For J.P. Morgan Asset Management, efforts to advance Black talent and improve diversity at the firm start at the top.
Patrick Thomson, CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the $2.2 trillion manager, has made it a priority to promote diversity and inclusion. Last year, Mr. Thomson appointed Didier Lambert, lead portfolio manager for the firm's emerging markets bond fund offering — running $4.5 billion — as a diversity and inclusion "champion."
Mr. Lambert is one of the City of London's few Black fund managers. A 2018 study by think-tank New Financial found there were 12 Black portfolio managers in the entire U.K. money management industry, out of thousands and thousands of staff.
"There are three of us (champions) within the business and our role is to bring best practice to hiring and promoting, liaising with HR" and other work on diversity and inclusion, Mr. Lambert said in an interview. "And ensuring that we are on track on the different engagements we have taken so far as the industry is concerned: the Women In Finance Charter and Race at Work Charter."
HM Treasury's Women In Finance Charter pledges to improve the gender balance, while the Race at Work Charter consists of five calls to action for leaders and firms across all sectors with the aim of tackling barriers that ethnic minority people face in recruitment and career progression.
But it's not just about quotas and goals for the money manager. "There are charters but there is also a willingness to redefine the employee day-to-day experience — what diversity and inclusion means for them," Mr. Lambert said. "For ethnicity, it ... begins with us trying to map out how diverse is our population. Then we can address whether we want to put targets (in place) and how to achieve those targets. We are on a journey and the journey has to start at the beginning. We have to be sure we walk on solid ground before we start to run."
Mr. Lambert is trying to be a role model at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. "That is quite important, because if you want to increase your pipeline, you can put in place all the initiatives and progress to help do that, reach universities and increase (your) presence; but if the students or potential talent cannot identify themselves (within the business) — especially toward the top of the house — it is going to be very difficult at least to retain them," he said.
Recognizing and helping allies to become role models is also a focus for Mr. Lambert. "I don't think you need to be Black — you can be an ally and be very intentional. We are trying to help our senior colleagues be more intentional, to reflect on themselves" and think about who they promote, who their "trusted person" for tasks is and whether that can change.
Mr. Lambert is also an integral part of the wider J.P. Morgan effort to enhance diversity and inclusion across the firm. He is one of three co-chairs on the EMEA Advancing Black Leaders steering committee, an initiative put in place in 2018. It's about "making sure there is a strategy in place to attract, retain and promote our Black talent within the industry and across J.P. Morgan," he said. The program started in the U.S. in 2016.
But there's still work to be done. "When I look around I see more diversity, I see different faces, and also more broadly in the industry. But the real work and the opportunity now as a champion is to try and increase inclusion, alongside continuing to improve diversity."
And it's acknowledging that race is sometimes an uncomfortable topic for people to talk about. "And it is OK, but we have to do everything we can to provide a safe space to talk about it," Mr. Lambert said. The firm has run a series of discussions to bring employees together to talk and listen — Black employees have shared their experiences, what it's like to be Black in the workplace, while others have chosen to listen or ask questions. "That was very fruitful, because a lot of (people) didn't know what a lot of their colleagues were going through. We can use (these conversations) as a steppingstone to create more intention within the company and a common understanding. We have a lot of willingness from people to educate themselves."
Outside of the firm, Mr. Lambert is involved in a program run by the Investment Association, which represents U.K. money managers, and the Diversity Project's Talk About Black campaign. The initiative connects Black senior professionals with industry C-suite individuals — with Mr. Thomson also part of that group. "The idea of the initiative is to demystify that ... there is no one that looks like you, but there could be" in senior roles. It also provides a network.
The benefits of diversity also speak to Mr. Lambert's day-to-day work. "I'm a portfolio manager — I believe in diversification. When forming a strategy, a view, applying the concept of diversity works," he said. "I find it crucial because it helps me address my blind spots."