Schroders has always put a high emphasis on diversity and inclusion, recognising the important role different points of view play in its business.
Martina Wong, Head of Finance for Asia Pacific at Schroders, who also co-leads the Singapore Diversity and Inclusion Council, explains that Schroders has always valued diversity of thought and the unique values, perspectives, ideas and experiences that each employee brings.
Martina believes this emphasis on diversity and the different perspectives people bring to work has contributed to Schroders’ success as an asset manager, helping the firm to deliver the best solutions to its clients.
“Inclusion is how we as a firm welcome this diversity and create the right conditions in the workplace, so that employees are valued, included and understood, and everyone feels comfortable to do their best and achieve their full potential,” she says.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are sponsored from the very top of the organisation, with Group CEO Peter Harrison making the area a priority when he took up his post in 2016. Peter has pioneered a diversity and inclusion strategy which each of his senior leadership team drives in their areas, complementing employee-led inclusion networks. He was also recognised last year when he was ranked 11th on the Financial Times' Outstanding’s 50 Ally Executives list for his ongoing commitment to creating supportive and inclusive workplaces for LGBT+ people.
The importance of the issue to Schroders is reflected in its impressive female representation in APAC, with women making up 41% of the region’s workforce.
Women also have a strong presence at senior management level, with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore all having female CEOs, while women also head up various regional teams for distribution, product and solutions, and investment and infrastructure.
Jamie Townsend, HR Business Partner, Technology and Operations, APAC, at Schroders Singapore, credits this success to Schroders’ inclusive culture, which he thinks has enabled it to attract and retain strong female talent.
“We have always promoted and given opportunities in a very meritocratic way and so the best talent has risen to the top positions in the region,” he says.
But he stresses that Schroders is not complacent, and it is currently in the process of rolling out diversity training to all employees and hiring managers. It is also using technology to ensure job advertisements appeal to a diverse talent group, and it has introduced unconscious bias training.
Jamie says: “We did global webinars on unconscious bias so that everyone in the firm gained a common understanding of the topic, and we had local facilitators that led those webinars in each country to provide local context and relevant examples.”
Martina adds that Schroders also held seminars for hiring managers to help them identify any unconscious biases they may have themselves.
As part of its Diversity and Inclusion Plan, Schroders has set a global target of having women account for 33% of senior managers globally by the end of this year.
The target was originally set at 25%, but was increased to 30% and then to 33% after it was met sooner than expected. The figure currently stands at 32%.
To help achieve this goal, Schroders has introduced a pairing system to provide senior sponsors who can offer career guidance to its female talent. Although the scheme is relatively new, Jamie observes that it has actually been taking place in an informal way in the company for some time.
Another part of Schroder’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan has been to introduce flexible working arrangements
, which was rolled out across all countries in APAC between 2018 and the beginning of this year.
Flexible working is open to everyone, whether they are parents with young children, employees with elder relatives to care for or even talents with a passion for sports who need to fit training into their schedules.
Again, the group found that many managers had already been supporting flexible working and it was just a case of making the policy formal.
Schroders’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in Asia Pacific have been recognised by a number of awards, with the company recently winning bronze for Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion at the HR Excellence Awards 2018 in Singapore.
The success in Singapore is attributed to the location’s commitment to setting up a Diversity and Inclusion Council in May last year, to enable employees from different parts of the business to come together and discuss issues that relate to them.
To ensure it was targeting support effectively, the Council also surveyed employees, enabling it to identify four key areas in which staff thought diversity and inclusion efforts should be focused on, namely gender, young professionals, working parents, primary caregivers – including those looking after elderly relatives.
Jamie says: “We wanted to really understand what the challenges were for our employees here in Singapore so that we can tailor the program.”
Having identified these focus areas, many of the activities the Council held have been targeted towards them, such as holding workshops on unconscious bias, having external speakers talk about the challenges of being working parents, and conducting employee panel sharing sessions to celebrate International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day.
“These proved to be very popular. Employees were really keen to hear the views and perspectives of people they work with, but with whom they did not necessarily talk to about these topics,” Jamie says.
Schroders has 13 global employee resource groups that focus efforts across a range of areas including gender, LGBT+, religion, ethnicity, mental health and disabilities and impairment.
It has recently launched an employee resource group in Singapore to support Millennials, and plans to roll it out further across APAC. The intention is to highlight the differences but also similarities between the generations. Schroders believes that the better people understand each other, the more inclusive the organisation will be.
Jamie thinks enabling employees to drive diversity and inclusion initiatives themselves has really enabled a lot of progress to be made.
He says: “Here at Schroders, we live and breathe Diversity and inclusion throughout the organization. And I think that’s what sets us apart from our competition.”