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Quilter CEO: mental health is the City's last great taboo

Following a Citywire interview in which he revealed his own struggle with mental health, Quilter chief executive Paul Feeney has issued a call to arms to all financial services firms.

Mental health is 'the last great taboo in the City,' according to Quilter chief executive Paul Feeney. 

Following an exclusive interview with Citywire in October in which Feeney revealed his own struggle with mental health, he has now issued a call to arms to City colleagues. 

'I think it's the last great taboo in the City, I think it's still a stigma, I think it's a mark of disgrace,' he said, speaking on the BBC's Today Programme.

'I think there has been a macho culture in the City, there's certainly a "winning" culture. But I think a lot of people have just felt that they cannot speak about it.'

His remarks come as research by the Chartered Institute for Securities (CISI) and Investment has found that less than half (46%) of City workers felt comfortable talking to their managers about mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

'If you read the [CISI's] survey, and you read the comments on the back of the survey from individuals, it makes you want to weep,' Feeney said.

'The word that repeats time and time again is "weakness." It's seen as a weakness, and if I admit to it, it would be a weakness, and a weakness in the City is punished. And that is just so old talk, old rubbish, we've got to crush that, we've got to dispel that myth.'

Feeney also revealed that his experience of poor mental health stemmed from childhood, growing up with 'a loving father who had significant mental health issues.' He said his father had experienced domestic violence and abuse, 'and brought those issue into our family.'

Feeney said he has since suffered from flashbacks, anxiety and 'super vigilance', where individuals become hyper-aware of others.

'Strangely some of these things can help you, where you're always vigilant, every thing's on your radar all of the time,' he said.

'But more importantly what it does is you bury these things, you feel you can't talk about them at work so you bury them, and it builds up, it doesn't go away. And it never goes away. Often all of them are trauma related, it can be my experience, it can be experience of workload stress, it can be out of touch senior managers, it can be a whole range of things.'

Quilter has launched an internal human resources initiative called 'Thrive' which Feeney has personally spearheaded. Hundreds of his employees have come forward to tell their stories of mental health as a result, he added. 

You can listen to Feeney's comments in full here. The section begins at 25:17. 

You can also watch our original interview with Feeney above, in which he discusses Thrive.

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