Diversity on boards – a fund perspective

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By Amit Taylor (pictured) & Mel Torode, Estera – The argument for greater diversity on boards has grabbed many headlines in recent years, as companies and organisations across the globe increasingly realise the benefits offered in terms of fresh ideas and insight.

Much of the early focus was on the impact that women can have in the boardroom. Yet diversity is a very broad church – covering everything from gender, race, sexuality, and disability, to social demographics, different ways of thinking, age, professional expertise and much more.

It is now widely accepted – and numerous studies have demonstrated – that diversity brings a different perspective and challenges the norm. It helps drive innovation and improves results, and brings different and positive traits to the table.

But how is the drive for diversity met when the board concerned is in a market such as the fund industry?

From Estera’s own experience – with directors serving on fund boards as well as in the private equity, CLO, insurance and reinsurance, and shipping spaces – there can be large disparities in board composition. Some are very diverse, while others consist of people with similar backgrounds.

In many instances, board selection on funds is more about experience and different skillsets than gender and ethnic background. Board members can bring experiences seen from other industries to the table when discussing best practices, board efficiencies, how to deal with new regulation and so on.

The situation is entirely different to that of a global plc, which has a huge pool of international talent to draw on – both within and outside the group. This is even more true when considering the pool of available board members with the right experience and skills in comparatively smaller jurisdictions such as, for example, Guernsey, Jersey, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

This does not mean there cannot be progress. From our own experience at Estera, there was a time when our clients’ boards were very traditional. But that is changing, albeit slowly – and it seems to be being built from the ground up.

For instance, the financial services sector itself is now far more inclusive and diverse, with management and leadership programmes showing a broad range of people that there is a pathway to the most senior roles.

Investing in and developing talent is the key point here and will prove pivotal in improved diversity at boardroom level in future years. This should result in younger people with fresh ideas coming onto boards at an earlier age. And the more diverse a board becomes over time, the more comfortable companies become in appointing people from different backgrounds in future succession planning.

Ultimately, it is hard evidence in the shape of performance and results that will encourage companies to see the bigger picture. If there is a track record of diversity on a board and performance is strong, then people are going to take notice. n

Estera is a world leading global provider of fund and administration services. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and understand the need for acceptance and diversity. Please contact us to see how we can help diversify your board.

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