To improve diversity, asset managers should rip up the rulebook on recruitment

by | Apr 28, 2021

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Ripping up the rulebook

So how can the investment industry increase the diversity of its workforce? The structural issues that create the conditions for inequality will take a long time to fix. Many of the industry’s ongoing D&I projects rightly focus on efforts to improve access at entry level, such as internship and early-career programmes. These are important initiatives and should help us reach people who had been made to feel like a career in finance wasn’t for them.

But there is a wealth of talent already present in the market that is being overlooked. Asset managers should not be afraid to change their traditional recruitment methods if they want to find – and retain – these candidates.

First and foremost, the notion of the quick “like-for-like” hire should be done away with. One of the main reasons asset management remains overwhelmingly white and male is that the industry has continually sought to fill senior vacancies at speed by recruiting staff with a similar profile to previous incumbents. This approach may make things easier for hiring managers and minimise disruption in the short term, but it lacks ambition and significantly narrows the field of potential candidates.

Job advertisements will often specify a certain number of years’ experience in an equivalent role, filtering out a swathe of talented people in more junior positions who are ready to step up. While experience is always useful, it may not be the most relevant criterion in a fast-changing industry.

Requirements for sales roles, for example, are rapidly being transformed by shifts in the behaviour of clients and technology that offers new ways to interact with them. Similarly, these roles require far more technical knowledge than they once did. A more inclusive and effective approach would be for hiring managers to determine the needs of the business, both now and in the future, and recruit on the basis of the skills required, rather than looking for past experience.

The language used in advertisements is also important. Academic research shows certain words with masculine associations – such as “competitive” or “assertive” – are off-putting to women. And while men will apply for jobs for which they meet only 60 per cent of the criteria, women are less likely to put themselves forward unless they are confident they are 100 per cent qualified, which suggests advertisements should be focused and to the point, rather than outlining reams of prerequisites.

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