Forefront Communications

Ignites: Real Progress on Diversity Is Uncomfortable, Critical: Execs

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Sam Belden

Sam Belden

Talk is cheap when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion, and the asset management industry struggles to take the sometimes uncomfortable steps to make real progress, industry executives say.

“We all say we think diversity is a good thing, but I don’t know if we actually believe it,” said Lori Heinel, deputy global CIO at State Street Global Advisors, during a panel discussion at the Nicsa General Membership Meeting earlier this month.

Otherwise, there is “no reason” why the industry should struggle to reflect the gender, ethnicity and other characteristics of the general population, Heinel argued.

One of the biggest issues is that “generally, this industry is not attractive to people of different backgrounds,” said Dan Houlihan, head of asset servicing for the Americas at Northern Trust, who moderated a separate panel on diversity.

But that brand problem can be reframed as a big opportunity, said Connie Lindsey, head of corporate social responsibility and global diversity and inclusion at the Chicago-based bank. The key is to use hard data to develop best practices and actual processes for making diversity and inclusion part of the hiring and retention process.

“There are some things we have to do differently,” said SSGA’s Heinel. “You have to take the risk on personally.”

And assuming accountability can be hard.

“We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said Gary Casagrande, VP of global market strategy at investment data technology provider Confluence, speaking on a separate Nicsa panel on diversity.

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