The European project, which will be launched in the fall, will focus initially on three themes, Mr. Van Weelden said in an interview: gender equality, social mobility and inclusive culture. The project will look to facilitate change through voluntary collaboration and knowledge sharing, and will also set up work streams across the three themes.
Over the coming months, "we hope to work with a research provider who can help us map the European landscape," surveying the industry and taking the temperature of where European asset management is in terms of the three themes, Mr. Van Weelden said. "Then we hope to … look at best practice examples."
Regarding why he chose to launch the project now, Mr. Van Weelden said: "From a macro perspective, what's really going on in Europe is quite a few markets are individualizing their pension systems. For the longest time, (participants) were not really aware of their savings, as it was done on their behalf … where they didn't really see what was going on under the bonnet, so to say. That's rapidly changing." He also cited the rise of technology in making portfolio management more accessible at the participant level as being another reason for launching the campaign now.
"Also, individual jurisdictions have been grappling with the issue of diversity and haven't really thought too much cross-border," he said, adding that several U.K. Diversity Project members with headquarters in Europe, as well as some international firms operating across Europe, had started to inquire about how they could connect with the original project but on the Continent.
One of the key criteria for companies to be involved is having a headquarters in a key asset management market in Europe, or be a global asset management player with subsidiaries across multiple jurisdictions in Europe, he said.
The first job for Mr. Van Weelden and the founding members is to clarify where the industry is today and then identify best practice — and not necessarily in investment management.
Mr. Van Weelden said his hope is the Diversity Project Europe will "become the go-to place for understanding and improving on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) issues in European asset management."
The Diversity Project Europe's founding member firms are Aegon Asset Management, AXA Investment Managers, Franklin Templeton, HSBC Global Asset Management, Nordea Asset Management, Pictet Asset Management, Quoniam Asset Management and T. Rowe Price Group.
Mr. Van Weelden is a senior partner at asset management consultant Indefi.