When I started my career in investments over a decade ago, I came across very few women in senior leadership positions, never mind women in asset management. I began my career in a business focused on high-net worth clients, most of whom were served by male advisors and brokers. The fund managers I met were all men, all suits, all white. It was a heavily masculine environment with few female role models and very little room around the table.
Fast forward to today and the tides have somewhat turned, or at least the sand feels like it’s really begun to shift. I joined Mercer in 2016 in Toronto, Canada. For me, a large part of the reason I joined Mercer was the inspiring female leadership I saw in the then head of investments, now CEO of Canada, Jaqui Parchment. Jaqui approached me to join Mercer and lead the buildout of their Canadian OCIO platform for defined contribution clients. In Jaqui and other incredible female leaders in the Toronto office, Oma Sharma and Jillian Kennedy to name a few, I saw not only that women could thrive in asset management but also that when they do, the business does too.
Mercer has a long history of developing women in senior leadership positions and I have always found the office discussion to be inclusive and developmental. Deb Clarke, the long-tenured ex-head of global manager research, as well as Martine Ferland, president and CEO of Mercer, provide women earlier in their careers with a path and route to aspire to.
Female partners and male allies in leadership recognise the benefits that even a small bit of mentoring and encouragement can provide to women and other minority groups in the workplace. Diversity in all its aspects – cognitive, gender, ethnicity, age, culture, sexual orientation – helps build inquisitive, curious, questioning and brave teams that can ultimately drive change and deliver better outcomes for investors.
Within my own team, we were delighted to support the recent 10,000 Black Interns initiative, aiming to place more than 2,000 black interns across industry. Our team are very cognisant of our ethnic backgrounds and education, with team members from Ireland, the UK and China and educational backgrounds in psychology, engineering, mathematics and finance. When I returned to Ireland with Mercer, our EMEA CIO, Niall O’Sullivan, told me on my first day in the office that we all sink or swim together, meaning that no one is left out and everyone’s voice is heard. Taking this approach and having an inclusive decision-making structure within our fixed-income portfolio management team, led us to deliver a record year of alpha for our clients in 2020, adding $380m to their portfolios. We’re delighted to see that 2021 is shaping up nicely so far too.
Mercer is also leading the way with two new initiatives in asset management. Firstly, within our Investment Solutions business, we are actively encouraging asset managers with whom we engage to strive towards having at least 30% female representation among key strategy decision-makers by 2030. Secondly, Mercer’s new Leap continuum private-markets solution, providing research and investment implementation advice on historically underrepresented investment managers, will enable clients to combine economics with empathy and seek robust returns while making progress toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals.
It is exciting to be part of a business that has truly incorporated the essence of DEI within its products and people, and I can truly say I am proud to work for Mercer. I look forward with optimism to seeing other asset managers and industry participants taking the steps they need to make way for future rising stars within their businesses too.
One of Financial News top 25 under 40, Rising Stars in Asset Management 2021
If you would like one of our consultants to discuss the implications for your business, and opportunities to better support your employees, please check the box to request a consultation.