Dame Helena Morrissey: We are not trying to develop a boy band; one of this, one of that. As well as fairness, you want cognitive diversity

Need to attract right talent

clock • 8 min read

Lawrence Gosling talks to LGIM's Dame Helena Morrissey about how the investment world can improve its image problems and what real diversity looks like for the sector.

Dame Helena Morrissey is a welcome addition to the judging panel for Investment Week's inaugural Women in Investment Awards, as she is a role model for many females in the industry.

Her illustrious career spans four decades, including 15 years as chief executive at Newton Investment Management, and she is now head of personal investing at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM).

In addition, her position as the leading light of the 30% Club campaign for greater representation of women on company boards, and roles leading the Investment Association and the Diversity Project, have placed her at the forefront of debate about the lack of women in front line jobs within the investment sector.

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Throw in the fact that during her working life she has managed to bring up nine children and it is clear she has a valuable insight into some of the issues facing women seeking a successful career in what remains a heavily male-dominated industry.

Morrissey is quick to acknowledge the investment world still has an image problem and needs to do more to rectify these issues.

"It is not just about gender, I want to stress that," she says.

"Partly because I think we have moved on a bit. But there is an image deficit and I think that has got worse." 

Attracting talent

She says her work is "mission critical now" because in order to attract and retain future talent "of any flavour", including from the traditional public school and university recruiting grounds, the individuals involved will "expect equality in a balanced environment when they go to work".

"I think there is a problem attracting white, advantaged young men as well, if you do not do something about it," Morrissey adds.

That is a statement that might prick up a few ears but is based on recent research into the backgrounds of individuals working in the investment sector.

Last month, the Diversity Project reported results from a survey undertaken by Mercer, which included interviews with 650 investment managers and over 3,000 other participants from 24 firms across the industry, representing over £2.2trn in AUM.

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The aim was to understand the experience, backgrounds, qualifications and motivations of those working in the sector and, importantly, what actions are needed to improve diversity.

Its results were far from surprising. Among the investment managers surveyed, a large proportion were privately educated at 38% (compared with 7% for the UK population), while the male/female split was 77%/23%.

These are issues for the industry that stretch way back and are yet to be truly addressed. 

"When I was at Newton, we needed another global equity fund manager," says Morrissey, who was educated in the state sector before going to university.

"During that search process, I discovered that three of the desk out of four at the time had been in the same year at Eton. I said: 'well, we'll start small, we'll go to Harrow'."