Partner Insight: Expert view - IA chief executive Chris Cummings on social mobility

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Partner Insight: Expert view - IA chief executive Chris Cummings on social mobility

A central element of any diversity and inclusion drive, social mobility is a subject close to the heart of Investment Association (IA) chief executive Chris Cummings, who initially felt “certain doors were closed to me coming to London from a working-class family in Yorkshire”.

His experience has encouraged him to take steps such as launching the IA's Investment 20/20 social mobility action plan to ensure people from similar backgrounds feel a job in financial services is within their reach - something he also believes offers significant benefits to the industry as a whole.

"It's important that the industry is representative of the society in which it operates and the people whose money it manages," Cummings says. "Investment managers need to attract talent from across the globe from different social classes and educational backgrounds in order to bring in fresh thoughts, ideas, and ways of working."

Here, he shares his views on social mobility in asset management and explains what Investment20/20 has achieved over the last two years.

How important is social mobility to D&I in asset management?

Addressing social mobility is an important part of our industry's D&I agenda. Top positions in most industries are held by those from more privileged backgrounds and we need to demonstrate that you don't need to be privileged to work in investment management.

The IA is addressing the issue through a number of initiatives including an action plan for our members to push for greater social mobility within their organisations; it's very much a live focus area.

What are the risks associated with not prioritising social mobility?

Having a diverse workforce is a crucial factor in ensuring businesses continue to innovate, grow and succeed. Social mobility is also hugely important for our wider society to address the current state of inequality. People from working class backgrounds who have the skills and ability should be afforded the same opportunities so they can improve their own financial wellbeing.

What is the asset management industry doing to ensure people from all backgrounds get the same opportunities?

Investment20/20 was set up to give young people who don't have the privilege of networks access to industry jobs. Its focus on ‘hiring for potential rather than polish' has already helped more than 2,000 young professionals start their careers in the industry, 85% of whom are from a state school, and 43% of whom are from ethnic minority backgrounds. More recently, the industry has also supported 30 young people taking advantage of the government's Kickstart programme - a six-month paid work experience placement for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

What advice would you give a young person concerned about the industry's reputation as "elitist"?

Investment management may seem hard to get into if you haven't gone to one of the ‘elite' schools, colleges or universities; or have the network and connections to get your foot through the door.

But times are changing for the better and investment management is focussed on proactively seeking people who bring different lived experiences.

The doors are open, and this is a very good time to join an industry that offers a breadth of difference career opportunities and plays such a crucial role in financing the future of our societies and economies around the world.

This article is part of a series of articles on diversity and inclusion, produced by Investment Week in association with HSBC Global Asset Management. You can find the full series on a dedicated hub here.

This post was funded by HSBC Asset Management.

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