Five Questions on Diversity and Inclusion in Asset Management

A new report by financial industry think tank, New Financial, explores how diversity is moving up the agenda for asset owners globally. More say that promoting and creating specific initiatives to drive Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) helps them improve decision-making, attract and retain talent, innovate and compete, and ultimately enhance financial performance. Diversity is becoming an established part of investment criteria.

UnaVista’s Maryse Gordon shares her perspective on the importance of D&I in asset management, and the role regulation can play in driving it.

1. How do you define D&I and why is it important for the asset management industry?

I see diversity and inclusion as an environment where every voice is represented at the table. It is important to not just asset management, but all industries. One demographic cannot grow the world. In order to get a broader scope of opinions, expertise, and knowledge, we need to listen beyond the current common voice of our industry.

For firms to truly evolve and speak to their diverse client base, they need to represent and reflect that diversity. People relate more when they can connect with like-minded individuals, and when a company can commit to and display that inclusivity, it makes for better business relations.

2. In your opinion, how diverse and inclusive is the asset management industry?

The male voice is still a dominant force in finance but there has been a great amount of work done to highlight this and instigate change. We are seeing companies and firms establish groups supportive of women and minorities to enable them to get onto that platform.

Firms are focusing on ways to make an organization more inclusive – from career development, to recruitment, retention, and promotion and are making public commitments to improve representation of females at the leadership level. In 2016, LSEG set forth a diversity and inclusion strategy target of 40% female representation for senior management and our overall population, which we aim to achieve by 2020. This will filter down to other diversity groups so we start to see a better representation of people directing and influencing businesses.

3. What role can regulation play in fostering more diversity within asset management (or the financial services sector overall)?

Policy setting is a good starting point for encouraging more diversity. Corporate responsibility objectives to set and achieve diversity goals are important in holding firms accountable to effecting change in the industry. But it would be interesting to know what the consequences to making statements but failing to achieve them would be. At present, there is no regulation that would enforce firms to meet these types of objectives, however, the statements firms are publicly making surrounding this subject is enough to hold them accountable and qualify the firms’ productivity and commitment to these changes.

While there has been no widespread, enforceable regulation, there have been several policy initiatives on the theme of diversity and inclusion. Certain EU countries have mandatory gender quotas for boards of public companies, and in 2017 we saw the introduction of the Gender Pay Gap Report in the UK. In the US, Dodd Frank established the SEC Office for Minorities and Women.

Going forward, we may start to see objectives like this written into legislation to help support the equality agenda, but I think that its more credible to a firm to implement these changes themselves rather than under regulatory enforcement.

4. New Financial’s research found diversity is influencing asset manager selection. Diversity questions are coming up more frequently in requests for proposal, there are more of them, and they are more focused. However, the response from asset managers is varied – some are working on their diversity data, while others remains reluctant to share it. Why do you think that is?

Diversity data is not necessarily something that has been effectively captured over the years. For a firm to be able to state their ambitions on future diversity initiatives and objectives, they need to understand their current position, and I believe there are many firms who are not clear on what exactly that looks like for their organization. The data needed to measure progression in this area first needs to be captured, and as many diversity questionnaires are still optional for employees, its difficult for firms to get a true picture of what their business looks like. Employees need to feel more confident in the need for and use of this information, to enable firms to really set effective milestones for establishing equality and opportunity throughout their organizations.

Another reason why this information may not be shared, is because I am sure there are firms out there who have a lot of catching up to do regarding diversity initiatives. For now, they do not want to publicly share their statistic because they may not positively reflect the equality agenda of our industry.

5. What can firms do to tackle diversity?

A lot of organizations are proactivity taking a stance and making public commitments regarding diversity, and we need to continue to see this support. Our LSEG Women’s Inspired Network (WIN) provides greater visibility for females wanting to develop their careers within our global company. I am the co-chair of WIN for New York, so have been helping lead the group in defining the different ways in which we can provide better exposure and opportunities for females across the workforce. We also aim to develop programs to equip women with the skills that will help them grow into leadership roles, should they wish to pursue that.

We see a lot of client engagement activity regarding diversity being initiated, diversity indexes being established, a little girl on wall street facing the bull, it all sends a message that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, and we as an industry are going to be the enforcer of change.

About Maryse Gordon

Maryse is a Senior Pre-Sales and Business Development Manager, UnaVista, LSEG. She has worked with financial software for 10 years and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience ranging from product development and support, to product management and pre-sales. Starting her career at Hewlett Packard and progressing onto Logica, Maryse now represents UnaVista as a Pre-Sales and Business Development Manager covering the Regulatory Compliance, Risk and Controls, and Data Solution offerings. In demonstrating and delivering details on the application capabilities and supporting the overall sales process, Maryse actively contributes to the growth of the business, providing thought leadership and ensuring solutions are in line with industry appetite. Now based in the United States, Maryse plays a fundamental role in driving and generating new business for the organization, identifying new opportunities for growth as well as supporting local client engagements.

The views expressed in this material are those of the author as of 1/12/18 and may or may not be consistent with the views of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and its subsidiaries and affiliates (“BBH”), and are intended for informational purposes only. Neither Brown Brothers Harriman nor its affiliates or its financial professionals render tax or legal advice. Please consult with attorney, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. BBH is not affiliated with Maryse Gordon.