A Journey to Be Kept Alive: Harnessing the Power of ID&E in the Financial Services Sector

By Nicsa posted 12-16-2021 09:47 AM


A Guest Blog by State Street | ALFI Member | Diversity Project North America Member


Abdel Hmitti, Senior Vice President, Head of EMEA Private Equity & Real Assets Fund Services

Joshua Lovell, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Transfer Agency Operations


Every generation faces a new set of social and economic conditions. They take on the reins handed down to them, but their journey does not always follow the old path. Evolving to meet the needs of a new environment is a huge part of growth. Quite similarly, the vision for inclusion and diversity at its inception was very different from what it is today. From focussing on overcoming racial and gender bias to now nurturing equal opportunities for people and employees globally, organizational values behind inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) have continued to evolve over the years.

The old challenges exist but while we address them, the new challenges of a new era and workforce cannot be overlooked. Millennials and Gen Z, for instance, are two of the most diverse generations. Inclusion and diversity was part of their culture at school, their neighborhoods and their social groups. They did not need the workplace to teach them diversity and inclusion. On the contrary, they understand more clearly what it means – a diverse workforce is an innovative one, where people understand challenges and face them to find solutions with the best possible outcomes for everyone involved.

In this changing approach to the understanding of inclusion, diversity and equity, whose role is to set an example and create an inclusive workplace? While leaders set the tone and make an effort to implement ID&E policies from the top to the junior staff, millennials strongly believe that employees at all levels should have the possibility to take positive actions and influence meaningful changes. It is the pervasive feeling of belonging, which leads to contribution, that lies at the very heart of their definition of an inclusive workspace.

Undeniably, millennials expect organizations to implement intentional actions, not random ID&E events. It can be achieved by inviting employees to the conversations while planning activities so the ideas and the onus are both on individual and public commitments. Be it ID&E networking forums, working groups or townhalls with leadership, transparent internal communication, mentoring and reverse mentoring sessions to create permanent collaboration between junior and senior employees as well as to bring different perspectives to everyday tasks. ID&E policies must be real, not only words on the paper.

In many ways, one of the other greatest allies and the main drivers for inclusion and diversity is technology. Thanks to hybrid working, our hiring processes have expanded significantly into other cities and far-flung places giving the companies access to broader and more diverse talent pool. Millennials treat the internet as a trigger for accelerating globalization as well as a medium for shared experiences - we can have so many things in common, although we come from different backgrounds. Even with technology creating new avenues, there still exist gaps that arise from differences in people, customs and cultures.

One of the things I always look forward to understanding is how we can extend this atmosphere of equity in the asset management industry. At State Street, the conversations are constant and the outcomes are palpable. Case in point, we recently announced strategic engagements with leading industry and education-focused organizations that advocate for and support the advancement of Black and Latinx professionals in financial services, as part of our 10 Actions to address racism and inequality in the workplace.

Moreover, State Street is a founding member of the Diversity Project North America (DPNA) which mission is to advance ID&E within our industry’s workforces, leadership and corporate culture.  The DPNA recently released the results of a survey of over 1200 industry professionals. One of the key findings of the Nicsa Annual DEI Perception Report was that differences of perceptions among demographic groups suggests people’s experience in the industry vary widely which can make it difficult to create a sense of shared culture.

The report noted that establishing a strong culture that emphasizes the importance of diversity and equity and fosters inclusivity and belonging can be a differentiator in retaining top talent. For organizations seeking to foster diverse talent from within and attract it from outside, keeping a sharp eye on whether culture is established, understood, and experienced in shared ways across employee groups is critical to success. Leaders who recognize talent diversity and engagement as core to executing on long-term business strategies, both to enable the innovation necessary to keep up with change and to attract and retain key talent, will yield a differentiated and more authentic culture.

Our ID&E journey is an important point to keep alive as we indisputably continue to evolve under ever-changing social and economic conditions.