Growth Impact Fund backs mission to empower UK’s neurodivergent workforce

Funding for Genius Within comes as financial services gets to grips with neurodiversity.

The Growth Impact Fund (GIF), a social impact investment fund developed by Big Issue Invest (BIIFM) and UnLtd, has announced its first debt deal of £500k/$640k will go to Genius Within, an organization that helps neurodivergent people into employment.

The funding will help the specialist employment and training provider to support neurodivergent people and help them to work best when employed. In the UK, it is estimated that over 15% of the population are neurodiverse, with 40% of neurodiverse employees reporting to be affected most days in the workplace by their condition.

Founded in 2011 by Dr Nancy Doyle – also a visiting Professor to Birkbeck College, University of London – the organization has supported over 24,000 people in the last 12 months. With a dyslexic CEO and a leadership team comprising 67% neurominorities, Genius Within co-produces services that blend lived experiences with the expertise of psychologists, workplace coaches, and HR practitioners.  


Sarah Faber, Investment Director for the Fund, at Big Issue Invest, said: “Genius Within is a testament to the unique insights and expertise that entrepreneurs with lived experience possess in relation to their work. We’re extremely proud to support Genius Within to further develop the GeniusFunder Pro through this investment.”

Big Issue Invest Fund Management (BIIFM) is the fund manager for the Growth Impact Fund, and the fund is addressed to professional investors only. BIIFM Ltd is authorized and regulated by the FCA.

Investors in the Growth Impact Fund include: Bank of America, Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, Big Society Capital, Macquarie, BD Giving, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, University of Edinburgh, Scope, Trust for London, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Charities Trust, Barrow Cadbury Trust, Philanthropist Nick Marple, Unltd, and Big Issue Invest.

“Neurodivergent talent can often display traits such as strong attention to detail and hyper focus, which can be game-changing for a business.”

Liz Walker, consultant

The move comes as part of a growing effort within the financial services industry to take account of neurodiversity. This comes alongside the Financial Services Skills Commission’s (FSSC) Future Skills Report 2023 which highlights record levels of vacancies within the sector, with increasing demand for future skills including data analytics, cyber security and software development identified as critical for the sector’s growth.

Green Park’s Financial Services consultants said if organizations want to survive and thrive, they need to embed DEI in their talent strategy. “Many tech roles are particularly suited to neurodivergent employees, who often challenges in an innovative way, which within the ever evolving tech space is a critical skill,” says Liz Walker, a Director in Green Park’s Private Sector Practice specializing in HR Executive Search.

She added: “Neurodivergent talent can often display traits such as strong attention to detail and hyper focus, which can be game-changing for a business. In fact, research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise suggests neurodivergent people are 30% more productive overall and autistic people in the right environment can be up to 140% more productive than their colleagues (JP Morgan Chase).”

In a survey by Green Park partner Neurodiversity in Business, 47.2% of respondents said their DEI policy included disability but just 22% reported a focus on neurodivergence. By incorporating neurodiversity into their DEI policy, financial services organizations will be better positioned to attract and leverage neurodivergent tech talent, said Green Park.

Acceptance, flexibility, empathy

Jane Mann, employment partner at Fox Williams, said: “Employers may face challenges in understanding the unique strengths and challenges of neurodiverse employees, but by embracing a culture of acceptance, flexibility and empathy, they can create an environment where all individuals feel valued and supported and where neurodiverse employees are not disadvantaged by the challenges they might face.

“By recognising and celebrating the diverse talents that neurodiverse individuals bring to the table the positive outcomes extend beyond individual success stories. Organisations can unlock new levels of innovation and productivity, enhance workplace culture and drive growth while promoting an inclusive work environment.”

Neurodiversity isn’t yet one of the FCA’s key drivers of vulnerability but it is covered more broadly in the vulnerability guidance and the Consumer Duty

In the FCA’s 2022 multi-firm review, Understanding approaches to D&I in financial services, it observed how firms were embedding diversity and inclusion strategies. It found “very few firms have paid attention to neurodiversity” in their diversity, equity and inclusion policies. Only 21% of large firms and 4% of small firms collect demographic data on neurodiversity. 

Vulnerable customers

The FCA’s vulnerability guidance aims to help firms ensure that they are treating vulnerable customers fairly. All customers are at risk of becoming vulnerable, but this risk is increased by having characteristics of vulnerability. These could be poor health, cognitive impairment, life events such as new caring responsibilities, low resilience to cope with financial or emotional shocks, and low capability, such as poor literacy or numeracy skills. 

Not all customers who have these characteristics will experience harm. But they may be more likely to have additional or different needs which, if firms do not meet them, could limit their ability to make decisions or represent their own interests, putting them at greater risk of harm. So, the level of care that is appropriate for these consumers may be different from that needed for others.

The Consumer Duty builds on themes from the guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. 

Referring to the Consumer Duty rules, an FCA spokesperson told us: “The Duty requires firms to focus on the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances and customers with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Other concepts such as neurodiversity and socio‑economic background may be useful for firms as they consider how to meet customers’ needs, and they may overlap with our concept of vulnerability.”

“Consumer Duty requires firms to focus on the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances and customers with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.”


So while the Duty doesn’t specify that firms must have a focus on neurodiversity, it may be a relevant consideration. The FCA’s handbook requirements include that a firm’s monitoring of customer outcomes must enable it to identify whether, for any product the firm manufactures or distributes, any group of retail customers is experiencing different outcomes compared to another group of retail customers of the same product.

This idea is woven through the Duty. For example, under the products and services outcome, firms should consider whether a product or service has features that could risk harm for any group of customers, including those with characteristics of vulnerability. Where they identify such issues, they should take appropriate action.

Harriet O’Brien, ESG consultant at Danesmead told us: “Despite 10-20% of the population being neurodivergent (at a conservative estimate), there remains something of a taboo around it. But there needn’t be. As a first step, firms can educate themselves on the value of diverse ways of thinking, from fine detail processing skills to communication and strategic thinking. Then they could consider implementing policies and practices that recognise different needs and make accommodations as part of their standard approach to D&I.”