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12 November 2019       AIMA

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The global alternatives community has published a Diversity and Inclusion guide in a push to attract the broadest pool of talent to the industry. This paper:

  • brings hedge fund leaders’ perspectives on the competitive advantage of having a diverse team;
  • establishes D&I practices as a strategic senior management matter;
  • provides 45 practical recommendations to enhance diversity and inclusion (D&I) in hedge funds. 

A woman from a New York housing project who becomes co-CEO of the largest hedge fund firm in the world. A young man who learns investing from scratch in order to provide for his family. A woman who leaves the former Eastern Bloc and pays her way through Harvard so she can learn how capitalism works. A man who doesn’t believe those who tell him finance isn’t for people like him, and goes on to gain a doctorate in econometrics.

These are just some of the stories of the hedge fund industry. Our industry has always attracted pioneers; hedge fund firms are staffed with people who refuse to accept the status quo. This pioneering spirit is now being turned inwards, as hedge fund firms examine the composition of their own workforces. Despite leading the investment management industry in many fields, hedge fund firms still face challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining diverse talent. These challenges are not, of course, entirely of the industry’s own making. Social norms in many countries deter women from pursuing quantitative subjects, for instance, and thus limit the pool of talent available to hedge fund firms. Further, the small size of most hedge fund firms limits their ability to search out talent, meaning that those who are not already familiar with the industry may have trouble finding a way in.

The attached paper, was produced by AIMA in partnership with EY. This paper is intended as a first, partial answer to the question of what hedge fund firms can do to promote D&I. Before that question can be answered, however, we must first explain what we mean by diversity and inclusion. This paper will use the definitions adopted by the AIMA Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group. Diversity is taken to mean the presence of underrepresented groups from all backgrounds, life experiences, and beliefs. Inclusion is the act of ensuring that all individuals are equally recognised and respected, and are judged only on their contributions to the organisation. D&I is thus a situation in which underrepresented groups are not only present, but accorded the respect and recognition they deserve. This paper is based on in-depth interviews with over a dozen figures in the hedge fund industry around the world who have pioneered new approaches to D&I. It is also informed by research into how firms large and small have promoted D&I. 

Simon Ruddick, Chairman of Albourne Partners, on D&I in the Hedge Fund Industry

Diversity is about the composition of the workforce. Based on the definitions we’ve seen from the investors we work with, diversity typically focuses on women and minority groups, including ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans and persons with disabilities.  There are many other elements of diversity, such as socioeconomic background, educational background, religion, and age. However, these are not elements of diversity that we’ve typically seen investors focused on. Inclusion is present when underrepresented groups within an organisation feel valued, respected and empowered to fully participate and share their views. Simply put, diversity is about composition and inclusion is about culture.

We believe that diverse teams lead to better decision making, as a diverse team leads to cognitive diversity. A homogenous team presents a source of risk, which is the risk of groupthink. Another way to frame this is that in portfolio construction, we all understand the benefits of diversification: adding assets that have a low correlation to other assets in the portfolio lowers the overall risk of the portfolio. In team construction, if you have a diverse team, you'll add orthogonal perspectives into the mix, which lowers the risk of groupthink and increases the chances that you’ll catch your blind spots.

Albourne’s Role

As a consultant, our role in promoting D&I is to collect D&I information (via establishing a standardised due diligence questionnaire), validate that information (via our operational due diligence—ODD—process), and through that process lead managers to reflect on their D&I profiles.  

We've encouraged managers to self-classify as minority/women-own business enterprises (MWBE) since 2012 via MoatSpace (Albourne’s portal for fund managers to enter their data). We have over 60 investment due diligence analysts meeting with managers, and when they meet with managers who they understand are MWBE managers, they ask the managers to self-classify. We canvass service providers (like cap intro groups who maintain lists of MWBE managers) so we can aggregate this. Clients currently have the ability to search for MWBE funds on the Albourne client web portal. The existing MoatSpace questionnaire is narrow in scope in that it only applies to women and minorities who are US citizens, as the MWBE definition used by some of the institutional investors we referenced when we built the questionnaire limited the definition of MWBE managers this way. A challenge is what the definition of MWBE is: is it based on ownership or on the senior risk-taker? So it was important that we revamp our original MWBE questionnaire, so that it's more comprehensive. 

We're also partnering with AIMA to produce a questionnaire inspired by the one used by the Institutional Limited Partners Association that can be used across the alternatives industry. This will include ownership and workforce diversity statistics, as well as policies and practices on D&I issues such as family leave, anti-harassment, retention, and recruitment. 

The other aspect that we're rolling out is the new ESG and Manager and Employment Practices section in our ODD report, which will focus on the validation of anti-harassment, equal pay and diversity policies and initiatives. Within the next 12 months, through our over 80-person ODD team, we expect that we will have captured D&I information in our ODD reports on over 1,000 funds. Based on the work we've done so far, managers want feedback and guidance on D&I. Similar to how managers want to align themselves with industry best practices on ODD, managers are eager to learn how they can align themselves with best practices on D&I.  

We are still in the early stages of capturing more information on D&I. Managers should be capturing data and measuring the diversity of their organisation. They should also establish D&I policies and practices. Anti-harassment and equal pay policies should be in place. An important aspect of due diligence on this topic is that D&I policies may be in place but what practices are actually being implemented? 

D&I is one of the high priority initiatives within our Investor Manifesto II, which is a document we published that includes 50 initiatives we're advocating for across the alternatives industry.  

D&I is not just a company policy. It is who we want to be.

Please see the attached full paper for more details.