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Rating:Gatch Weighs In On ESG Disclosures and DE&I Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Gatch Weighs In On ESG Disclosures and DE&I

Reported by Andrew Lusk

"Until more recently, our industry's approach to diversity and inclusion has been a little unfair and a kind of 'check-the-box' activity," said J.P. Morgan Asset Management CEO George Gatch, topping off the first annual (and virtual) Nicsa Fearless Leadership Symposium last Thursday. "Now I feel the focus has changed, and there's real momentum around this."

George Gatch
J.P. Morgan Asset Management
Gatch was the final speaker of the day, giving a fireside chat at the end of the trade group's diversity organization's inaugural conference. His discussion was introduced and moderated by Bank of America Merrill Lynch managing director Sandy Bolton.

"At J.P. Morgan Asset Management, DE&I has become a core part of our strategy," Gatch said, "and I fundamentally believe that to be a world-class asset manager, you need the best talent. That means we need to broaden our recruiting and hiring techniques, and how we manage talent."

"I think we have to have a workforce that reflects the society and clients we serve," he added.

Gatch then explained the role of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management advisory council, composed of fifty executive directors and managing directors from around the world with the shared mission of expanding DE&I and "becoming the most diverse and inclusive asset management firm in the world."

He said that, "On the gender front," around "twenty-five percent of our portfolio managers are women, and those women manage more than 40 percent of our total assets under management."

"We have much more work to do on racial and ethnic diversity," he noted. The next and most important step to take, he says, is moving from talk to action.

"We're doing a better job inviting people to the party, but are we really creating an environment where everyone feels equally comfortable being themselves?"

Bolton explained that in her work managing people at BofA, she joined all eleven of the company's employee networks, to "better understand the struggles of [the people beside her] to fit in or conform to others' perceptions."

"As a manager of people," she said, "I think it's your responsibility to participate in these networks, join a few sessions, listen, open your mind, and then be willing to learn and be honest about the fact that you don't know all the right things to say."

She added, "I find that among some of the people on my team, there is a lot of silence because they don't want to say the wrong thing, and the best way to combat that is join the networks and become an ally."

Bolton then asked, "How should companies be held accountable? There are not a lot of requirements for reporting or even mandating DE&I training," to which Gatch said the main issue is disclosure.

"One of the things we'd like to see," he noted, "is more standard reporting disclosure on environmental, social, and governance issues. This goes well beyond diversity, although that is definitely a part of it. I think we have to be careful about burdening companies with additional, costly reporting, but we do want investors to have the ability to evaluate progress that is being made."

He concluded, "If there's any saving grace within the past year, I think that people are starting to talk about the important things, and that's going to be a big driver of the ultimate momentum around making real progress here."

The Fearless Leadership Symposium ran from Thursday to Friday, and featured a number of industry insiders and special guests speaking on DE&I , including Northern Trust Asset Management president Shundrawn Thomas and Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund CIO Angela Miller-May. Other sessions included discussions of the future of DE&I initiatives within the industry, BRGs, and the evolution of corporate culture. This was the first annual Nicsa Fearless Leadership Symposium, and it was entirely online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Nicsa team looks forward to an in-person second symposium, in 2022. 

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