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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Thomas Sees Fundsters' "Tremendous Moral Opportunity"

Reported by Andrew Lusk, Editorial Intern

"There's this tremendous moral obligation we have as an industry ... and a great opportunity to take advantage of untapped potential and talent within communities we are less connected to."

Shundrawn Antwarn Thomas
Northern Trust Asset Management
President
So says Shundrawn Thomas, president of Northern Trust Asset Management, in the opening keynote presentation today at an inaugural, diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused conference: Nicsa's 2021 Fearless Leadership Symposium. The session, titled "This is Not a Drill," features Thomas chatting with CNBC senior personal finance correspondent Sharon Epperson.

Thomas says one of the most important things a company can do to promote DE&I is keep reaching for new goals, even if a program is already in place.

"This industry offers tremendous opportunities," Thomas says. "But with [twenty-seven years] of practical experience, I think that when we consider diversity, equity, and inclusion; as an industry, we've fallen woefully short."

Thomas, who has been with Northern Trust since 2004 and president of asset management since 2017, notes that gender parity remains a major issue, with women making up only 26 percent of industry leaders. As for ethnic diversity, he notes the situation is "much worse."

Black and Hispanic Americans make up 32 percent of the U.S. population, but only 13 percent of the asset management and retirement industry, and 5 percent of industry leadership.

Epperson asks how allies might be empowered within the industry, to which Thomas says there are three tactics he tries to focus on at his own firm: improving representation, expanding opportunities, and providing sponsorship.

"Representation is important at every level," he adds, "but you have to start with the top."

The Fearless Leadership Symposium from Nicsa (a Boston-based trade group) continues into tomorrow, with sessions lined up about authentic and empathetic leadership, DE&I data application, and a closing fireside chat with J.P. Morgan asset management CEO George Gatch. 

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