Adrian Kerley is a Private Equity Executive Director at IFM Investors, a global fund manager that is owned by 17 superannuation funds and invests on behalf of 640 institutional investors globally. He says the business’ focus on investment returns makes it essential to employ people from diverse backgrounds to support decision making and problem solving.
“We've built the private equity team from the bottom up over the past five years. This clean sheet of paper has allowed us to be purposeful in how we've built the team. In a way, it’s like building a football team, you need all sorts of players.”
Kerley says for IFM Investors, diversity is about hiring people who have different technical, professional and personal experience. “The evidence is indisputable. Having a diverse team results in better decision making and outcomes for investors. So we want to hire people from a diverse range of backgrounds and identities.”
Its portfolio businesses also have KPIs around diversity and inclusion. As some of its investments have a time horizon of between 10 and 20 years, this gives the firm enough time to effect meaningful change around diversity and inclusion. “It's not just a tick-the-box or due diligence risk assessment, as with other Responsible Investment and ESG initiatives, it’s part of our value-creation plan.”
IFM Investors’ investment in Brisbane-based software firm Genie Solutions is an example. When it bought the business in 2017, it set a goal of increasing the number of software developers working for the firm from 20 to 80.
“It was a big task. We needed to develop a new employee value proposition, which meant implementing policies and procedures that support diversity and inclusion. This included paid parental leave for all staff, regardless of gender, which was not the norm then. These changes lifted the percentage of females working in this area of the business from 20 per cent to nearly 50 per cent of the team.”
Manifold benefits ensued, including recognition as female employer of choice and a substantial reduction in recruitment costs because the company became a sought-after place to work. “The diversity and inclusion strategy became a lever for delivering on our strategic plans and ambitions for our company.”
Kerley acknowledges the role of industry leaders in supporting diversity in private capital markets.
“We have to lead on this issue and lead loudly. We need to influence each other, share our learnings and leverage each other's scale. For instance, we shared our paid parental leave policy with the Australian Investment Council so it could become a template for the industry. We didn't have to share that policy. It makes us less competitive if others are replicating our work in attracting talent. But we believed in this instance, to help improve inclusion and diversity outcomes, it was the right thing to do.”