“I’ve typically been the only BAME person in the room or in meetings. This is a societal issue, reflected in the makeup of the workforce.”
My colleague, Robert Walker, managing director and co-head of asset stewardship at State Street Global Advisers, talks passionately about the rewards that diversity can unleash.
For anyone who missed the 2017 headlines, he’s talking about the McGregor-Smith review of race in the workplace.
It showed that BAME individuals struggle to participate in the workforce when compared to their white counterparts. Yet, if BAME talent is fully utilised, the UK economy could receive a £24 billion boost – some 1.3% of UK GDP.
The son of Caribbean immigrants, a kiddigrant, who spent 10 years as a sell-side analyst, believes that employers must do more to pick up the slack.
“There’s a cultural element here that companies need to examine. Corporate cultures tend to be good at creating shared values for the majority – but these values tend not to recognise difference.”
For example, at his employer State Street there’s a 10-step plan, which includes diversity at board level and in senior management. This is the sort of action he’d like to see more of across the industry.
He urges companies to place more focus on demographics and work harder to find the talent, wherever it is.
BAME employees have a vital role to play too, especially in shouting about their success.
“You need to champion your success in the workplace. So many people do a good job and then just wait for someone to praise them,” he says. “But this doesn’t typically happen in the real world. So what you need to do is make sure you’re tracking and recording your successes and talking about them with senior leaders or your manager in your appraisal. Take every opportunity to showcase yourself in an effective way.”
Robert also talks passionately about the value of mentoring. This isn’t surprising to hear given he’s seen the value of good advice from both sides of the table. He’s a mentor himself and has in turn benefitted from the mentorship of others – not least State Street Global Advisor’s chief investment officer, Rick Lacaille.
He has two specific pieces of advice:
First, people should be unafraid to seek out mentors whenever they find them. In many cases these will be people who want to help but are themselves perhaps fearful of taking the first step. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Secondly, BAME professionals must invest in their own development, taking responsibility for their own careers and overcoming roadblocks.
As Robert knows from personal experience, professional development and mentoring can be closely linked. Courses can be one of the best opportunities to build a network across an organisation, offering exposure to colleagues at your own level and above.
With more companies pulling people upwards – and more employees pushing themselves upwards – the asset management industry has a good chance of playing its part in the £24bn opportunity.
As Robert puts it: “The economic opportunities of inclusive companies are huge.”
See the video interview below where Rick Lacaille executive vice president and senior investment advisor at State Street interviews Robert Walker, managing director and co-head of asset stewardship at State Street Global Advisers.