Phoenix Group trio named as DE&I champions on Empower Role Model lists

by | May 26, 2023

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Rakesh Thakrar, the Chief Financial Officer for Phoenix Group, has been named on the Empower Top 100 Executives Role Model list for his work in promoting social mobility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

In addition to Rakesh’s inclusion on the Executives Role Models list, Client Relationship Consultant, Rabya Aktar,  and Business Development Manager, Imran Khan, were named on the Top 100 Future Talent list in recognition of their work in as co-founders ofPhoenix Group’s network for ethnically diverse colleagues, Mosaic, and their work to drive DE&I both in and outside the company, including work with Scottish government.

The 2023 Empower Role Model Lists, supported by YouTube, represents the wide range of impactful and innovative work being done by organizations across different countries and industry sectors supporting inclusion in the workplace. This recognition celebrates the diverse range of inspiring individuals who have made it their personal mission to removing barriers for ethnically diverse employees to help them on the pathway to success.

Phoenix has made great strides in the field of DE&I in recent years, it published its first Ethnicity Pay Gap report in April and is on course to achieve its targets to increase the percentage of staff who come from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background to 13% in 2023. It is also committed to increasing the number of women who hold senior positions in the business. 


In addition Phoenix is committed to delivering change through its social mobility strategy and as a result of the work it has done to date has risen from number 41 to number 23 in the Social Mobility Index between 2021 and 2022.

The company’s social mobility strategy takes an intersectional approach across all disadvantaged groups, work includes ensuring recruitment adverts are free from bias, working with job centres to attract people from groups that are often excluded from employment, creating a programme to recruit over 50s from lower socio-economic backgrounds, supporting the 10,000 black interns initiative and, underpinning all the initiatives, having a data analysis programme to capture and assess diversity data.

Phoenix’s commitment to foster a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace includes a broad range of ongoing and emerging programs designed to attract, retain, and support talent at every stage of their career. 


As part of the group commitment to specifically improving racial/ethnic diversity, equity and inclusion – we have created a DEI Project Lead – Race & Ethnicity role to bring a critical focus in ensuring the whole business can move the dial holistically in this space

“Embedding genuine diversity into an organisation is the right thing to do,” said Rakesh Thakrar, Chief Financial Officer of Phoenix Group, “However, it also makes good business sense by enabling businesses to improve their decision making processes, expand their understanding of their customer base and improve staff retention. 

“Our commitment is to make Phoenix Group the best place anyone has ever worked and making DE&I a natural part of our day to day business will help make that a reality for all of our staff.


“We know we have more to do on this journey, but we are pleased with the progress we have made in the last year and I am proud to have been selected for inclusion in the Empower Role Models list for the work I have done to promote and expand DE&I at Phoenix.”  

Rakesh Thakrar 

Diversity and mobility are defining aspects of Rakesh’s life, he is a high-performer from an immigrant backgroundhis father was from Tanzania and mother a Ugandan refugee. Since his appointment to the Board as Chief Financial Officer, Rakesh has been Executive Sponsor for Social Mobility. The intersectional strategy has dramatically improved Phoenix’s Social Mobility Index ranking, through actions like a recruitment DEI audit, ensuring adverts are bias-free and focussing graduate recruitment outside of the Russell Group Universities. He sponsored the Kickstart Programme, offering entry-level positions for young benefit claimants. His focus on data has helped drive analysis of colleague DEI data and publication of the first Group ethnicity pay gap. Beyond his role at Phoenix Group, Rakesh works with Progress Together, a taskforce led by the City of London Corporation that collaborates with financial services companies to promote social mobility and aims to progress and retain a socio-economically diverse workforce.” 


Rabya Akhtar

“As founding co-chair of Mosaic, Phoenix Group’s network for ethnically diverse colleagues, Rabya leads a diverse committee to actively drive D&I initiatives, delivering impact for colleagues, her business and local communities. She’s hosted leading academics and thought-leaders to discuss Black Lives Matter and systemic racism – which have directly impacted the company’s response to these issues. Rabya is instrumental in driving social/cultural awareness – organising a program of events/communications to encourage colleagues to learn about steps they can take to support BAME colleagues. Throughout 2020 she worked closely with Parliament to produce the ‘Young Women Lead Report’ on the education-employment transition for young BAME women. Rabya received the ‘Unsung Hero’ award at the Scottish Financial Enterprise Awards 2021 for making an impact in people’s lives within her organisation and the wider community. Acknowledging her efforts, she was invited to the “Celebrating the Best of Scotland” reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister”

Imran Khan


“With a focus on ‘real action and no virtue-signalling’, Imran is a founding co-lead of Mosaic, Phoenix Group’s network for ethnically diverse colleagues. Not only has Imran provided reverse mentoring to Phoenix Group’s CEO on racial/ethnic diversity but he also led the growth, from ideation to implementation, of a successful new diversity data application ‘Who We Are’ – which achieved a completion rate of over 75% (within only eight weeks) and has transformed the organisational approach to DEI. He is a recipient of the FT Adviser’s prestigious ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ award and in 2022, Imran was invited to a private roundtable with the First Minister of Scotland and the Lord Mayor of the City of London to discuss strategic issues pertaining to diversity/socio-economic mobility in financial services. Passionate about cricket, he is a member of the ‘Running Out Racism’ campaign to eradicate institutional and every-day racism from Scottish Cricket.”

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