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Diversity and inclusion are at the core of what we do at Altus Partners. Despite these unusual times, we’re continuing to push this message and open up conversations within the industry. 

This year we’re hosting three Empower for Change events. The first on gender diversity, the second BAME talent and lastly mental health. 

In May, we ran the first event in the form of a webinar co-hosted by our MD Ed Chamberlain and founder of C&C Search Lucy Chamberlain. Lucy and Ed were joined by an excellent panel including: 

  • Caroline Woodworth, Vice President – General Atlantic

  • Louise Boothby, Partner – Coller Capital

  • Lara Markham, Investment Manager – Graphite Capital

  • Pam Jackson, CEO - Level 20

Here are 4 key things we learnt at the webinar. 

Actions speak louder than words

Education is critical when it comes to change, but it’s the actions we take that will make the difference. 

“Who are you trying to educate and why are you trying to educate them? If someone is interested in making the change, they’ll listen to the why, but you then need to tell them how.” This point, made by Louise Boothby, is fundamental to making progress with diversity. 

Louise then went on to suggest how to approach these conversations. “(You might say), have you thought about this, these are the implications for us and this is how we go about doing something about it. To avoid just listing problems that we know are there, we need to offer solutions for that dialogue.”

Widen the talent pool

Traditionally, new PE recruits come from a banking or consultancy background with around two years of training. But the panel questions whether this route and training is necessary at all. 

“The skillsets of PE are intellect, interest and raw financial skills. It’s not rocket science. We’re not trying to find a tiny sub-sector of people. We’re looking for raw talent and something to build on. Often people are taken from banks who’ve had two years of training - but we don’t just need that. We should be training internally to find diversity of thought from different places.” 

For the Private Equity industry to achieve diversity, we can't rely on the traditional, or as Pam Jackson put it, “tried and tested” routes.

At Coller Capital, this has come in the shape of a grad scheme. Whilst schemes like this are found in many sectors, it’s not prevalent in PE. Louise describes it as a “wildcard”. For each intake, the company brings on board three to five people based on their work ethic and how engaged they are - not their background or academic achievements. 

“It’s very labour intensive for us, but it’s a good way to get diversity into the team. Normally you’re looking at a room of 30 plus-year-olds, now we have 21 years olds and it’s great to have that different thought process.”

Change from the top down

Lara Markham reminds us that “there is no silver bullet when it comes to diversity, especially in financial services.” 

Lara is right, each firm and service is different, but there is one thing they must all do for change to work. 

“It has to start with good culture,” she says. “You can have all the initiatives but if senior management doesn’t actually believe in the diversity drive and just see it as box ticking, there just isn’t a chance of change.” 

Speak up and listen 

To see change, we must all have courage. Whether that’s the courage to speak up if you’re in a more junior role, or the courage to listen and act on suggestions as a leader.

Pam suggests that to retain great talent, “you need to understand why people leave. Often people say, ‘women leave to have babies,’ actually, research says that isn’t the case. The only thing women have to do is get pregnant and give birth. After that, it’s a joint responsibility. So what stops people from staying?” 

Pam and the panel went on to highlight the importance of voicing your individual needs to your firm and how they will help you do your job better. By focussing on output, rather than how many hours spent at a desk, firms will attract more diverse talent and improve performance. 

Altus Partners actively engages in driving diversity in Private Equity.

We created the Empower for Change initiative in early 2020 to help promote change.

If you’re interested in joining the next webinar on BAME representation on 22 July get your free ticket here