Inclusion at the heart of ESG - Moving the needle on inclusion

Moving the needle on inclusion

Author: Maha Khan Phillips

How inclusion works in practice. Lessons and perspectives from Virginie Maisonneuve, CFA and Jayne Stiles, ASIP. 

Immersion into different cultures and perspectives helped both Virginie Maisonneuve, CFA, global chief investment officer, equity, at Allianz Global Investors, and Jayne Styles, ASIP, former chief executive officer at MS Amlin Investment Management, understand the need for diversity and inclusion in the investment industry.

In a conversation with Juliet Bullick, head of strategic initiatives, Europe at Fidelity International, and member of CFA UK’s Inclusion and Diversity Network, at CFA UK’s virtual conference, Inclusion at the Heart of ESG, both Maisonneuve and Styles highlighted their own career experiences.

“From my perspective, what’s been really impactful is that I was born in France but left right after my MBA to go and work and live in China in the mid-80s. That first immersion of work into a global culture, followed by moving on to Scotland and then the US and so on, that global experience really helped me to understand how different cultures, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds could play a part,” said Maisonneuve.

In a similar way, Styles highlighted her experience of running European and then Asian portfolios. “You understand that there is a different growth dynamic and different culture in each place. Then, because I was bringing what I learnt from previous experiences, I was able to challenge the conventional wisdom [in those places].”

Both panellists emphasised the role of neuroscience and data science in inclusion. “If you think of mirror neurons and how you create connections, that’s really important. It does yield results,” said Maisonneuve.

One of her own approaches to promote inclusion is to bring groups of people together in task forces, she said, “particularly when you have to deal with complex problems [across] different divisions, not only investments but also operations and marketing and legal and technology or whatever, I find the task force really helpful, you bring people from all backgrounds together and have a really clear goal. It is helpful not only to resolve an issue but also to connect across the group and appreciate diversity,” she said.

But there is still a great deal more to be done. When asked by Bullick whether companies are seeing diversity, equity and inclusion no longer as a ‘nice to have’ but a business imperative, Styles said she felt there was still some way to go for the industry to reach maturity. “The data from the investment management industry is not showing yet that it’s across the board. It’s becoming a license to operate, but I don’t think it’s there at the moment,” she said. 


She highlighted the importance of data science –traditionally applied to investment decision-making - to talent decision-making as well. “To understand how the lived experience impacts people is really important. Also, culture comes from the top. Having an inclusive CEO, someone who is humble and kind and who listens, and brings together a taskforce of volunteers to shift the dial is very important and it does work,” Styles said.

She also emphasised the need for long term planning, building a wide talent base – for example by including more returners to the industry or looking internally in other departments – and creating transparency around promotions. “We also need to widen the talent pool by looking at very specific points that are going to be success criteria for the role. The longer your list of criteria, the smaller your talent pool will be,” she said, arguing, for example, that a list of six specific criteria, focused on behaviours rather than technical skills which can be reasonably taught, could widen the talent pool.

Both Maisonneuve and Styles also emphasised the importance of mentorship, not only for mentees, but also so that mentors could understand their organisations and the aspirations of people within it. Maisonneuve also highlighted the need to work with strong human resources partners. “HR is really important in helping top management to understand what is going on within their organisation. Are there new trends, new things, people, who are very good but in the wrong job? How do we harness that?”

She said it was time to take action. “Take action on it, don’t wait for others to do it. Think about ways you can make a difference.”

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