The Diversity Project Europe (DPE) is set to launch this autumn to “pave the way for a more inclusive asset management industry across the continent”, it was announced.

The cross-border initiative has been spearheaded by industry veteran Ric van Weelden, acting chair of the DPE’s advisory committee, in partnership with eight founding member firms: 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.

The asset manager group believe there is a “huge opportunity to move the dial and create an industry that better reflects both society at large, and their clients”, according to astatement by the Diversity Project.

Although data is sparse, the asset management industry is well behind other professional services sectors in terms of gender balance and the number of those from ethnic minorities in decision-making roles, it added.

Van Weelden said that the European asset management industry is undergoing a transformation due to the shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC), technological disruption, digital distribution and regulatory change.

“To better serve clients and stay competitive, the industry must evolve and widen its talent pool. Not only will this benefit the industry, but it will also have an impact beyond this, building a workforce that is more representative of today’s diverse society,” he said.

Building on the success of the Diversity Project in the UK, the DPE will focus initially on Europe’s key asset management markets and three themes – gender equality, social mobility and inclusive culture – seeking to facilitate change through voluntary collaboration and knowledge sharing.

The DPE will be setting up workstreams around these three themes – groups of voluntary employees who will work to deliver against the DPE’s goals – and commissioning research to understand the current state of play around diversity and inclusion in the European asset management industry.

The aim of the research is to establish the challenges and opportunities, which will inform where the DPE is likely to focus its efforts.

“Over my 35 years in the industry, I have seen a lot of phenomenal talent in my career but I have also seen how talent acquisition based on a historical set of criteria can lead to group think and little diversity of thought and perspective. The competitive landscape is simply becoming increasingly complex and unforgiving of this unacceptable status quo,” Van Weelden added.

Helena Morrissey, chair of the Diversity Project UK, added: “Many of the issues holding back progress around diversity, equity and inclusion in the asset management industry are global in nature and we’re going to make much more progress working together.”

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