Phoebe Stone, Head of Sustainable MPS
Human experience and perspective is widely accepted to be a contributor of business success. Studies support the fact that diversity can improve efficiency1, lead to happier and more productive teams2 and drive innovation amongst employees3. According to a survey recently conducted by Robert Walters, 85% of employees say that increasing diversity is a priority, yet almost half of employers do not have programmes in place to attract diverse talent.
There are many theories proposing methods on how to improve diversity within an industry. One measurable and effective way is to implement grassroots strategies focusing on widening the spectrum of diversity at the most junior level. By nurturing a broad set of young individuals, businesses can then develop diverse and effective workplaces for years to come. The asset and wealth management sectors are, for the most part, fragmented in nature, which makes collaboration essential for success. By standing side-by-side and sharing the responsibility for bringing in and fostering a new generation, we will have the best chance of galvanising real change.
A grassroots approach can take many forms. Appealing to a wider demographic of people at a junior level, be that graduates or school leavers, is a hugely important part of changing the perception of our industry to one that is open, transparent and progressive. Role models appear to be a significant driver in inspiring and influencing young peoples' career choices. If companies, both individually and collectively, can prioritise supporting and outwardly promoting these essential role model figures across their businesses, this is likely to have a meaningful impact. It is widely agreed that it is important to have a range of role models at different stages of their career development; as inspiring as a top CEO from a diverse background will be to some, to others it can be ineffectual because achievement at those levels seems so unattainable.
A recent example is Reggie Nelson, a young man that knocked on doors across Kensington in a quest to enter the city. He is now utilising the Legal & General platform to raise awareness about the lack of ethnic diversity in asset management and acting as a visible and accessible role model. During 2018, Reggie was a guest speaker on a Radio 1 tour to community centres and schools across some of the London boroughs to share his journey provide advice and inspire young adults across the city. He said 'I share my story because I want people like me to understand that you can change, you can make a better life for yourself.'4
In collaboration with five other asset and wealth management businesses, LGT Vestra is hugely honoured to have recently co-sponsored 'She Can Be', an initiative organised by the Lord Mayor's Appeal. This deeply inspiring one-day event brought together over 150 young women aged between 14 and 18 from a broad range of backgrounds and boroughs across London. Ahead of the event, a large percentage of these young women stated that they did not believe they had the confidence to consider a career in the City of London. By introducing these young women to different companies, role models, male allies and senior female leaders, the day was designed to motivate and encourage the girls to increase their knowledge and build confidence in their future career aspirations. This is the second year that the event has run, and follows a very successful event last year that saw 100% of girls who attended the day agreeing that they would now consider a career in the City. Initiatives such as these are vitally important, and with support from businesses from across the asset and wealth management sectors they can continue to do invaluable work around challenging perspectives and inspiring greater numbers to apply to join our industry.
If businesses adopt this double-pronged approach of promoting visible role models and supporting dedicated grassroots programmes, a broader range of young people will start to apply for front-office roles. In this way, our sector will be equipped to continue to innovate and to guarantee itself an exciting future for both employees and clients.
(1) - Diversity, Social Goods Provision, and Performance in the Firm - Massachusetts Institute Of Technology - http://economics.mit.edu/files/8851; Workforce Diversity: A Key to Improve Productivity, Ankita Saxena - https://ac.els-cdn.com/S2212567114001786/1-s2.0-S2212567114001786-main.pdf?_tid=0f7a92a3-25de-4185-84eb-9b818a0424b6&acdnat=1550739549_2391d2407dde8aeec2a98f0317f6a249
(2) - The diverse organisation: Finding gold at the end of the rainbow - Ryerson University - http:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hrm.20459/abstract
(3) - Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce - Forbes - http://images.forbes.com/ forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Innovation_Through_Diversity.pdf
(4) Said to pupils at The Cumberland School in Plaistow https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/reggie-nelson-returns-to-the-cumberland-school-in-plaistow-1-5769850