2020: A year of change for Investment20/20

This year, COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement has resulted in a refocus of priorities in the investment management industry, not just as businesses but also as responsible employers. This refocus is in line with the purpose and ethos of Investment20/20.

With COVID-19, we’re halfway through a second national lockdown in England, and well into the youth employment crisis. Recent research from the London School of Economics shows a staggering one in ten 16-25 year olds have lost their job since the start of the pandemic - double the rate of those over 25 - and if that wasn’t bad enough, 58% of young people have also experienced a fall in their earnings too compared with 42% across the rest of the working population. It is precisely because of this that the investment management industry must demonstrate to young people that their skills and perspectives are valuable to our industry. 

As the careers and talent solution for the investment management industry, Investment20/20 has not been immune to the impacts of COVID-19. To ensure our mission of building a diverse pipeline of talent for our industry was not knocked off course by the pandemic, we adapted quickly and innovated to a changing operating environment, both in March and more recently at the start of the new academic year in September.

With the new academic year well underway, we’ve invested heavily in our digital resources and embedding ourselves on university campuses through our Virtual Careers Insight programme. This programme, consisting of four digital sessions, is held weekly at universities where investment management employers talk directly to students on the purpose of the industry and the career paths open to them.

Only a few weeks ago we also launched the - now entirely virtual - third year of our award-winning Think Investments programme. The programme takes two separate cohorts of Year 13 students and university students from diverse backgrounds through a series of interactive masterclasses that help them build confidence, knowledge and industry networks, and apply for entry roles including Apprenticeships and Trainee positions in investment management firms. 

These new digital channels have allowed us to expand our horizons and speak directly to students in the furthest corners of the UK about the opportunities our industry can offer them – outreach that simply would not have been possible before COVID-19. From the University of Highlands and Islands to Birmingham City University; the University of South Wales to Queen Mary, University of London, we’re shouting loudly about the careers in our industry still available to young people across the length and breadth of the country.

As we all know, 2020 hasn’t just been a year of adapting to social distancing. The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have made us all think about the inclusion and treatment of black people, including in our own industry. If COVID-19 has been disproportionately hard on the life chances of the young, Black Lives Matter has shown it is likely to be even harder still on the life chances of young black people.

Since our foundation, Investment20/20 has reached deep into communities of young people, including young black talent who felt investment management was closed off to them as a career path, and opened the door to the industry for them. These communities of young people include young black people, those from urban areas, those who have chosen not to go to university as well as those leaving care, and we know these different experiences bring inherent strengths.   

Investment20/20 will always be a fierce advocate for greater representation of black people within our industry, and our work at entry-level has begun to bear fruit. We only need to look at the successes of young black people from our pre-entry programmes like Taofikat Agboola who joined Schroders, Tauron Bellot at Standard Life Aberdeen, Abdalla Abuukar at J O Hambro Capital Management and Precious Appiah at M&G and many others who have just started their careers in our industry to see that these actions have impact. These young people then become role models back in their own communities and ambassadors for our industry.  

This is diversity in action and we can be proud of the steps we are taking to diversify the industry’s talent pipeline, but let’s not rest on our laurels. More can and must be done. A diverse pipeline of talent alone is not ‘job done’. The absence of black representation within our industry’s senior leadership is striking, and so deliberate and meaningful action must be taken to address this imbalance. 

That’s why in October for Black History Month, in partnership with #talkaboutblack, we launched our cross-industry black leaders mentoring and reverse-mentoring programme. The cross transfer of skills, knowledge and experience as part of the programme will help provide a catalyst for senior black professionals to progress to the very top of our industry, and is a crucial step towards improving senior representation of black people within investment management. 

Our driver at Investment20/20 is and always has been the building of a diverse talent base for our industry and enabling equality of opportunity. In spite of the challenges COVID-19 has presented this year, Investment20/20 has continued to innovate to drive diverse talent into our industry. 

First published on 23 November in Investment Week.

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