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Deutsche Bank's figures suggest it's not easy being Asian in banking

Are people of Asian heritage discriminated against banking? And should they be accorded the kind of diversity status accorded to people from other ethnic groups?

Deutsche Bank's recently released figures for its employment by ethnicity suggest the answer to both questions may be yes - but only when it comes to the most senior positions.

Source: Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank has plenty of Asian staff whom it classifies as 'professionals' - Asians account for nearly a third of the total in this category. However, Deutsche Bank's professional Asian employees disappear further up the hierarchy. Only 20% of first level managers are Asian; only 5% of senior officials, executives and managers are. At the top levels of Deutsche Bank, 90% of people are white. 

What's going wrong? Deutsche Bank doesn't offer any clarification, but it's not the only bank with a problem. Asian staff are also underrepresented at senior levels at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, albeit to a lesser extent. 

Past efforts at explaining the peculiar preponderance of Asian people in mid-ranking professional jobs in banks have focused on the thousands of people working in banks' Indian technology hubs. Goldman Sachs, for example, has around 9,000 people in Bangalore; Deutsche Bank has over 5,000 people split between Bengaluru and Pune. Although Indian staff are typically high skilled, they're also a long way from financial centres in New York and London and are less frequently promoted to managing director.

While this might be one explanation for the drop-off of Asian staff at senior levels, there's also growing recognition that Asian staff in banks face a so-called "bamboo ceiling" blocking them from top promotions.  A recent study from the Association of Asian American Investment Managers found that Asian Americans are also absent from the most senior roles like partner and managing director in the investment industry too.

Because Asian Americans are highly visible in the junior ranks, Brenda Chia, board co-chair at AAAIM said there's insufficient focus on ensuring their careers advance. Asians are subject to a "model minority myth," to racial stereotyping and to "differences in cultural expectation and experience including language and immigration,” claimed Chia. 

At Deutsche Bank, entry-level diversity programs are focused on minorities who are women, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQI, veterans, and people with disabilities.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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