ESG Clarity and sister publication DiversityQ have partnered with the reboot. campaign to spotlight the journeys of successful ethnic minority professionals who have risen to senior positions in the corporate world.
The series aims to support positive dialogue on race in the workplace and engage senior leadership across large organisations to help tackle conscious and unconscious biases, as well as create a truly inclusive workplace, by showcasing the ‘SuperBAMEs‘.
When Nizam Hamid was given the nickname “black man” on a 1990s bank trading floor it hurt.
He’s not alone, a June 2020 survey found that two thirds of black Britons have had a racial slur used directly against them.
The senior consultant ‘kiddigrant’, a Muslim born to Mauritian parents, recalls other incidents from his long and successful career, being told by someone senior “I want to hire someone like me” to feeling compelled to hang around in beer-soaked pubs with colleagues, lest they think him unsociable.
What helped him persist was a conviction that he had just as good a chance of succeeding as any of his peers, and a clear sense of doing the right thing: he reported the hiring individual’s casual racism, and he stayed in the pub for as long as he felt comfortable.
In his video interview, carried out by Ian Ashment, head of systemic and index investments at UBS Asset Management, Nizam discusses such incidents with elegance and eloquence – but no disdain.
Today, the in-demand adviser to asset managers on ETFs, indexing and strategy, believes one solution to a more diverse asset management sector is more effective recruitment.
“I’ve done recruitment processes at many firms and what’s always struck me is that there just aren’t enough applicants from the BAME community. It’s meaningless to have a quota if you don’t get enough applicants in the first place,” he said.
The first step would be to encourage more undergraduate applicants. This is the route Nizam took – studying economics at the University of Liverpool before being “fortunate”, as he puts it, to gain an equity analyst job at a regional broker.
But Nizam suggests fund businesses and financial services more broadly must go further – much further.
“We need to try and make people feel comfortable, go out into the local community and encourage them to apply for internships, help people to add value to their CVs and give them confidence they can have a role in the front office. The industry needs to help people to understand that, if they do the hard work, they are as capable as anyone else of achieving those roles.”
This, for Nizam, comes before changing cultures and assumptions.
Yes, casual racism issues persist in the workplace and we need to be aware of them – but he is comforted by the fact that human resources departments these days are supportive, understanding and want a working environment that works for everyone, from all backgrounds.
With more effective recruitment, the next generation of BAME financial professionals face as good a chance as any of us at succeeding.
But, as Nizam, is keen to emphasise, they must keep in mind that there’s a subtle hurdle, they need to go the extra mile and nothing comes without hard work.
His advice for younger or aspiring investment management employees?
“Get relevant work experience, do anything you can to add value to your CV, and once you’re there you must network – not just within your community but outside of your natural group – and above all be bold.
“You can achieve those roles in finance – and accomplish great things.”
The full video interview is below: