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City Hive launches corporate culture standard to counteract diversity greenwash

  • New framework launched to create cultural change and enable professional fund buyers to drive a movement towards more diverse, equitable and inclusive firms
  • By signing up, investment management companies can communicate progress effectively to all stakeholders including retail fund buyers
  • Founding signatories include Schroders, Legal & General IM, and Aviva Investors – the combined AUM of the founding signatories is c. $6.5 trillion
  • Designed by City Hive leveraging decades of insights and experience working in the investment and sustainability space.

City Hive, the think tank and advocacy group, today launches ACT, a standard of corporate culture for investment companies.

ACT, standing for ‘Action, Challenge, and Transparency’, is a standard of corporate culture designed to help investment companies demonstrate movement towards more diverse, equitable and inclusive firms. ACT enables companies to show alignment between external and internal values; between beliefs and behaviours.

Crucially, ACT provides professional investors with a framework to assess, measure, and be a catalyst for change. It is a tool to diminish greenwashing, going beyond product level to assess an entire company. ACT is designed to become a core element of a due diligence process, measuring culture and diversity as standalone pillars of the ESG universe.

Companies who complete the framework can publish the mark in annual financial reports, pay reports, and fund fact sheets to publicly demonstrate measurable developments in corporate culture.  The framework is suitable for any size or type of firm regardless of global location or structure.

Bev Shah, founder of ACT, comments: Diversity and inclusion is the outcome not the target.  ACT is not a tick box exercise but a framework that sheds light on actions being taken and create the wholesale shift needed to build an inclusive Investment Management industry. 

“In order to create real impact as an industry, investment companies need to allow emerging and diverging ways of thinking to thrive and create meaningful change. To move towards an equitable and sustainable World access to investing and investments must be democratised. They need to ensure that their actions and behaviours are reflective of their values and mission statements.”

The framework is designed to support investment companies to communicate progress effectively to professional investors while also providing assurance to retail investors via the ACT mark.

The framework is guided by a Stewardship Council of Investment Management stakeholders, which is responsible for ensuring the expectations of an entity’s values and behaviours are evolving meaningfully from talk to action and results over time. It is chaired by City Hive’s CEO Bev Shah, and Chief Strategist Mandy Kirby.

There are 15 founding signatories to ACT. These are Schroders, Lombard Odier Investment Management, M&G, Legal & General Investment Management, Aviva Investors, Mirabaud Investments, AssetCo, Federated Hermes, Capital Group, WHEB, BlueBay Asset Management, Radiant ESG, TT International Asset Management, Invesco & Snowball IM. The founding signatories have a combined AUM of approx. £6.5 trillion.

City Hive is partnered with Door to enable professional fund investors to access ACT and embed it into due diligence analysis. Door enables transparency and comparability by providing a bilateral exchange of information – fund investors should be able to quickly identify and hold managers to account on their DEI practices.

Mandy Kirby, founder of ACT, comments: “ACT is a unique tool which the investment management industry can use to meet increasing scrutiny from regulators and investors head on. It measures authentic change rather than shiny metrics or polished promises– by ACTing, companies can give an assurance to all their stakeholders.

“Investors look at trends, make forecasts. To do this they need more than data, they also need to see a direction of travel.  A company that can talk to stakeholders about how it has moved through the framework will give clients assurance of its commitment to progress that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for investment and people.”

Rob Sanders, co-founder of Door, said: “We’re excited to partner with City Hive and provide our technology to support the ACT framework and help deliver much needed industry change. Transparency around governance, culture and diversity is of prime importance to us and we are pleased to be able to help as it has risen to the top of professional investors’ priorities.”

Comments from signatories include:

Apiramy Jeyarajah, Head of UK Wholesale at Aviva Investors comments: “We are very pleased to support and be part of ACT, an important step towards building a more equitable and sustainable future for the investment management industry and our clients. Boosting diversity in a full and holistic manner is not simply a moral imperative; it is a commercial one. Institutional investors and consultants are looking for asset managers who consistently provide alpha generation and manage risk – with diversity of thought and idea generation among the criteria they consider.”

Matthew Rawlings, Head of Financial Institutions – UK & Ireland at BlueBay Asset Management said: “We believe initiatives like ACT are key in giving our industry the tools it needs to positively progress the DE&I agenda. By making frameworks like this easily accessible, it also removes some of the default excuses and barriers for why improvements aren’t happening or aren’t happening sooner. We are proud to be one of the founding signatories and look forward to seeing how ACT helps to build momentum around this critical issue.”

Mona Shah, Head of Sustainable Investments at Stonehage Fleming, comments: “We believe that ACT is of paramount importance to achieve widespread cultural change across the investment industry. Targeting corporate culture specifically, rather than tokenistic or performative behaviours, will lead to greater and more successful, visible change. Importantly, ACT allows for fund selectors and asset managers to come together for the first time to galvanise such change, rather than working as separate entities.”

Selina Tyler, Head of UK Wholesale at Lombard Odier Investment Managers said: “As a founding signatory of ACT, we’re proud of our commitment to creating a workplace culture embedded in diversity, equality and inclusivity. Transparency and measurement are key to understanding which areas we need to work on collectively as an industry in order to make positive progress. ACT is an important step in establishing that transparency and setting the standard for investment companies. A framework that enables us to measure societal and cultural development will also ensure that we as investors are held to the same robust standards as the companies we engage and invest with. We look forward to collaborating with City Hive going forward, and contributing towards the creation of a forward-thinking, modern culture in the investments industry.”

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