poll and rally around the beleaguered Thiam at this time of crisis.