The asset management industry should be nurturing talent of modern-day Britain

Investment Week - June 2019

Howard Schultz is a name not many people may be familiar with. Howard’s father was a truck driver and he was the first in his family to go to university. In the early 1980s he paid a visit to a small coffee shop in Seattle and, impressed by their operation, took a job there. He later became the Chairman of that company, with a personal net worth of over $3bn. The name of the coffee shop? Starbucks.
‘Rags to riches’ stories are in essence examples of social mobility. Yet such stories are rare. Too few children from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to climb the corporate ladder.
In fact, recent findings from the government’s Social Mobility Commission have shown social mobility in the UK has ground to a halt. In 2018, only 34% of those from working class backgrounds got professional jobs, in comparison to 60% of those from professional backgrounds.
While almost everyone would agree that talent and hard work, rather than background, should be the key to opening employment opportunities, clearly more needs to be done to make that a reality.
A lack of social mobility should also be of real concern to businesses, including investment managers, because at the moment we can still do more to fully harness the potential of the UK’s talented young people.
As an industry, we need to look more like the people whose money we manage. Three quarters of UK households use the services of an investment manager, and they all come from different backgrounds, so we should too.
From a commercial perspective, we also know that a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives leads to better decisions from the investment floor, to the way our businesses are run.
These facts on their own however do not make a difference.
We need to translate this into action, which is why firms need to spread their net further than ever before to reach those young people from different backgrounds, who have the ability to flourish in the investment management industry.
Providing students with the skills to navigate the application and interview process is crucial to opening up the talent pipeline and creating a more diverse workforce.
Applying for a first job can be daunting and not all young people are fortunate to have family or school to support them in taking their first steps into the world of work. 
That’s why in November last year, we launched Think Investments, a programme dedicated to preparing students to apply for traineeships within the investment management industry.
The sixty five young people that took part came from a diverse range of backgrounds from schools and colleges in and around London. Over a third qualified for free school meals and more than two thirds would be the first in their family to go to university.
Through a series of six practical workshops, hosted by BNY Mellon, Jupiter Asset Management, LGIM, Rothschild, Schroders, and Barings, students learnt a range of key skills including: effective networking, interview techniques and assessment centre tips, which culminated in a work shadowing day at an industry firm.
Since the end of the programme, I’m proud to say that we’ve received over 40 applications to the Investment20/20 trainee programme and over 30 for apprenticeship programmes at Investment20/20 member firms. Importantly, the programme has also seen the students’ confidence grow and changed their perception of investment management as a diverse industry in which they could succeed.
Our industry needs to seize the enthusiasm of these young people. Yet to tap into this talent we need to radically rethink the way we recruit, starting with the job advert through to the final interview.
Hiring for potential requires investment managers to examine the language they use in their job adverts, to ensure they are jargon-free and to be mindful of asking for skills or experience that might favour young people with networks and connections.
We also need to look beyond the script in interviews. Traditional entry routes into careers are not prerequisites for business success. Life experience can also be an indicator of future success, equivalent to good grades. Young people who’ve managed to juggle a part-time job alongside their studies or have overcome difficult circumstances at home, have the eagerness to learn and resilience to succeed in our industry.     
Traineeships offer school leavers the opportunity to gain paid and purposeful experience that can lead them, debt-free, into full-time employment. By giving young people a helping hand, we can provide them with the confidence and skills to apply for these roles. We must also recognise young peoples’ journeys don’t stop at ‘getting in’ to the industry, and that support with progression must be provided too.
Moving forward, the investment management industry must look beyond its traditional recruitment grounds and nurture the diverse talent of modern-day Britain, to the benefit of our businesses and local communities. 


Front cover image of Investment2020 quick brief


A future in finance for young people
Back to blogs