The Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association is recognizing 30 leaders and 29 rising stars with its second annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards.
The awards spotlight those "advocating for or otherwise contributing to member organizations' diversity, equity and inclusiveness," according to DCIIA's website. Award winners will be honored June 8 at a dinner in Washington.
The awards are one way DCIIA highlights the importance of DEI and bringing more diverse talent into the defined contribution industry. Firms and plan participants stand to benefit from more diverse voices and individuals, said Lew Minsky, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based DCIIA president and CEO. Those diverse voices help identify who's being left behind in the retirement savings system, better understand why that is and find ways to close those gaps, he added.
"We see it not just as changing the complexion of the industry and the people that work in it, but really meaningfully impacting the way that we're helping Americans, working Americans, secure their retirements," Mr. Minsky said.
A few years ago, DCIIA's executive committee decided to focus on DEI to encourage its member firms and the industry to bring in more diverse personnel and to take more of a leadership role societally, Mr. Minsky explained. It created the awards to recognize existing leaders and identify rising stars to provide them with the opportunity to engage with the DEI community. DCIIA members submitted nominees, then members of DCIIA's DEI committee reviewed the nominations and chose the winners.
Many of the leader award winners have supported DEI efforts for years, often without a DEI-specific title, on top of their other responsibilities. "I think a lot of times organizations or companies believe that you have to have a DEI title to be in DEI. I personally feel like diversity, equity and inclusion sits on everyone's desk, and everyone has a role to play in that," said DEI award winner James Seth Thompson, senior vice president, head of diverse markets strategy and senior executive sponsor of the Black employee resource group at Bernstein Private Wealth Management, New York.
Internal efforts toward improving DEI commonly center on attracting a more diverse pipeline of applicants, employee retention and workplace culture.
"The sheer numbers of talented professionals or individuals who are unaware of the career opportunities that exist within asset management … that's the root cause of the problem," said award winner John Halaby, executive vice president and head of distribution at Harbor Capital Advisors Inc., Chicago.
To address this issue, the DEI award winners helped create a variety of partnerships and internships. Nimisha Srivastava, Charlotte, N.C.-based head of investments, North America, at Willis Towers Watson PLC, partnered with non-profit Diversity Investment Management Engagement to identify high-performing minority high school students and provide them with internships. "If there's a lending firm that promotes diversity that has a really diverse team, maybe they’ll actually tackle some of the issues and challenges of access to capital for underserved borrowers,” Ms. Srivastava said.
Similarly, Mr. Thompson and other Bernstein leaders created initiatives focused on historically Black colleges and universities to diversify its talent pipeline.