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Willis Towers Watson warns fund managers to reform their culture



Willis Towers Watson has advised asset managers to improve their internal culture and has said it will lower the rating of companies whose workplaces are not inclusive or pay extravagant sums to executives.

The group, which advises on $ 2.3bn of assets, is one of the main guardians of the UK pension fund industry of £ 3bn.

Luba Nikulina, director of research at Willis Towers Watson, said the company would treat the culture of asset managers with the same importance as fund performance or other financial metrics.

Asset managers have tried to improve the culture in the investee companies by voting against the administration at annual meetings, but have struggled with their own situation, as evidenced by wide gender pay gaps that reflect a lack of diversity.

The Willis Towers Watson managers selection initiative could drive change by creating a commercial incentive.

Ms. Nikulina said that last year her company had downgraded a manager and rejected two more because "she could not feel comfortable" with her culture, despite having confidence in her investment strategy and skills.

He highlighted the concern about the commitment of managers to the inclusion of women and ethnic minorities. "The culture of inclusion seems to be a weak point. [in asset management]"Ms. Nikulina said, adding that some groups were symbolic.

Some managers assume that they can "simply bring a woman or a non-Caucasian person and then have solved the problem."

"Clearly [does] No, "she said." You must make sure that the person feels that their opinion is heard, instead of simply being there just by checking the box. "

She said that the "stellar manager culture" lived in some fundraising groups and that this meant that the voices of minorities could be hidden.

As part of its evaluation, Willis Towers Watson is collecting data on the workforce of asset managers and the gender pay gap.

The Investment Association, which represents the UK industry, said its members had an average gender pay gap of 31% in the first year of mandatory reporting in the UK, greater than the 28% pay gap for workers in the UK. financial services in general.

Managers, including Newton Investment Management, Columbia Threadneedle and State Street Global Advisors, reported an increasing gap in the second year of data.

The generous parental leave policies offered to men and women are seen as a way to address the imbalance. Willis Towers Watson has begun to analyze the policies of fund groups.

Ms. Nikulina's team is also talking with the leaders to evaluate their commitment to inclusion. "Leadership and how it sets the tone essentially shapes the culture," he said.

A study conducted by the Citywire media group last year found that mixed-gender fund management teams obtained a 0.5% better performance in three years. The study was based on data from 16,000 fund managers. Ms. Nikulina said that while evidence was still emerging of a link between diversity and performance, she believed that a greater variety of perspectives was beneficial when making investment decisions.

He added that a strong corporate culture was critical to the long-term success of an asset manager. "Given the headwinds that the asset management industry faces at this time, if the culture is not properly defined and managed, these organizations are less likely to succeed."

Willis Towers Watson is also attentive to extravagant executive pay packages and wants to see evidence that asset managers are not only prioritizing the financial reward.

Ms. Nikulina said: "What is the purpose of the industry? Is it to enrich those who work in it or to improve the situation of the final beneficiaries and improve their welfare? "

She added: "Focusing on softer aspects, such as why the leaders created the business and the message they express about why they come to the office every morning is becoming very important."


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