July-August 2014

OPINION: Towards an inclusive investment industry

Fiona RintoulIt is a source of mild irritation to me that investment managers often include school fees in their lists of clients’ long-term savings goals. According to the OECD, private school attendance in Europe ranges from zero in Romania through to 6% in Italy, Switzerland and the UK, peaking at 15% in Luxembourg. Therefore, paying school fees is a minority pursuit. To include it in a general list of long-term savings goals sends an unfortunate message: we’re mainly interested in a wealthy elite.  In any case, why encourage people to send their children to private schools? The terrible dangers of so doing are laid bare in a recent commentary from James Sleater on a Social Market Foundation report into open access to independent schools in the UK. OPEN ACCESS
In his commentary, Sleater, a former City banker turned tailor who went to Stowe School where the likes of businessman Sir Richard Branson and Prince Harry’s ex Chelsy Davy were apparently educated, has nothing to say about open access. Instead he tries to big up private schools but somehow manages to do the exact opposite. 
He opines as follows: “I think that traditionally those who went to public schools are obviously from more affluent backgrounds where the children have a sense of desire to achieve the same for their children. I think the education often received is better-rounded due to the opportunities one receives that stands you in good stead for the competitive outside world.” The first sentence makes no sense. And grammaristas will immediately pounce on the two grammatical errors in the second sentence: one should not mix the pronouns “one” and “you” in a single statement, and the plural noun opportunities requires the plural verb “stand”.  It is indeed a sad day when an old stoic (an “in” term for people who went to Stowe School) has to take grammar lessons from an old girl from a Lanarkshire comprehensive, where the likes of TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and former footballer and Rangers manager Ally McCoist were educated. For my part, I won’t be taking any lessons in ambition and desire to achieve from a man who can’t write a sentence.  But my purpose here is not to take pot shots at Mr Sleater – though that is good fun. My purpose is to call for an investment management industry that is truly inclusive and embraces people from all types of educational backgrounds.  The investment industry is already well on the way to understanding the need for greater diversity among the people it employs, as shown by initiatives such as Investment 2020, which aims to offer a wider range of young people career opportunities in the industry. But there is more to do.  Sleater may cut cloth these days rather than City deals, but he is not alone in thinking that the privately educated are somehow fitter for the fight.  And he makes one comment that disturbs me greatly: “At a public school there is a sense of being able to achieve what you want to achieve and there is a larger after-care system in place in the form of the old boys’ network.” BAD FOR BUSINESS
I’m slightly surprised to hear someone say that out loud. We really need to abandon this who-you-know stuff – not just because it is wrong, but because it is bad for business. 
Andrew Formica, chief executive officer of Henderson Global Investors and the driving force behind Investment 2020, explained why at a recent Investment 2020 event when he said: “We want to encourage new ideas from people who challenge the status quo.” If the investment industry is to fulfil a useful function in society, then it must be inclusive both in terms of the clients it serves and the employees who serve those clients.  Or as Formica puts it: “Getting a job should be about what you can do, not who you know.”
Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe ©2014 funds europe

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