Finance

Investment Association adds seven to board, but doesn’t know if it has met ethnic diversity target

The UK’s trade body for asset managers has added a cohort of heavyweight industry executives to its board, but remains unclear if it has addressed criticism received over a lack of ethnic diversity.

Among the seven new additions to the Investment Associations’s board are BlackRock’s Stephen Cohen, who heads the US asset manager’s business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as Schroders chief executive Peter Harrison.

Sean Hagerty, managing director for Vanguard’s European business, is also among those joining the IA board, along with Hargreaves Lansdown boss Chris Hill.

Those joining the IA board from boutique firms are J O Hambro CEO Alexandra Altinger, Fiera Capital regional managing partner Catherine O’Reilly, and Hassan Elmasry, managing partner at Independent Franchiser Partners.

READ Chuka Umunna calls out UK investment body over ethnic diversity push

The IA said adding representatives from UK boutique firms would ensure the board “continues to be representative of the whole investment management sector”.

While six of the IA’s 18-strong board are women, the IA was not able to confirm if any of its members are from an ethnically diverse background.

“As signatories of the Change the Race Ratio initiative, we had committed to appointing at least one racially and ethnically diverse board member by 2024,” a spokesperson for the IA told Financial News.

“We will need to ask our new board members to complete our diversity survey before we can confirm that we have now met that commitment.”

Earlier this year Chuka Umunna, the former politician and head of Edelman’s European ESG business, now in charge of JPMorgan’s European ESG operation, called out the IA on Twitter for not having anyone on its board from an ethnically diverse background.

His criticism came after the IA had urged some of the UK’s largest companies to “reflect the diversity of modern-day Britain”, with plans to ramp up pressure on those organisations that failed to improve on ethnic diversity.

READ UK investors ratchet up pressure on companies over ethnic diversity

The IA said at the time it would target FTSE 350 companies that failed to disclose the ethnic diversity of their boards or a credible plan to progress towards having at least one director from an ethnic minority background.

In a February Tweet directed at the IA, Umunna said the trade body needed to address its own ethnic diversity “if making similar demands of companies”.

The targets are based on the Parker Review, published in 2017, which set out expectations of the number of directors that companies should have from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Bev Shah, founder of industry diversity group CityHive, said: “I am sure the IA board are fully aware of how this will appear, but if there genuinely is no single ethnic minority in a senior leadership position that can take a seat on the board then this highlights the real crisis the industry is in with regard to ethnic diversity.”

She added: “The lack of ethnic minority role models at the top of our industry further perpetuates the problem effecting not just the attraction and retention of talent but also of clients. The ethnicity investment gap will continue to widen while industry representation is low.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Ricketts

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