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Three women on why investment industry needs to evolve

·4-min read
Diversity is the key to the future. Image: Getty
Diversity is the key to the future. Image: Getty

As healthcare professionals, researchers and governments battle the health crises of Covid-19, some countries are now in the next stages of their fight, including the easing of lockdown restrictions and proactive economic reforms.

While public health and wellbeing remain paramount, later phases of the pandemic will likely see people turning to their investments. It will be more crucial than ever for industry professionals to help them navigate uncertainty and volatility.

To meet these needs, investment decisions must move beyond traditional thinking. With many firms already recognising a link between diversity and better investor outcomes, resources for attracting and promoting women were in high demand before Covid-19.

But, like so many other existing trajectories, the pandemic has super-charged the need for investment management to evolve.

Particularly once the dust settles — and for firms who already have an eye on what comes next — female leaders say that a few vital changes can accelerate and deepen the industry’s necessary evolution.

Margaret Franklin, Global CEO of CFA Institute, Heather Brilliant, President and CEO of Diamond Hill Capital Management and Maria Wilton AM, Non-Executive Director of CFA Institute, explore four big ways investment management will need to change.

Looking down your own hallway

The investment industry will be critical in Australia's recovery. But is it diverse enough? Image: Getty

Attracting diverse external candidates can be difficult, especially in an industry like investment. That’s why, according to Franklin, employers need to start thinking more creatively about their internal talent, even if they don’t fit a traditional profile.

She notes that some of her early opportunities were the product of a similar approach.

“People saw that I cared deeply about what I was doing and the quality of that work. So, increasingly, they took chances,” she explains. “I think being creative and imaginative about who's in your own shop rather than always looking externally is important.”

“With all the turbulence and change, many firms are already considering how to involve their people in ways that deviate from the norm. So it’s a good time to start thinking beyond a traditional CV.”

Embedding diversity throughout the recruitment process

When looking for talent, internally or externally, female leaders stress the need for diversity from start to finish.

Franklin says recruiters should be tapping into professional networks of female leaders, who can often recommend other women. Brilliant also says employers should be aiming for diversity across the entire process, including interviews and hiring decisions.

“If you’re in an organisation where all your portfolio managers are of a similar demographic, then you need to bring in people besides the portfolio managers to help you make that decision,” says Brilliant.

Including men in the diversity conversation

Franklin cautions that advocates for gender inclusivity may need to do a better job of including men and boys in the conversation.

“If we're not attracting women, are we generally attracting the right men?” she asks.

While mentors and especially sponsors tend to be considered de facto routes for improving diversity, Franklin challenges the industry to start thinking more broadly about other types of diversity and how to build reciprocal relationships.

She cites her experience mentoring and sponsoring male millennials as an example. “I think the way you develop those relationships, the ones where you really get to see people's capabilities, can go both ways.”

Attracting diversity through purpose

Wilton, Franklin and Brilliant agree the industry needs some introspection if it wants to foster greater diversity, whether gender diversity or otherwise. Noting that all three of them entered investment management through happenstance, Brilliant asks, “How is it that both Marg and I, who have become somewhat successful in this industry, had no idea that it even existed?”

The consensus seems to be that the industry should rethink how it defines success and communicates purpose.

“The way the investment management business is generally promoted is not client-centric and it's not about the nobility of the work,” says Franklin. “When I started my career, it was all institutional. That's shifted dramatically to ownership by the individual and I think that that requires a different standard.”

Brilliant emphasises that money isn’t the only thing motivating most of the industry’s top talent and that, generally, businesses can reach more diverse candidates by articulating a mission.

“Would you believe that 75 per cent of the investment managers’ websites I looked at don’t publicly state their purpose or mission?” she says. “You can usually find some kind of vision — ‘we want to be the best active manager’ or whatever — but why they exist was missing.”

“In a time of uncertainty and upheaval, people might look at career opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. The industry needs to seize that opportunity, which will mean reassessing how we position ourselves to candidates.”

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Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club
Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club