Aberdeen Asset Management and Helios Investment Partners are
taking steps to embrace gender diversity while encouraging
women to take up a career in investment management.
The firms are funding a new leadership program to help fix
the gender imbalance that remains rife throughout financial
services, according to an announcement from mentoring group SEO
London. Their "HerCapital" initiative, designed for female
undergraduate students, will initially be open to 50 women from
universities in the U.K.
Aberdeen and Helios aim to provide women with industry
skills before they start their career through on-campus
challenges, training workshops, mentoring and summer internship
opportunities. Efforts to increase gender diversity are gaining
traction globally since State Street Global Advisors in March
installed the 'Fearless Girl' statue across from
Wall Street's iconic charging bull. As part of its campaign to
include more women on boards, the $2.4 trillion asset manager
told companies it would vote against board director candidates
where progress was not being made.
[II Deep Dive: State Street Global Advisors Set to Use its
Sway to Put More Women on Boards ]
In the U.K., diversity programs are also becoming more
common. Recent initiatives have been embraced at Columbia
Threadneedle, Legal & General, Virgin Money and the
Financial Conduct Authority. Aberdeen's decision to back a
diversity program is significant as the asset manager is about
to become one the largest fund firms in Europe when it
completes its merger with Standard Life in the coming
Aberdeen's chief executive officer Martin Gilbert said the
industry needs a fresh approach because it "lagged behind other
professional services sectors in marketing itself to female
undergraduates." Gilbert said that he's "a firm believer in the
benefits diverse teams can make to a business."
His endorsement comes despite a recent study by a professor at the
University of Pennsylvania who suggested that "there is no
evidence available to suggest that the addition, or presence,
of women on the board actually causes a change in company
performance." But influential business leaders disagree.
Columbia Threadneedle's chief investment officer Mark
Burgess has been a passionate supporter of gender diversity
initiatives. Since heading up the firm's talent advisory group
six years ago, he has begun tracking how many women apply for
roles, how many are interviewed and whether the person the firm
decides to hire is female. Burgess is also recording why the
final hiring decisions are made.
A third of our workforce in the front office is female, he
said. "We have a number of high-profile females in senior
positions but we have more to do."
Burgess said that support needs to go beyond recruitment,
stressing that talent can be lost if women - and men - don't
feel they can juggle a family life. "Fund management is a
career suited to working parents. Not just women," he said.
"When my children were younger I never felt any issue
with getting home for bath time. We would encourage key people
to leave at 3pm for a sports day or a parents evening."
According to Burgess, the steps taken at Columbia
Threadneedle are starting to bear fruit and "the number of
mothers returning to work is very high."