By Stephen Nixon, Senior Business Consultant, Bravura

This month, I celebrated ten years working at Bravura. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest names in global finance during my career so far. This has included helping to launch Standard Life’s Wrap and Fundzone investment platforms in 2006-2007, as well as working as a consultant for JPM Asset Management on its then retail D2C platform Wealthmanager+.

Helping organisations and people prosper

As a Senior Business Consultant in Bravura’s EMEA Client Delivery teams, I have led various projects for Wealth Management clients, most notably one of our large adviser platform clients, leading their book of work and subsequent upgrades post their initial implementation of Sonata in 2014. This also includes two substantial infrastructure changes, moving them into a Bravura-hosted datacentre in 2017 and subsequently our first live client in the cloud in 2021.

Currently I’m working with another of our Sonata clients on a major upgrade project. The best part of my role is the opportunity it gives me to collaborate effectively with teams across the globe. Aside from that, I’m a huge believer of celebrating massive change and success when it occurs.

Raising awareness of hidden disabilities – bEnabled

In late 2020, I was approached by our Global Head of Workspace, Emma Carscadden, to become part of a new pillar Bravura’s Diversity & Inclusiveness (D&I) team was planning to launch, bEnabled.

The pillar’s goal is to support people with disability and those who are carers for others outside of work. There are many people in the world who are carers and get overlooked. We want everyone to know they can do their job and deal with whatever is happening in their personal life at the same time. People can be fatigued and stressed and underperform their tasks because they are trying to juggle too many things, as people may not see a hidden disability, or know a carer’s responsibilities outside of work. Just because someone looks ok, doesn’t mean that they are.

I jumped at the chance of joining this initiative because, not only was this pillar set up directly for people with hidden disabilities like me, but as a carer for someone with a disability, I wanted to raise awareness about the challenges that those who have a disability or care for someone with a disability face, both inside and away from work.

A life-changing moment

I was diagnosed with diabetes at the start of my Bravura career in 2014. As it turns out, my initial diagnosis was incorrect, and I was subsequently diagnosed as Type 1 (T1D) in 2019. T1D is the result of an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the pancreas and kills the cells that create the hormone insulin (as opposed to Type 2 is where the body cannot use the insulin it generates as effectively).

The trigger for T1D is still not understood but there is a genetic link – others in my family have it and unfortunately our son, Lewis, was diagnosed in October 2020 when he was admitted to hospital after feeling unwell for a few days. Luckily, we managed to get him diagnosed before his body went into Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which is where blood glucose and blood ketones effectively are so high that the body starts shutting down and it can be fatal.

Campaigning for change

Emma asked for me to be involved in Bravura’s D&I programme because I’ve had to fight and campaign for better diagnosis, access to medication and technology for those that require it.

I had to push my medical team to give me the correct diagnosis as I steadily felt worse over time and was given medication that was not appropriate for my condition. On top of this, I was unaware that having varying blood sugar levels was affecting my mood and concentration. I was working with one arm tied behind my back and wasn’t aware of it (something which I’m sure at least one or two readers may understand or sympathise with).

When I was eventually diagnosed with T1D in 2019, I moved onto insulin injections. This made an almost immediate positive impact and I finally began to feel normal again (apart from the new full-time job of managing my condition).

With Lewis’ diagnosis, my two jobs became three as both my wife and I had to deal with a then six-year-old having to inject up to seven times a day to manage his blood sugar. We have also faced long waiting lists to get access to an insulin pump and NHS funding for the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that turns his system into a Hybrid Closed Loop (a way to control blood sugar without constant intervention) – something which makes a huge difference to the lives of people with diabetes.

My colleague Mike Begley and I discussed diabetes treatments and technology back in November 2023 for World Diabetes Day (available here for Bravura staff); I now have an insulin pump two years after my son and pay for the CGM so that I can access the same technology – however others aren’t so lucky and can’t afford to do this.

Bringing new tech to Scotland

Colleagues at Bravura may be aware of my work with Diabetes Scotland’s Tech Collective – a group of like-minded (and bodied!) individuals campaigning so that people like my son and I can have access to this lifesaving and life-improving technology at the point of need that can improve treatment and, crucially, diagnosis.

Where persons with diabetes don’t have access to technology, they have a relentless battle to balance their body chemistry – having to calculate doses based on a number of factors such as carbohydrate content of the food and drink being consumed, insulin already on board, activity, stress levels, etc. We already make on average 180 more decisions a day than those without diabetes just to keep this balance in check. Too little and you could end up with permanent damage because of high blood sugars. Too much insulin and you could go into an uncontrolled hypo. Both scenarios can also be fatal.

England & Wales has already recently announced a roll-out of this technology over the next five years, and we now urgently need Scotland to follow suit. Myself and Diabetes Tech Can’t Wait – a national campaign that started in Scotland and is now UK wide – are working hard to ensure that this happens as soon as possible, and I recently attended a Cross-Party group at the Scottish Parliament lobbying for funding for this technology so that parents of children with diabetes and adults with diabetes struggling to manage their condition can access this in Scotland regardless of location at the point of diagnosis.

When you also consider that early intervention can make it cheaper for the NHS to treat the condition by avoiding complications such as retinopathy, neuropathy, gastroparesis, liver failure, kidney failure etc. there’s certainly a big need at all levels to prioritise this level of care.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

For those with visible and hidden disabilities alike, or caring with someone who has a disability, others may not appreciate the effort it takes to just turn up to work. Medical appointments, medication, worries about what could happen in future, impacts on mental health, changes to physical appearance, guilt – these can all play a part on our day to day lives.

On top of that, unintentional bias can make you feel discriminated against. As an example, some private healthcare providers, including Bravura’s UK Staff PMI scheme provider, proudly cover all pre-existing conditions – apart from T1D. Thankfully I’ve never had to use our insurance but worry about what coverage I’d get for Lewis and/or myself if I ever tried to access a medical claim.

What I would say though to those with or recently diagnosed with a condition, or to those caring for a loved one is: don’t be afraid to reach out. The help and support are there, and you are not alone. Each of us will have our good and bad days and although we might look ok, we might be struggling deep down.

Take everything a day at a time and do the best you can on the day. Don’t beat yourself up if you take an unexpected turn or have to go support the person you care for. You are already doing more than it would be expected from those without long-term illness, condition, or caring responsibilities. Make sure that you look after yourself too. If you can’t reach out or feel like you can’t, please, please, please rethink. There will be others out there in a similar situation to yours.

I‘ve lost count of the amount of people I’ve met with similar stories to mine – and that’s just in Edinburgh, not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands of people I’ve come across in various peer support groups and online communities I’ve started to engage with recently. Opening up has been a huge help and for those working at Bravura, please reach out to me directly or the wider bEnabled team to speak with colleagues with similar experiences and who can offer help and support.

As for the wider tech and financial services industry, it’s fantastic to see that work is being done to support those with a disability or caring responsibilities. However, more work still needs to be carried out if we are to help people bring their best selves to work everyday.

It’s not only about having accessible spaces in the workplace or technology. It could be about allowing someone to have the flexibility to withdraw because of their condition, or because of issues with those they have caring responsibility for. It’s important to give people space to take a break when required, to also avoid errors of judgement to be accidentally made, without realising it, caused by factors outside of their control.

These needs aren’t necessarily understood in a workplace, but in technology and financial services sector it must be considered daily due to the fast-paced environment and frequent decisions required to run some of the world’s largest financial institutions mission critical technology – the stakes are incredibly high.

Bravura has led the way in D&I within the industry across many of our six pillars (covering off Gender, Social Mobility, LGBT+, wellbeing, Neurodiversity and disabilities – bEnabled). We were recently named Large Employer of the Year at FT Adviser’s Diversity in Finance Awards 2023. We can make a positive difference in our workplace by ensuring that those with physical or mental impairments, or caring responsibilities, have a voice and are able to access the right resources, support, as well as policies to feel equally valued as those who may not face the same daily challenges.

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