Culture’s importance to asset managers reaffirmed

A new report has highlighted the importance of staff culture at asset managers for achieving good returns and results. 

Andrew Putwain POSTED ON 6/6/2024 8:00:00 AM


The importance of a good working culture in asset management companies has been outlined with emphasis on how it should be a key concern for organisations when trying to understand, define, and demonstrate their corporate culture. 

The trend has been highlighted in a new report from JPES Partners, which was based on a Masterclass on the ‘Role of Culture in Asset Management,’ hosted by consultants Debbie Clarke and Angela Docherty. 

The report said that asset managers can better “understand, define, and showcase their corporate culture to external audiences, including clients, consultants, and prospects,” by focusing on their staff and the environment they have fostered.  

This is key for operations staff who are responsible for colleague recruitment, retention, and development.

“Culture, talent, and inclusion have a real impact on a company’s

long-term reputation and sustainability."

The summary was also based on the annual Asset Owner Study, which surveyed the evolving priorities and requirements of asset owners that represent more than £2 trillion of assets across pension schemes, charities, insurers, wealth managers, and platforms.  

The industry body in the UK, the Investment Association (IA), has spoken about the topic as well, stating that culture, talent, and inclusion are “business imperatives for investment management firms” – even launching a new initiative to help promote it. 

“Culture, talent, and inclusion have a real impact on a company’s long-term reputation and sustainability,” said the IA. 

The Asset Owner Study 2024 study said that 97% of those who were surveyed believed that the ability to demonstrate a positive corporate culture was a key part of their selection criteria of asset managers because it was an indicator of the strength of services to be provided. 

What does the report say? 

The report found that positive efforts around corporate culture were often lacking despite its clear operational positives to the company. 

“Despite this being such a critical part of their selection process, the study found that 84% of the same asset owners felt that asset managers were falling short in this regard,” the report said. 

It added that there was a consensus that culture was one of the most important factors in determining the success of a firm. However, said culture had to be led from the top in order to be successful, it added.  

“There were very different experiences in the room of how this played out practically at asset management firms,” said the report, listing examples that included environments where senior management told employees “what their culture was through a litany of positive words”, but “didn’t ask the staff if this translated into their own experience”.  

“This creates the potential for management and employees to be at odds,” said the report. 

The report also highlighted the opposite situations – those who had had a more positive experience, where management took the issue of a beneficial culture seriously and conducted thorough exercises in order to understand the nuances, improve collaboration, and align goals with individual objectives. 

This was instead of staff being told what their corporate culture was with gestures and words perceived as ‘empty’. “Management [should] encourage staff to buy into it through their own experience,” it said – which HR experts have noted this is key. Given examples were invigorating constructive dialogues in the workplace, which could create an inclusive environment, especially with strategies around discussing diversity and inclusion issues. 

Chief Operating Officers have often said that even with policies that encourage these ideas and conversations in the workplace, more needs to be done to continue improving.

“Managers need to monitor when people feel side-lined,

or their voices aren’t being heard."

For many, hiring the right team was important as, once you had the right people, you needed to show a commitment to ideas such as inclusion and diversity. “From a social perspective, feedback, meeting, and seeking out viewpoints are important,” said Mark Wright, Chief Operating Officer at investment firm Kimura Capital, when he spoke to Fund Operator in 2022 on the topic of how to build better workplace cultures post-Covid.  

“Managers need to monitor when people feel side-lined, or their voices aren’t being heard. To me, it is about monitoring, coaching, and inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. This will help your company evolve,” he said. 

Optics – why are they important? 

Another key lesson the report listed is the optics of trying to demonstrate a positive corporate culture through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such as volunteering days if senior management are not part of this.  

“There are many images now appearing on LinkedIn with employees utilising their volunteering days, which rarely, if ever, include the senior management,” the report said. “This, it was agreed, can be quite telling of an organisation’s wider culture.” 

Key takeaways 

The report listed the biggest operational takeaways for senior staff in terms of operating in a productive culture. 

  • Senior leadership must buy into the importance of culture and be active participants in demonstrating this to an organisation. 
  • An authentic culture isn’t simply about finding new words to differentiate one firm from another; it’s about bringing the culture to life with real life examples and making sure that this resonates with the experience of both staff and clients. 
  • Culture is rarely addressed in a beauty parade process; but it can be a true differentiator. 
  • Demonstrating how your culture enables you to run a sustainable business and make better decisions, ultimately creates a stronger connection with the client. 
  • An organisation [should be] focused not on just its senior leaders, but on listening to new, younger, more diverse voices and ensuring a firm-wide succession plan. 


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