The UK’s asset management trade body has thrown its weight behind a national effort to improve diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

In a report published today – ‘Black Voices: Building black representation in investment management’ – the Investment Association (IA) said fewer than 1% of asset managers in the UK identified as black, African or Caribbean.

The report set out 10 steps companies could take to improve opportunities for black employees, including “modernising” recruitment policies to ensure people from a range of backgrounds were considered.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the IA, said: “Diversity makes us all stronger. Different voices, opinions and experiences help investment performance, widening horizons and discouraging group think. And we need to be connected with all our clients. Just as our customers come from all ethnic backgrounds, so should our people.

“Building a diverse and inclusive industry requires self-reflection and honesty. This report seeks to do that by giving a voice to black people who have not previously always been heard.

“Our industry now has an opportunity to lead from the front in being a catalyst for social change, not just in our own investment houses but well beyond too. We must seize it.”

Justin Onuekwusi, LGIM

“It has long been taboo to discuss ethnicity, yet change can only come about once we have these conversations”

Justin Onuekwusi, LGIM

The IA’s report also recommended that companies adopt mentoring or talent development programmes to “give younger staff the confidence and support needed to excel and feel less isolated”. Firms could also support “black networks” to help people discover new opportunities and connect with role models within organisations.

It also advocated “unconscious bias training” for managers and recruitment staff, but added that “a deeper, more integrated approach to inclusion is a useful next step”.

The report was produced in collaboration with the Diversity Project and #talkaboutblack, a nationwide initiative designed to encourage discussions about issues affecting ethnic minorities.

Justin Onuekwusi, head of retail multi-asset funds at Legal & General Investment Management, said: “While ethnic minorities are generally under-represented across the asset management industry, the issue becomes all the more pressing when we consider how few employees, especially those in senior leadership, are black.

“It has long been taboo to discuss ethnicity, yet change can only come about once we have these conversations. We created #talkaboutblack as a platform to not only discuss the challenges faced by our black colleagues, but to also come up with solutions.

“This is leading to tangible action and gives us a real opportunity to make the lasting change that we hope can inspire the next generation of aspiring black asset and investment management professionals.”

The report comes a year after the Investment Association launched a video designed to counter young people’s often-negative sterotypes of the sector.

The IA’s Black Voices report is available here.

The IA’s report in numbers

Black workers with degrees earned 23.1% less on average than white workers with similar qualifications.

of African, Caribbean or black people surveyed were working as managers, directors or senior officials – compared to 10.7% of white people.

of 1,000 people from ethnic minorities living in the UK said they had been overlooked for a job or promotion unfairly in the past five years. This is twice the figure for white workers.

of the same 1,000 people said they had suffered racist language directed at them in the past month alone.

of 3,755 investment staff surveyed by the Diversity Project were from African or Caribbean backgrounds.

of 650 investment managers featured in the Diversity Project’s research identified as black, African, Caribbean, or Black British.