What Leadership Means in 2021

By Nicsa posted 06-30-2021 01:00 PM


The ongoing COVID-19 virus. Vaccine availability and adoption. Workplace flexibility. Talent recruitment and retention. Initiatives to address racial disparities.


Faced with a growing volume of industry concerns, leaders of the largest asset management firms have more than enough to keep them up at night.


Attendees of Nicsa’s Fearless Leadership Symposium got to hear from two of those leaders — Mandell Crawley, CHRO of Morgan Stanley, and Marc Brookman, CEO of Schroders North America — regarding the bold choices they have made to build stronger and more inclusive workforces in 2021.




Brookman kicked off the conversation by asking Crawley to comment on Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman’s recent call for a full return to the office. (Gorman is requiring all staff to report back to the NYC office by Labor Day but noted that the company would remain flexible in splitting time between home and the office.)


“Morgan Stanley is the place where we do our best work,” Crawley said. “We've taken an incredibly thoughtful approach to how we return to the office. In the last year or so, we've had our best operating performance ever.”


“But as it relates to our culture, innovation, and support, we need to be together,” he added.  “The reality is that flexibility will mean very different things depending on where you sit in the firm's ecosystem.”


Brookman, who reopened Schroders’ New York City office in June 2020 to a limited group of employees, has set a universal reopening date of July 6, 2021. After joining Schroders just three years ago, Brookman said culture matters more to him than anything else — and that it’s challenging to build culture remotely.


“The question that every one of us needs to ask ourselves is, ‘What does flexibility mean to me as a leader or employee?’,” Brookman said.




Brookman said Schroders requires employees to disclose their vaccination status. “We found at our firm that 85% of employees either are or plan to be vaccinated,” he said. “I find myself managing to that 15% who are not.”


Crawley said Morgan Stanley’s approach to vaccinations varies based on location. In New York, the firm’s default policy is that individuals must be vaccinated or test negative within the last 72 hours to enter into the building.


“We're in the low 90s in terms of the percentage of employees in New York who are either fully or partially vaccinated. Another 3% or 4% intend to do so, and there’s a de minimis percentage of the population who have no intention of getting vaccinated. At some point, we have to ask ourselves what level of risk we are willing to accept.”




Brookman and Crawley both agreed that there’s no cure-all when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).


“If you take away nothing else, then know this: it will take a lot of time,” Crawley said. “It took generation after generation for us to get into this mess, and getting out will take deliberate effort and stamina.”


He said all firms need three elements to move the needle: “You need really good ideas, committed resources, and, most importantly, organizational will. And you’ve got to flex all three of those at the same time — I like to think of them as concentric circles.”


Brookman said that DEI is often an emotional topic, so it’s crucial to lead with data.


“A lot of times, people default to zero-sum thinking when it comes to this particular topic, assuming that one group’s progress has to come at the expense of another,” he said. “I personally reject that.”


Ultimately, Crawley said it’s about being willing to invest in a diverse pool of young talent. “I always say that I'm not a unicorn — there's a lot of great raw material out there that just needs to be nurtured and given the same opportunities that I've been fortunate enough to have.”

Note: Although the observations contained in this work represent the best thoughts of the individuals comprising the Nicsa panel, they do not necessarily reflect the views of Nicsa or any of its member organizations. Matters addressed in this work may touch upon legal or regulatory matters, however nothing herein is intended to be or should be construed as legal advice. You should contact your own counsel in order to obtain legal advice regarding these or any other matters.