Case study – how Momentum Investments is thinking about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Jeanette Marais CEO of Momentum Investments and Deputy CEO of Momentum Metropolitan shares how the firm is promoting culture and tackling diversity

Sara Benwell POSTED ON 11/4/2021 10:43:38 AM

This is part two in a series. To read part one, which examines the greatest people management challenges facing the asset management industry today and the steps fund operators can take to overcome them – click here.

Sara Benwell: What are you doing to promote culture within your organisation?

Jeanette Marais: At Momentum Investments we have a strong values-based culture that focuses on teamwork, collaboration, accountability, integrity, and innovation. Building strong and resilient people through active health and wellbeing intervention is key to our culture.

An organisation’s culture is determined by its people. To promote a strong and sustainable culture, you need to have the right people on your team. These people must truly live the values.

Additionally, we ensure that we create an environment in which people feel that they can speak up and offer their opinions. We are extremely focused on diversity and inclusion and creating a space where our employees can also embrace their own diversity.

“To promote a strong and sustainable culture, you need to have the right people on your team.”

The tone of organisational culture is set from the top. Leadership must be the first to truly live the culture and be transparent about that.

We believe that culture is not something that is written on a poster and is put up on a wall but should rather be real and authentic.

Leaders have conversations and lay down the rules, in collaboration with employees, so that everyone is welcome to challenge a colleague that does not live the values we adhere to.

The culture is open and honest, not about philosophy but about getting the job done, about involving the right people when and where they are needed.

“Communication of shared visions and strategies are essential to motivate employees”

With the Seneca acquisition, the reason it was a success is because of the culture in those teams. The successful acquisition also shows how reaching out and engaging is essential to keeping the culture alive.

Simplifying the business goals, so that every single employee knows that they have a role to play in getting to the bottom line. To achieve this alignment, communication of shared visions and strategies are essential to motivate employees.

Leadership that listens and engages with their teams is instrumental in this instance. This way, every individual will be personally invested in the goal, and this keeps the business alive.

Sara: How are you thinking about emerging issues such as DEI?

Jeanette: At Momentum, we are passionate about transformation and inclusion. This focus has been a core part of our business, being a South African listed entity, where diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of society and businesses.

Diversity and inclusion involve not only ESG investments and responsible investing but promoting diversity and inclusion in our workforce. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a very important topic in South Africa and is increasingly receiving attention around the world.

We support the principle of having people who bring diverse perspectives and therefore diverse solutions and processes to the business. Diversity of thought is key if you want to drive innovation and fresh perspectives, as long as the core values are the same.

We believe women should be treated the same as their male colleagues, get the same opportunities, the same pay, and the same respect.

“Diversity of thought is key if you want to drive innovation and fresh perspectives”

We always aim to open up the crucial conversations and do not hide the elephant in the room. For instance, Momentum has been turning over the ‘m’ every year for the last three years during the month of August. Therefore, ‘Womentum’ is an example of how the company celebrates women and shows it support in the challenges that women face.

At Momentum Investments, we try to do good with the way we invest through our responsible investing principles.

We also do a lot to promote financial literacy through various public relations efforts and education, spread awareness around crucial topics like gender-based violence and other challenges faced by women, as well as educate South Africans on the importance of being vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus and kickstart the economy. 

“There is a growing recognition of the need to prioritise the values that women bring”

British author and leadership expert, Richard Barrett’s research on values-based leadership also found that men and women bring inherently different values to the table. While men are predominantly associated with values like strength, competition and logic, and women are typically assigned compassion, empathy and care.

We believe both sets of values are needed to be successful – but there is a growing recognition of the need to prioritise the values that women bring and encourage and support more female leaders.

An important part of being able to create an empowering environment for more women to become leaders is overcoming unconscious bias.


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