Nicsa’s Annual DEI Perception Study, Prepared with EY, Identifies Authenticity Gaps and Offers Actionable Tips

By Nicsa posted 10-08-2021 01:21 PM


Nicsa’s Annual DEI Perception Study, Prepared with EY, Identifies Authenticity Gaps and Offers Actionable Tips

Asset management industry participants perceive high adoption of DEI importance; however, navigating path to measurable results presents challenges and opportunities.

Boston, MA – October 12, 2021– Despite a high level of acceptance of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, perceptions of meaningful progress fell below personal expectations from asset management industry participants. While firms across the industry made headway on increasing awareness and battling bias, many face continued challenges in addressing important areas of focus, including transparency, talent attraction and retention, and creating a shared corporate culture, according to Nicsa’s Annual DEI Perception Study.

The Study, an in-depth report offered by Nicsa’s Diversity Project North America, was released to registrants of the 2021 Nicsa General Membership Meeting on October 8. The 2021 report, prepared with Diversity Project member Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), explores insights on the perception of progress in the asset management industry and presents actionable tips on how to advance DEI within organizations. On the Clock, Advancing DEI in the Asset Management Industry is now available to the public via a fully accessible landing page.

Nicsa’s 2nd annual DEI Perception Study found that the asset management industry is on the clock to turn their commitments into meaningful, targeted actions that will drive progress. Jim Fitzpatrick, President & CEO of Nicsa, notes that it is not surprising that asset management participants across management levels expressed that we are not yet where we need to be on DEI given the stark examples of social injustice and inequality that transpired in 2020 and into 2021. The Study results highlighted the value of committed resources, executive level support, action-oriented training, professional development opportunities, and data collection and reporting as key factors for accelerating DEI in the most challenging of landscapes.

Analysis of the 2021 data led to eight key takeaways, each deeply explored in the Study.

  • The industry’s response to the events of last year created momentum, but work remains to shift perceptions and continue advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Differences in perceptions amongst demographic groups suggest people’s experiences in the industry vary widely, which can make it difficult to create a sense of shared culture.
  • DEI should be factored into every business decision and not be a stand-alone initiative.
  • Priorities should be set at the highest levels of the organization. Dedicated resources are essential.
  • Middle management can be a key enabler for change. Goals and accountability should be made clear.
  • Transparency can start now with available metrics. Roadmaps to expand over time should be developed and shared.
  • Training needs to evolve from raising awareness to shifting behaviors.
  • Attracting and retaining top diverse talent will come from putting real substance behind DEI statements and creating a sense of belonging.

The complete Study is available at

“There are a number of reasons why DEI is critical to our industry’s success, but forging business relationships and building investor trust are near the top of the list. Given that trust is built on corporate culture, asset managers can’t afford to neglect the transformation that is needed,” said Fitzpatrick. “Now is the time for firms across the industry to critically examine the trends and ideas identified in our 2021 DEI Perception Study, which have the potential to benefit asset managers, their employees, and investors alike.”

“EY is proud to join forces with Nicsa on the 2021 DEI Perception Study. The opportunity to evolve the industry’s corporate culture and environment is paramount,” said Thomas Arnold, a Partner in EY Wealth and Asset Management Consulting. “The Asset Management industry must come together to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the business in order to realize long-term success and the commitments of our collective stakeholders.”

About the Study:

  • Nicsa joined forces with EY, a member of its Diversity Project North America, to bring the 2021 DEI Perception Survey and Study to the asset management industry. 
  • The survey measured perceptions across DEI themes such as leadership; workforce; metrics and performance; talent, hiring, and work environment; training, mentorship, and sponsorship; and DEI response and commitment.
  • Approximately 1,200 respondents representing a diverse set of firms and organization types within the asset management industry participated in the survey.
  • Thirty-four business, HR, and DEI leaders from 22 of Nicsa’s Diversity Project North America member firms participated in a series of roundtable sessions to share insights on the perceptions captured in the survey data.
  • Quantitative data from survey responses, as well as qualitative information gathered during interactive round tables, were used to inform the 2021 DEI Perception Study, the results of which are intended to shape the industry’s responses and approaches to, and adaptation of, DEI issues in the near term.

Thematic year-over-year trend analysis uncovered the following changes in individuals’ perceptions:

  • SUCCESS IN ADVANCING DEI IS UNDER MORE SCRUTINY, with more respondents perceiving the asset management industry as lagging. 63% of last year’s respondents felt that it was Successful or Very Successful at advancing DEI while 62% of this year’s respondents felt that it was Somewhat Successful or Not Successful at All.
  • FIRM REPUTATIONS HAVE WORSENED. 57% of last year’s survey respondents agreed that their organization had an external reputation for having an inclusive work environment while 42% of this year’s respondents describe their organization’s external reputation as “average." 
  • DIVERSE LEADERSHIP REMAINS CRITICAL TO BUSINESS SUCCESS, with 86% of respondents indicating that it is "very important" or "important." However, male and white respondents lagged their female and non-white racially and ethnically diverse counterparts in perceptions of importance.
  • WORKFORCE DIVERSITY REMAINS IMPACTFUL TO PERFORMANCE, with 88% of this year’s and 90% of last year’s participants expressing that team diversity positively impacts organizational performance.
  • OPPORTUNITIES FOR MENTORSHIP AND SPONSORSHIP HAVE IMPROVED, though awareness about such opportunities has room to grow. 17% of Black or African American, 27% of LGBTQ+, and 18% of neurodiverse respondents believe that they have no opportunities to be a mentor, compared to an average of 11% overall.
  • COMMITMENT TO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT HAS WORSENED, with only a third of 2021 respondents acknowledging successful development opportunities for diverse employees.
  • “SAFE ENVIRONMENTS” ARE ON THE RISE, with 80% of 2021 respondents feeling that firms are committed to creating an environment of belonging and trust, however, some demographic segments believe that their organizations are significantly less committed.
  • IMPACT OF EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS (ERGs), COUNCILS, AND PROGRAMS REMAIN HIGH, but access to and awareness of these programs are lacking with 68% of this year’s respondents feeling that their organizations are “somewhat successful” or “successful” at providing access to mentorship / sponsorship programs, ERGs, and councils that address DEI.
  • PERCEIVED COMMITMENT TO SOURCING DIVERSE CANDIDATES HAS WORSENED, with 67% of 2021 respondents sensing that organizations are not successfully tapping diverse candidate pools to fill leadership positions.


 A webinar program is planned for November 3 that will explore these trends and more. To register, click here.

Those interested in joining the asset management industry’s mission to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion should reach out to Justine Phoenix, Head of Diversity Project North America at Nicsa.  

About Nicsa

Nicsa is a not-for-profit trade association striving to connect all facets of the global asset management industry in order to develop, share, implement, and advance leading practices.  For over fifty years, Nicsa has promoted an open and collaborative environment, where members’ and partners’ deep expertise and unique perspectives have come together to help strategically implement and support the industry’s most vital issues. Click here for more information about membership.

Nicsa aims to help firms operating in all segments of the global asset management industry meet the changing needs of their clients by aligning and educating industry participants through formal education programs, interactive forums, networking opportunities, and initiatives such as the Diversity Project North America. The Diversity Project’s goal is to accelerate progress towards a diverse and inclusive culture in the asset management industry to deliver the best possible results for clients, reflect the society we serve, and ensure long-term business sustainability. Click here for more information on Nicsa’s Diversity Project North America initiative.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, strategy, transaction and consulting services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via For more information about our organization, please visit