Most fund managers ignore racial diversity in staff, study shows

The majority of investment managers around the world are not measuring racial diversity within their staff, research by pension consultancy Redington showed.

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Some 56 percent of firms surveyed said they do not collect data on race among their employees, according to a poll of more than 100 asset managers with USD 1 trillion in total assets. Of the managers that do, 52 percent have no black investment team members, the survey said.

"The numbers are very, very low -- it’s not on the front of asset managers’ minds and it should be," Nick Samuels, head of manager research at Redington, said in an interview. "These are uncomfortable numbers and they need addressing."

The underrepresentation of minority groups is due to a combination of a lack of people in the pipeline, less diverse firms being less appealing to minorities and a reflection of the disparities already in society, Redington said in a report. By comparison, its survey found that gender was measured by more than three-quarters of firms.

British banks and asset managers have come under pressure to release a breakdown of ethnicity in their headcount as the Black Lives Matter protests spread across the U.S. and the U.K. in 2020. The U.K.’s markets regulator has put the finance industry on notice that it needs to increase diversity, saying it could block senior appointments at firms that don’t show enough progress.

"What we’re doing is turning the spotlight on the asset management community to engage them and push forward the agenda of hiring more diverse investment teams," Samuels said. "We can certainly direct a lot of money and if things don’t go the way we expect them to in the fullness of time, we’ll withdraw capital. We don’t want to go straight in with the stick."

One way asset managers can move forward on this is through internships. Redington co-founder Dawid Konotey-Ahulu helped start an internship program offering internships to Black students to kick-start their careers in investment management. The internships will begin in the summer of 2021.

"Internships can be very elusive," Samuels said. "They’re often about connections and if you’re on the outside looking in, it can be incredibly hard to break in."

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