Building diverse pools of talent in investment management

The UK's investment management sector is lucrative, but could benefit more from diverse talent

The UK investment management industry plays a major role in the economy, helping millions of individuals and families achieve their life goals by helping grow their investments. For the UK to retain its reputation as a global leader in investment management, sourcing diverse talent will be vital.

Diversity of cultures, backgrounds and experiences brings a variety of skills, thought, and perspectives to a workplace, and Investment20/20, the Investment Association’s talent solution, plays a pivotal role in diversifying the investment sector.

Investment20/20 has helped more than 2,000 aspiring professionals start their career in investment management. Focused on creating a more diverse and inclusive investment industry, 48% of current Investment20/20’s trainees are women, and 52% of current I2020 trainees are from ethnic minority backgrounds. In addition, 85% are from a state school, and 17% of current trainees received free school meals in secondary school – a strong indicator of socio-economic background.

It is encouraging to see that many businesses are recognising the value that diversity and inclusion brings to their workforce – allowing for greater creativity to solve complex problems and creating innovative solutions to help build business resilience. While good for business, it also helps the industry better reflect the investors, communities, and people it serves.

The conversation around diversity and inclusion has moved away from the business case alone and is now a growing priority for the regulator as a way of assessing risk. For example, earlier this year the Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority, and Bank of England put out a discussion paper– Diversity and inclusion in the financial sector – working together to drive change – to help build a framework for understanding how financial institutions are making these important changes and measuring the impact.

The desire to recruit from a diverse slate is not enough; we must show the system is changing effectively over time. This is a long-term investment – it is not about flogging a job, it’s about working with communities of people to build trust, relevance, and a tangible career destination.

Therefore, a key challenge for firms moving forward is to embed a diverse and inclusive recruitment process that hires on potential rather than experience, grades, or polish. If a change is not made in how the sector recruits, the outcome will not change either.

Bringing diverse talent into investment management

Recruitment is something Investment20/20 takes very seriously; we want to drive a long-standing sustainable approach to meeting the industry’s talent needs for the workforce of the future.

Throughout Investment20/20’s work, it has been constructing national programmes to attract young people and build awareness of topical industry themes and trends such as ESG and sustainability, digital, and data, into an inclusive approach to entry-level recruitment and development. Its trainees benefit from access to wide variety of high-quality development sessions on these areas which also helps to build knowledge, skills and confidence.

An example is Investment20/20’s award-winning Think Investments career programme. Earlier this year it piloted a curriculum embedded model with Westminster Kingsway College and Edinburgh College. Since then, it has added another 15 schools, colleges, and universities to its delivery plan, in addition to our existing comprehensive outreach provision, connecting future talent to our sector.

This innovative programme bridges the gap between education and investment management, from both a consumer perspective, and what it means to individuals – inspiring a broader base of young people to work in the sector. Investment20/20 has also enjoyed success with our Kickstart programme – working with Job Centre Plus to diversify recruitment within the industry and access a broader talent pool. More broadly, Investment20/20 has run a total of 220 student career events since January this year.

All our member firms sign up to Investment20/20’s principles of recruiting for potential, and subsequently have onboarded fantastic candidates which may not have been selected if firms had remained with  a standardised recruitment approach.

A recent example of work it has done in this space is on neurodiversity, with a particular focus on autism. The team hosted a series of webinars and training sessions to advise firms on how to adapt the process and culture of recruitment to not only attract neurodiverse candidates in the first place, but also to allow them to be their authentic selves at work. These changes are not time-intensive or expensive, but they have the potential to make a huge impact. Firms can make small changes to their job descriptions, assessment centres, and interviews, and as a result – open themselves up to a much wider pool of talent.

When Investment20/20 work with firms, it places a great deal of emphasis on career progression and personal development. A recent piece of academic research which looked at the experiences and career progression of industry professionals who started their career through Investment20/20, found that 85% of these professionals were offered a longer-term role by the firm they worked with during the trainee programme.

In addition, 79% are currently employed within investment management, and this increases to 87% when those in full-time education are excluded. Of those not currently working in the sector, 83% indicated they wish to pursue a career in the sector longer-term. We believe this demonstrates the true value-add of our programmes and illustrates that they act as a gateway into the industry longer-term.

Seeking diverse talent for the right reasons

Ultimately, central to the investment management industry’s success is accessing the right talent, and this enabled by putting in place outcomes-focused solutions that drive progress.

At the heart of Investment20/20 is a real ambition to promote greater opportunity and responsibility and help change the way talent and business collectively thrive.

However, we must remember that building these pools of talent is a continual work-in-progress and should not be viewed as a one-off initiative. Meaningful change happens when every hiring manager truly buys into the value of diversity and inclusive recruitment. This means looking for ‘cultural add’ rather than ‘cultural fit’ and challenging assumptions about the knowledge, skills, and experiences required for roles.

Karis Stander is Managing Director of Investment20/20.

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