Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, the firm’s chief executive, Dick Weil said that while the company was working towards a more diverse workplace across all diversity facets, it was finding the candidate pool was a major problem.
“Frankly the candidate pool is not as rich as we’d like it to be. If there was one element in this which is just acutely troubling it’s that we need a more diverse candidate pool for the jobs, and that won’t be solved overnight either,” he said.
“I get that can sound like an excuse and we don’t want to use it as one. We are accountable for making progress and we will. But if you want to know the truth, the hardest step is getting a properly diverse candidate pool.”
The asset management industry has come under increasing pressure to step up efforts to increase diversity within its workforce, especially in senior management positions. The issue has received extra prominence as UK-based financial institutions have been forced to reveal their gender pay gaps this year which have revealed a huge gulf.
Weil said his firm cared about diversity, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it made for better business as it led to better idea generation.
He noted that while the asset manager and its competitors were well intentioned in creating a more diversified workforce there had not been enough progress.
“I can also tell you for sure when we look at our numbers we’re not that impressed with our own progress,” he said.
Weil said Janus Henderson had put in place initiatives such as “controls around the pools of candidates” to make sure the pools were more diverse, and controls around the interviewer panels to make sure they were diverse to try to prevent unconscious bias.
He said managers were also challenged on their employee decisions.
“We challenge managers and say ‘hey are you sure that’s right?’ Now we can’t go in and reframe their judgements,” he said.
“But it’s an effort to ask that question on the basis of diversity in order to say ‘hey are we sure we’ve done the right thing here? Are we confident there isn’t some sort of unconscious bias going on?’.”
The chief executive said that the firm had made progress in small areas such as pay levels but that only small steps had been made.
“I can talk to you about small differences and small steps forward and I’m afraid that’s the game we have to play – we have to make small steps forward every year,” he said.
“Our employees are holding us accountable for this effort… and they are insistent that we do this throughout the business and this is fairly helpful because that ends up being a cultural value that helps us to where we want to go.”