Culture and Diversity
FINBOURNE Interviews Joanna Munro and Bhavini Parmar at HSBC Asset Management
In the latest of our Culture and Diversity interviews, we speak to Joanna Munro, CEO, HSBC Alternatives and Bhavini Parmar, Alternatives Product Delivery Manager at HSBC Asset Management. Joanna and Bhavini are both members of the Diversity Project’s new Future Female Fund Manager’s Pathway, a program created to attract more women into fund management.
Despite a steady climb over the past few years, the stark reality is that today, women still only account for 12% of fund managers globally. In a world first, this tailored program, already taken up by 32 investment management firms, champions women by not only delivering the relevant training to become CFA-qualified, but also providing the support, networking opportunities and feedback they need from industry practitioners, to move the dial on diversity and create a more gender-balanced future in investment management.
As a partner of The Diversity Project, we are pleased to shine a light on its initiatives and in this interview, we speak to Joanna as Pathway Program sponsor and Bhavini as a Pathway Program participant, to hear their experiences and why programs like these are crucial to creating parity in financial services.
1. The DP Pathway Program was created to deliver real change in the asset management industry by unlocking female talent and addressing a lack of women in fund management roles. Tell us about your experience to date and what led you and HSBC Asset Management to become a founding member of the program?
Joanna: I started in the mid-1980s on a buy-side equity analyst graduate program. As a Maths and Engineering graduate, I was used to being a minority in the room, so it was actually refreshing and perhaps unusual at the time, that I had a female line manager and access to a number of female portfolio managers, one of whom became an informal mentor for me.
What’s been so shocking for me is that all these decades later, in so many situations, women are still a minority in the room. The DP Pathway Program is such a concrete and practical initiative for change, it felt very natural for HSBC Asset Management to step up as a founder member.
2. What objectives does HSBC Asset Management have for this program and how do these fit within its own DEI strategy?
Joanna: At HSBC Asset Management, through a combination of top down and bottom up initiatives, we really focus on creating an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive – and that’s one of the reasons the DP Pathway program was such a good fit for us. Women now represent around 22% of HSBC AM’s fund manager population globally. We want to do much better, but change takes time.
In particular, we know that it can be challenging for our people to cross from one area of the business to another. Although the DP Pathway Program is no instant solution, if we select the right participants and support them properly then we really can help women in our business to move across from product or client facing roles, into investing positions.
3. As a participant in this inaugural program from the Diversity Project, tell us a little about your career to date, what made you apply and what impact do you feel this program will have in shaping your career?
Bhavini: Growing up in an area of high unemployment and opting against the traditional route of university, I’m grateful for the opportunities this industry has offered me so far. I have had a variety of roles, as a Project Manager at J.P. Morgan, M&G Investments and I am currently at HSBC Asset Management within its Alternatives business.
I was always mindful of the potential drawbacks that could come with having a different background to my future colleagues. Despite not pursuing a degree or following a traditional path in to fund management, the program has provided me with an opportunity which otherwise would have felt out of reach. I truly believe this program is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is enabling me to pursue my dream job.
4. As a key program sponsor, can you explain how you are helping to shape the curriculum, so that participants get the most out of it?
Joanna: I was part of the group that started planning the program over a year ago and I also lead on the ‘Career Activism’ theme, which is about supporting Pathway participants to take an active role in managing their careers.
Our activities include panels where successful Portfolio Managers share their career experiences. We help with the development of Career Development Plans to ensure that individuals consider all aspects of their career advancement and discuss this with their ’buddy groups’.
The program also includes a video series showcasing successful careers of women who also act as role models. And lastly, the program comprises sessions discussing how to navigate career challenges, for instance, successfully navigating pregnancy/parental leave and how to ‘Know Your Value’.
5. What excites you most about the program? Do you feel your development, as part of a growing cohort of female fund managers will move the dial on diversity in the industry?
Bhavini: The DP Pathway Program allows you to explore a role which previously felt out of reach, become part of a knowledge sharing ecosystem with talented individuals from across our industry and gain a sponsor who is there to champion me.
My aspirations for the program are to build a solid foundation pursuing a career as a portfolio manager, while also gaining the necessary technical and soft skills pertinent to succeeding in this role I am also looking forward to being part of an initiative driven on changing the landscape and inspiring future generations.
I believe this program, which challenges the norm, brings a wide range of benefits to employees, employers, and clients alike. By focusing on diversity, you’re able to see fresh, new perspectives from talented individuals who may have otherwise been dismissed for a specific role.
6. A significant part of the DP Pathway Program focuses on networking opportunities with like-minded female peers, senior female fund managers and industry leaders. What are your thoughts on how this complements the curriculum?
Joanna: We know that for under-represented groups, it is really important that they see people like themselves in the roles they aspire to. I mentioned how lucky I was to have female role models – I didn’t realise it at the time, but that definitely shaped my ambition.
Our participants will see, in many different contexts, successful women at different stages of their careers. In order showcase women who’ve taken a variety of career paths, we host both in person and virtual events where participants meet and interact with a wide diverse group of female portfolio managers.
There is much diversity to be found within the female portfolio manager population. By facilitating these conversations, we encourage our participants to see this as an industry that embraces difference and that there isn’t a single template they have to follow.
7. It’s expected that this program will help the number of UK female fund managers to double in the next four years but what does success here, look like to each of you?
Joanna: We have four women from HSBC Asset Management on the program this year: for me success would be two fold – first that the participants themselves are so positive about the program that the number of applicants we get, doubles for next year.
And on the other side that the sponsors are so positive that we get more of our team heads asking if they can be sponsors. But of course, the ultimate success will be seeing our participants go on, in time, to have successful and fulfilling fund management careers.
Bhavini: Success for me means seeing the industry become accessible for all and showing women that if you want something, you can work hard for it! From a personal aspect, it allows me to change my career trajectory from what I thought was possible to the endless possibilities this program has already shown I can achieve! I hope to explore a career in fund management and use the skills learnt from the DP Pathway Program to inspire others.
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