One year after 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests sparked reflection on diversity in the investment industry, research published by the Investor Leadership Network shows that major players have implemented a wide range of equity and inclusion initiatives. But the organizations say there is still a long way to go.
The Investor Leadership Network, which is comprised of 14 institutions with $8 trillion in assets under management, released the results of an internal review of members that details their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) efforts on Tuesday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement are evolving the conversation about the nature of a sustainable, long-term business beyond gender to consider wider diversity,” the report said. “Like all industries, whilst we are making progress, we recognize the need to accelerate our work.”
The review was completed by EY, which looked at the institutions’ strategy summaries and data, and conducted interviews with executives and its own external research. It covers the institutions’ diversity and inclusion programs for employees, as well as how they engage with external managers and portfolio companies.
Network members including Canadian pension plans like Alberta Investment Management Company, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and CPP Investments and asset managers including Generali Group, Allianz, and Natixis Investment Managers revealed that their initiatives start within their offices.
For Generali, this means that it has tied diversity metrics to executive pay. Meanwhile, both Generali and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System have CEO-led diversity councils.
“Organizations in which the CEO is personally involved in setting and delivering the EDI strategy appear to demonstrate more advanced initiatives and approaches on EDI,” the report said. “There must be support from the CEO and the rest of senior leadership to scale an EDI strategy effectively.”
These institutions have also made changes to their hiring and retention practices. AIMCo and Dutch pension manager APG make sure to use gender-neutral language in job descriptions. AIMCo also has standardized interview guides for every role to ensure “neutral tone and consistency” with candidates. Many have broadened their focus beyond gender equity, too.
“While efforts to date have largely focused on achieving gender balance, internally and externally, we are beginning to explore intersectionality and commit to inclusion of other strands of diversity, e.g. ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, and cognitive diversity,” according to the report.
CPP Investments has set targets across a range of diversity metrics, targeting 30 percent of senior investors to be women, and 28 percent to be minorities.
To ensure that diversity extends to the boardroom, private markets firm Ardian has pledged that its investment committee will be 30 percent female by 2030.
“Though the setting of diversity targets raises some questions about tokenism, for many of us, the effect it has had so far is a move in the right direction,” the report said.
These groups are also working on how they extend diversity initiatives into how they invest. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has set a 30 percent female representation target for boards at its portfolio companies.
Meanwhile, at public company shareholder meetings, CPP plans to vote against the re-election of directors responsible for board nomination decisions where there are “insufficient levels of gender diversity,” unless they disclose a plan to change.
OMERS Ventures (the retirement system’s venture capital investing program) has collected diversity data on all of its portfolio companies, with the goal of helping those companies identify areas for change.
These institutions still face challenges. Among them, according to the report, are managing diversity initiatives globally: different countries have distinct laws and social mores that make it difficult to create blanket policies.
The industry itself also presents challenges. Institutions need to overcome the perception that the industry is not inclusive — and the reality that there are few diverse role models in positions of power. The sector is also overwhelmed by standards, codes, initiatives, and recommended frameworks for diversity, which, according to the report, makes it difficult for institutions to determine which to follow.