On Balance

On Balance

From university workshops to parental leave policies, Rhiannon Collis focuses the diversity lens on ourselves.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Ever since Majedie launched its first funds back in 2003, ‘Consensus is the enemy of outperformance’ has been our mantra. Fast forward 17 years and the perils of groupthink are widely documented and ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ (D&I) has become an established element of the corporate lexicon. One strand of this is increasing female representation and clients are rightly asking fund managers across the industry what specific efforts we are making to move the needle on this challenging issue.

Why does this matter to us? Firstly, it has always been common sense that having a variety of perspectives, ways of processing information and approaches to problem solving optimises decision-making. Over the years this view has informed our decision making in seeking to build a cognitively diverse Investment Team. Secondly, we want to have the best talent on our team and by attracting more women to apply for roles at Majedie — particularly on the Investment Team — by definition, this makes each recruitment round even more competitive, and it’s difficult to see a downside to that. Thirdly, we have long argued the case for Responsible Capitalism. We engage with our investee companies to ensure that they are mindful of all their stakeholders and act responsibly, but we also turn the lens on ourselves: making efforts to increase female participation in our industry is, simply, the responsible thing to do.

At our last graduate analyst recruitment round, out of several hundred applications the proportion from women was just 18% (which we believe is a not untypical number amongst our industry peers, for purely investment roles). The wider picture is that only 1,725 of 16,040 active fund managers globally are women (source: Citywire). We want to do better than this — representative diversity matters and we’re first to put our hands up and say there’s work to do. Our approach is captured in our initiative ‘Lowering Barriers to Raise the Bar’. This is about holding ourselves fully to account to ensure that we’re hiring and retaining the brightest and the best. We’re seeking to encourage more women to apply by lowering the barriers to entry — often barriers of perception — that discourage potential women recruits.

Whenever I speak to women undergraduates to better understand their perspectives on the asset management industry, a continually repeated message is that our industry is stalked by characters that wouldn’t be out of place in The Wolf of Wall Street. Depressing stuff, not least because it couldn’t be further from my own experience here. If many young women view our industry as a testosterone-fuelled, machismo environment, little wonder that as an industry we’re not deluged with applications.

Last month Majedie launched an investment competition aimed at women undergraduates at 68 different UK universities. The three qualifying teams will be given a notional £25,000 to invest in listed equities and allowed to trade as they wish. We will be providing workshops on stock selection, portfolio construction, financial modelling, ESG integration, and mentoring throughout the period. 

The industry-wide challenge we face is to encourage women to see the investment world as an entirely natural habitat for them. It’s thought-provoking that having a father in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) career or finance role increases the probability his daughter will become a CFA Institute member by 29% more than it does that of a son, and having a mother in a STEM or finance role increases the probability her daughter will do so by 48% more (source: CFA Institute).

Our broad university outreach programme is the first step in our effort to increase female participation, but it’s only the start. It’s just as important to support women throughout their careers. This isn’t about giving women special treatment — many women who have gone before me have battled to be judged on their capabilities and accomplishments alone — but about making sensible adjustments to working patterns to help women to continue to flourish professionally even as the tug of domestic demands intensifies. We’re encouraged and proud of the fact that since Majedie was founded 17 years ago, 100% of our colleagues who have left to go on maternity leave have returned. We continue to review flexible working and parental leave policies (for both women and men, of course); a recent initiative has been to offer an extra day’s holiday for a child’s first day at school.

Good intentions are one thing, but more important is tangible impact. Boston Consulting Group research (across 14 countries) showed that 96-98% of large companies (which they define as having over 1,000 employees) have D&I programmes but three quarters of employees in underrepresented groups feel no associated benefit. Why is this? Perhaps it’s because you simply can’t successfully graft good practices onto an already hollow corporate culture.

For us, corporate culture means the myriad of decisions that make up our everyday behaviour and underpin our intention to always do the right thing — even when no-one’s looking. Firmwide equity ownership means our starting point is one of genuine teamwork and collaboration. We have a strong sense of common purpose — of inclusivity — because we are in this together.