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Diversity, equity and inclusion: raising the bar in private investing

13 April 2022

Judith Peterson

Head of Marketing, Americas, Intertrust Group

Judith Peterson

Head of Marketing, Americas, Intertrust Group

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At a recent panel hosted by Intertrust Group, experts discussed what diversity, equity and inclusion means to them, how initiatives in the investment world are evolving and what the future holds

Cultivating a sense of belonging – and focusing on retention as well as recruitment – are some of the ways in which companies can advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Intertrust Group recently held an event, Trailblazers & Legacy Makers, which showcased leaders who have used their influence, careers, and passion to disrupt and innovate the investment management industry. In a panel that I moderated, a trio of investment experts discussed how DEI should involve tangible steps, not just “talking points on paper”.

The panel, entitled Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Private Investing: How Early Adopters Raised the Bar, comprised Josette Thompson, managing director at Prosek; Sandra Powers Murphy, chief executive and founder of Noble Ark Ventures; and Rebecca Chia, head of business development and investor relations at Atalaya Capital Management. Together we explored how we each defined DEI, how we saw initiatives evolving and what the future holds for diversity, equity and inclusion.

This was the second in our series of Distilled Insights events, where we’re engaging a wealth of industry experts to discuss topical issues in the fund space.

Defining diversity, equity and inclusion

Thompson said that her view of DEI was influenced by her experience as a black woman as well as by her career. “Diversity is fact,” she said. “The conversation on whether or not it’s a business imperative feels stale at this point. We know that it is.”

She added: “Equity is obviously incredibly important, for example the policies and protocols you have in place to ensure you’re addressing the systemic barriers that might be in your organisation.”

Along with inclusion, she added “belonging”, saying she preferred the acronym “DEIB”.

According to Thompson, employees can have similar academic backgrounds, but if they don’t have a connection with each other – where they really feel part of the team – it doesn’t work.

“I encourage companies to really look at how they’re cultivating ‘belonging’,” she said.

Powers Murphy echoed this sentiment, saying the notion of belonging, community and welcoming different perspectives was key to DEI.

She said that, essentially, what we want when we walk into a room is “to see that not everyone looks the same, that everyone comes at it from a different perspective – and we share our work together.”

She has worked with a lot of diversity-led and women-led organisations and found that they grow diversity more effectively.

For Chia, DEI means creating an environment where diverse thoughts are encouraged. “The best ideas come to the top when you have diverse voices,” she said.

How diversity, equity and inclusion is evolving

In terms of advancing DEI, the private funds industry is focused on putting tangible steps in place and measuring their success, according to Chia.

Companies increasingly have three- to five-year strategic plans in place, added Powers Murphy: “Larger organisations really want to see this in writing. The regulatory bodies have made these requirements as well.”

She said she’d also seen a lot more training on the language used in company meetings. “There’s an emphasis on how we communicate to try to make it truly inclusive.”

Thompson said that while DEI is vital in recruitment, that’s equally true when it comes to retention. “You need that talent in the door, but you also need to figure out how to cultivate that talent.”

More broadly, Thompson noted that more and more companies want to tell their “DEI story” but don’t always know how to articulate their values. “It’s so important to be authentic, transparent and accountable.”

Success stories in diversity, equity and inclusion

I also asked the trio to share the most significant success stories in their workplaces and among clients.

Powers Murphy said she was excited that DEI was increasingly a factor when endowments and foundations pick portfolio managers.

“For the first time ever, when diversity-led and women-led firms are being considered for investment options, we really feel we have a chance of being selected as a manager,” she said. “There is a desire to engage, in order to benefit from that diversity.”

Atalaya Capital Management has created a DEI forum to find out what’s important to employees. “We are starting to take baby steps towards creating new initiatives,” explained Chia.

The company has also started an affinity group for women, to make sure female employees feel supported.

Thompson highlighted a client that had developed its own training to address DEI issues. “They have a ‘day of understanding’ across all their regions, where they have talks around diversity, equity and inclusion topics,” she said. “And they walk away with very tangible next steps of how to bring those concepts to life within the organisation.”

The future of diversity, equity and inclusion

According to Powers Murphy, we’ll see more DEI commitment from companies, who will strive to ensure their actions match their written words. “We’re starting to move that needle,” she said. “Companies will consider how to be truly inclusive, and how they impact society.” This could include who they hire, their client base and even relationships with suppliers.

The panel concluded that, in future, metrics would be vital: how a company defines DEI, what their goals and objectives are, how it will be mandated and working to improve it year-on-year.

To watch a video of the full panel discussion on this exciting topic, please visit Diversity, equity & inclusion.

Why Intertrust Group?

  • At Intertrust Group, we’re proud that approximately 48% of our total global employees are women.
  • Intertrust Group is committed to championing diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work and supply chain. Our Trailblazers & Legacy Makers event is just one platform we’re using to help foster responsible growth in the fund industry.
  • Intertrust Group is a publicly listed company with 70 years’ experience in providing world-class trust and corporate services to clients around the world.