ROUNDTABLE :- Opalesque Roundtable Series – DIVERSITY

It&’s all about the data! But when it comes to diversity, the data is all there, but nobody acts on it. The asset management industry purports to be a meritocracy where companies, founders and investment managers that produce strong returns would (easily) attract additional capital, but the reality looks different. Despite an ever increasing pile of data and studies on overperformance of diverse teams and founders – the VC industry has had the numbers for 20 years, HBR has a large collection of studies and the Nordic banks have done a study of thousands of female CEOspeople are not changing their behavior.

Three decades after the first efforts to achieve more diversity in the finance sector, 98% of the $69tn industry is still under the control of white men. In fact, investors in UK funds are more likely to have their money managed by a man called David than a woman. If diversity brings outperformance, then traditional ways lead to underperformance. This discussion is therefore much more than a social justice conflict.

Despite all the talk around diversity, the problem runs very deep and in the end touches on everyone&’s personal beliefs. Harvard and Wharton professors showed that with the identical pitch, good-looking men outperformed bad looking men, and bad looking men outperformed women. Bad looking women slightly outperformed good-looking women, but it was within the margin of error. Knowing that both female and male investors (!) select pitches by gender and by looks – why on earth would you use an investing process that selects the best looking men rather than the best company? How comes we still assume that blond women are dumb in some shape or form and that pretty women always get by being pretty? At the same time, workplace data shows that women who support and encourage other women get penalized at performance reviews and pay reviews.

There&’s still a lot of ground to cover, but also clear signs of progress. In this Roundtable we set out to explore why we are still stuck – why it is so hard to change the paradigm and modus operandi of a whole industry, and what measures and processes do help (hint: hard rules, see page 13, 23, 25).

The 2019 Opalesque Diversity Roundtable took place in London with:

  1. Amanda Pullinger, CEO, 100 Women in Finance
  2. Anya Navidski, Founding Partner, Voulez Capital
  3. Christiane Schönbach, Partner, WTS
  4. Hannah Czerkawska, HR Director – Investment Management, Fidelity International
  5. Dr. Ilga Haubelt, Head of Equity Opportunities, Newton Investment Management
  6. Kamal Hassan, Partner, Loyal VC

The group also discussed:

  • Why the prevalent investment selection processes are mostly dysfunctional, reward irrational self-confidence and fall for numerous biases: Traditional pitching formats (Shark Tank, Lion&’s Den etc.) will mislead most investors into the wrong investments. Should investors take money off from non-diverse teams? (page 4, 9, 26)
  • Terms, culture and unhealthy power dynamics are deterring female founders to work with traditional VC. Where they go instead (page 11, 26)
  • “If you hire more women, then more women will be funded” – but that isn&’t happening either. Why, and how to change that (page 10, 33). What are female investors actually looking for? (page 34)
  • Why relationships trump performance and what to do about it (page 7)
  • The lack of role models and how to overcome it (page 7, 13, 17, 21, 28)
  • What do five-year-olds already learn about gender roles? All-girls vs. mixed schools. How 100 Women in Finance inspires teenagers to become a portfolio manager when they grow up (page 8-9, 17)
  • What can asset management learn from a music audition? (page 13)
  • The incredibly shrinking female workforce: Why is a baby a problem, exactly? (page 29). How to retain highly educated women and deal with peer pressure when you prefer working over staying at home (page 17). Why a UK pension hired a senior female investment manager who had been out of the job for 10 years (page 25). The challenge of female drop-offs making it to growth-stage ventures (page 28)
  • “Being diverse” is in itself not a competitive advantage. There&’s something else that makes the difference between very successful or very unsuccessful (page 30)
  • Redefining Impact and ESG as an opportunity rather than a compliance obligation (page 32)

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