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How Natixis IM is bringing underprivileged schoolkids into the industry
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Talent is distributed evenly; opportunities are not. With the asset management industry under pressure to improve the balance of its gender and ethnic makeup, some groups are looking to address the other crucial pillar: social background.
Intervening at the point job applications are made has limited effectiveness: it does not catch people who could have applied, but did not.
Hence some asset managers are venturing further upstream: to schools. The hope is that providing financial support and mentoring to young people will open doors that would otherwise have appeared closed.
Charlene Sagoe (pictured), Natixis IM’s international head of diversity, equity and inclusion, spoke to Citywire Amplify about the scholarship and its importance in attracting, inspiring, and developing disadvantaged students for careers in financial services.
What was the motivation behind the launch of this programme?
The programme came about because there wasn’t a lot of acknowledgement that, as an industry, a lot more needs to be done to expand the racial and ethnic composition of our collective workforce. It is part of the company’s long-standing commitment to supporting our local communities and the broader efforts to increase diversity in financial services. We have similar programmes in the US and France now, because we already had established relationships with schools and universities over there. And then we decided to launch here in the UK.
When you mention diversity, do you mean the ethnic or financial diversity of students this programme is aimed at?
We wanted a programme that would target the underrepresented in this city. And also we wanted to be able to target lower socioeconomic groups and individuals that perhaps wouldn’t have the opportunity or even afford to go to university. So we identified a local authority, in a borough that has a student population from a lower socioeconomic group and is underrepresented that would help us make an impact in the community.
We chose East Haringey because it’s one of the most deprived areas in London, with a limited number of students going to university. We decided to partner with Haringey Community Gold, a network that is connected to community programmes that supports younger people in the area. They met our criteria and provided us with access to schools in the borough. We then chose to partner with the London Academy of Excellence in Tottenham because it is one of the top schools in the area, where 96% of the students come from diverse backgrounds, which reflects the multicultural nature of Tottenham.
Is academic excellence the basis on which students are chosen for this programme?
Not solely. It is also students making an impact in their communities. They might be doing mentoring youth work or volunteering within the community. Also, it is for students who show a genuine interest and passion for caring and finance and who can demonstrate that through their research or projects outside of school. One of our scholars, chosen this year, started a trading club with friends. And during our open day in January, we ask those interested to submit written applications; we look at their motivation behind applying for this programme and their interest in the industry.
It’s some combination of factors: that they have demonstrated an interest in finance, the impact the scholarship will have on them, and their academic potential. And then we’ve got input from the teachers that can give us a full picture of the students and any extenuating circumstances, because, let’s not forget, these are students that come from deprived areas and come from challenging backgrounds.
What does Natixis hope this programme will achieve?
It’s about increasing awareness of the investment management industry and the opportunities that exist. When you speak to students, they’re very surprised – pleasantly so – that there is a vast range of functions and roles that exist within investment managers and financial services. This programme allows them to also have or provide hands-on experience. And if we can inspire youth from other underrepresented groups to pursue careers in financial services and make their communities proud, then I would hope that we were building a pipeline of diverse talent of individuals that, after completion of their university degrees, Natixis or affiliated companies would naturally be their employer of choice.
Liban Ali (centre right) and Giovanni Rose-Stewart (left), both from The London Academy of Excellence Tottenham are this year’s winners. Rose-Stewart will attend King’s College London to study mathematics and Ali will study computer science at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Ali said the reason he applied for this programme was to get to experience the professional world and to network, which an individual from his background might not have had otherwise.
Rose-Stewart, who is on the Haringey Youth Advisory Board and was one of last year’s Foyles young poets of the year, said he wanted to get into finance but is yet to decide in which discipline.
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