Mark Elzweig, president of executive recruiter Mark Elzweig Co. Ltd., New York, noted that growing numbers of asset firms wish to hire minorities. "There seems to be more of a push for this in the last two years. When firms are hiring, they have made a point of telling us that if there is a qualified minority candidate, they want them included in the search."
Many asset management firms are expanding programs to mentor minorities and provide them with better networking opportunities.
"A lot has to do with the educational opportunities," said Ms. Sims. "Investment banks have been doing more marketing and promoting to our fellows, but we have tried to give our students an introduction to asset management through orientation sessions before their MBA programs begin. In the last two years, I've seen a nice representation of students who thought they wanted investment banking decide that investment management might be a better choice, once they had been exposed to it."
Large financial institutions — including Goldman Sachs & Co., New York, and Prudential Financial, Newark, N.J. — tend to be more focused on this issue than smaller independent firms, said one recruiter who asked not to be identified. "Most have a diversity officer for the whole company and set management goals each manager must address relating to diversity."
Networking has proved to be the best way to discover strong minority candidates. Officials at several companies said they recruit through colleges, business schools and the Toigo Foundation.
J.P. Morgan Fleming Asset Management, New York, has worked with Toigo since its founding in 1990 and has hired many Toigo fellows through its programs, said Isabel Sloane, managing director and head of human resources. The firm also recruits for its summer analyst internship program through diversity partnerships with organizations such as Historically Black Colleges and Associations. This year, 50% of the entry-level analysts are minorities, said Ms. Sloane.
"Retention of minority candidates is an issue, and if we offer them a strong role model, it helps. Some of our senior African-American managing directors have been organizing dinners and lunches with more junior-level employees to provide mentoring and coaching. And in the last year, we've begun an initiative to focus on sponsorship of high-potential people here. We want to make sure they have both a sponsor and a mentor. The mentor is someone to talk to, who can help them develop their careers, navigate the organization. The sponsor is someone who will extend his or her own professional network … They'll put themselves out for that person…"
The sponsor program lasts six months, with an option to renew.
MFS Investment Management, Boston, also works closely with Toigo, said Patty Basso, staffing manager in the MFS human resources department.
She meets with Toigo fellows and links them up with research analysts and portfolio managers so they can learn about opportunities in the industry and at MFS. In addition, she does outreach at business schools, targeting minority organizations.
"We work with MBA associations of African-Americans, Latinos … and Asians. Our goal is to increase diversity and the awareness of the profession among students with a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The networking is paying off, in that we're seeing more minority students coming in to talk with us.
"Many of the companies we invest in are run by a diverse population, so it's important both to our investment process and to our clients that we employ a diverse work force," Ms. Basso said.