UK investment managers five times more likely to be privately educated

The UK investment management industry needs a makeover as new research reveals the average employee is a straight white British male, without a disability, and with a high chance of being privately educated.

While the 81 per cent of the industry that identifies as white British is slightly lower than the 89 per cent in the UK population, on other measures, such as education and gender, the face of the investment industry is out of sync with the rest of the population.

The Diversity Project Benchmarking Study, conducted by Mercer, found 38 per cent of investment managers are privately educated, more than five times the proportion of the general population, which is 7 per cent.

Women were also underrepresented, accounting for 23 per cent of the industry. And while people with disabilities represent 11 per cent of the population, in the investment industry they account for 4 per cent.

Most investment managers are educated to Master’s degree level (47 per cent), followed by those with a Bachelors degree (44 per cent).

The perception of the industry being run by the old boys’ network is very damaging as it makes investment management less of a desired career path,” Mercer partner Georgina Harley says.

“An immediate fix for the industry is to improve this image issue, and work has already begun.To attract a more diverse group of applicant’s organisations should adopt more contemporary practices around recruitment and promotion, as well as promote positive examples of diversity and tackle the issue of part time work for portfolio management roles.”

The Diversity Project was launched just under a year ago to create a more diverse workforce in the investment management industry.

Founder Helena Morrissey believes the discussion has shifted from whether diversity is needed to how to how to create a more diverse industry.

“There is now a real sense of urgency, with the recognition that improving diversity is a key aspect of creating a modern industry, able to deliver strong performance and connect better with customers and society.”

The study, conducted in the second quarter, surveyed over 3,755 participants from 24 firms including 650 investment managers.

Key findings from the report:

  • Not being as well networked was ranked as the top inhibitor to diversity in the industry – individuals believe they need to be part of an exclusive network or club to succeed
  • Improving flexible working practices for men and women was rated as the number one method to foster diversity in the industry
  • Investment managers rated their direct manager as delivering below their expectations for every attribute surveyed
  • Individuals in the industry perceive a lack of industry awareness and a negative perception exists outside the industry