Diversity of thought is the key to better performance, says buy-side

Speakers at TradeTech FX Europe highlight a shift to team-based portfolio management and the demystification of the industry as key diversity drivers.

One of the key drivers to increase diversity and inclusion is fostering a culture of “diversity of thought”, according to buy-side speakers at this year’s TradeTech FX Europe conference.

The panel agreed that an environment in which a greater variety of thought and opinions are brought to the investment or portfolio management process will lead to improved performance and can be a competitive edge for firms.

Amanda Pullinger, CEO of 100 Women in Finance, said that numerous studies have shown that greater diversity will lead to better investment and trading results, but despite this, the industry still has much work to do in making tangible change happen.

“The challenge is that unless you have lived a world where you have actually experienced the benefits of diversity, sometimes those studies don’t make a difference,” she commented. “One thing that is critical for the industry is that we encourage, particularly in men, to talk about their positive experiences of working with diversity. It is about diversity of thought; if you are building a team, that means the people in that team challenge what you say and think differently from you. That’s the piece that is the challenge.”

Andy Maack, head of FX trading at Vanguard, highlighted a shift in the industry away from the “individual star portfolio manager” towards a team-based approach, which had been proven to result in better outcome and thinking processes, a point picked up by Stefanie Holtze-Jen, chief currency strategist at DWS Group.

“We are an industry that still likes to have its heroes, its individuals that stick out, this is how marketing is done,” she said. “But we need to come to the understand that only a winning team can succeed and enabling everybody in this team to participate is the next step, so this comes down to a culture change because it’s not inherent in the financial services DNA.”

The panel highlighted some of the initiatives that their firms and the industry on a wider scale are undertaking to increase the level of diversity and inclusion, such as going out to schools to teach young people about the industry, and to increase the access to the financial services internship positions that had not previously been available as widely.

However, Pullinger touched on two major challenges that still remain for the industry to address: increasing the visibility of minority groups within the industry and demystifying the way in which the financial services industry actually operates by highlighting how the buy-side can operate on a positive social level.