Building and retaining a diverse workplace is a priority for a number of winners in the 2017 Best Places to Work in Money Management program.
Such efforts are increasingly important, top executives said, because different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences can help solve complex problems — and those same efforts can create an open and supportive workplace where employees can do their best work.
When "different people from different backgrounds and norms come to the table with different information (you're) going to end up with better insight, maybe poke more holes in an area," said Thalia B. Lankin, chief business development officer at the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust in Washington. The trust is a newcomer to Pensions & Investments' BPTW program, earning a spot this year among midsize employers.
Gilbert A. Garcia, a managing partner at Garcia Hamilton & Associates LP of Houston, said building diverse money management firms starts with a philosophy at the top that "it's important and beneficial to the company."
"When you start looking at candidates and talking to universities and groups and have that philosophy, they feed off that and know you're sincere," Mr. Garcia said.
"If you're doing it just to check a box, (you're) defeating the entire purpose."
To help build a pipeline of diverse candidates, Mr. Garcia said he and other officials at the firm, in which women and minorities own a combined 91%, speak to college students, including campus minority groups, about opportunities in the money management industry and lessons they learned along the way. This year marks Garcia Hamilton's second consecutive appearance on the annual BPTW list as a small employer.
Almost always, these conversations take place in a classroom or assembly setting, Mr. Garcia said. Very rarely is it a job fair. "The purpose is less about a job and more about serving as a role model," he said.
Women- and minority-owned firms in asset management make up a low percentage of all firms in the industry, ranging between 3% and 9% depending on the asset class in which they specialize: mutual funds, private equity funds, hedge funds or real estate funds, according to a study conducted by Bella Research Group and released by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in May. What's more, they represent an even smaller fraction of the total assets under management — about 1% — within the industry.