Reflections from Bill O’Malley, CEO, Co-CIO, Board Member
At IR+M, we endeavor to be ever better, openly acknowledging our deficiencies and dynamically altering our course. We know that diversity makes us stronger. It makes us a firm that clients want to partner with, and a firm where our colleagues can be their authentic selves. It makes us more enlightened, more interesting, and more approachable. It makes us a firm that we are proud to call ours. But diversity alone will not produce the requisite changes that our firm, and our industry, need to implement. We must also prioritize equity and inclusion. Without an emphasis on all three, we cannot meaningfully advance along the road before us.
We embrace DEI because it is consistent with our core values, and we are energized by the prospect of effecting real change. Focusing our efforts solely on hiring talent from our competitors is an insufficient response to what is a long-term mission. We believe resoundingly that this should not be a zero-sum game. We have an obligation to our colleagues and industry to be better, and to help inspire DEI-related awareness and action. As a result, we have developed a multi-layered approach that we believe will be impactful. The core tenets of our comprehensive action plan, which is always evolving, are as follows:
The burden of advancing these initiatives must not fall unduly on our diverse colleagues. While we are deeply appreciative of their leadership and incredible enthusiasm, as well as that of our Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), we must all be responsible for moving forward together. We must lean in, embrace our advancing DEI commitment, and all hold ourselves accountable for making it successful.
Thank you for believing in our colleagues and our firm, and for your partnership on this critical journey.
Transparency: Our Goals
We believe that a culture of transparency inspires trust and enhances performance and engagement. By sharing our DEI-related goals internally and externally, we are aligning our words with our actions, proving our commitment to the cause, and holding ourselves publicly accountable. We also are inviting feedback from our many constituencies – feedback that will only help us get better. Wins and losses will be equally and explicitly recognized.
Our overarching goal is to evolve the composition of our firm in all aspects, so that it more accurately reflects the world around us. By 2022, we will double the size of our Board, half of which will be comprised of individuals who identify as women and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Similarly, for every open position, at least half of the interview candidates will identify as women and/or BIPOC. To monitor our progress, the ODEI will provide our Management Committee with a quarterly update. We have used January 2018’s metrics as a baseline for improvement.
The statistics represent real people who choose to join – and remain in – our ranks and contribute to our unique culture and business success. Simply attracting diverse talent to our firm is not enough. We must provide our diverse colleagues with access to vertical and horizontal career moves, management opportunities, committee membership, and share ownership. To be successful, all IR+Mers must be invested in our efforts to become stronger together. To that end, we have asked every team and colleague – at every level – to create at least one DEI-related goal each year. Progress towards these DEI goals will be reviewed quarterly, and will be assessed during annual compensation reviews.
Leadership: The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
For many reasons, 2020 was a deeply introspective and challenging year for all of us. As our firm worked to develop our DEI strategy, we recognized that we needed a governance group to oversee its implementation. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was born. While we all own our DEI initiatives, the ODEI is empowered to institute widespread change and engage all levels of our firm as we work towards our goals. The ODEI is comprised of senior leaders who have embraced their own DEI journeys, and inspired colleagues to pursue their own, as well.
The ODEI serves as the essential link between our internal and external communities, as well as our senior leadership and firm. They are accessible, intentional, and determined, as well as the backbone of our multi-pronged DEI approach. The team, which gathers at least bi-weekly, is the focal point of our communications hub, learning from our organizational psychologist, connecting with our affinity groups, informing our Management Committee, and responding to our fast-changing world. To remain in the flow of IR+M life, the ODEI hosts monthly virtual open office time (VOOT), where all are encouraged to drop in to ask questions, voice concerns, and share stories and perspectives.
Our Teammates: All In
Our purpose remains unchanged from our founding in John Sommers’ basement in 1987 – to build a better IR+M year after year. As such, our Human Capital Management (HCM) team, alongside our DEI Council and grassroots affinity groups, have been working to create more space at our firm for diverse talent. Education and access are the lifelines of this movement. Our HCM team, in partnership with our external expert, provides extensive training on unconscious biases, courageous conversations, and microaggressions. IR+M also sponsors Networking Circles, which are cross-functional groups of IR+Mers who have varied backgrounds and experience levels. These groups offer a space where colleagues can come together to share their views on DEI, current events, careers, and family, among other topics. All initiatives support our belief that we can secure a stronger, better future by incorporating inclusive practices, bolstering the diverse talent pipeline, and doing more to retain our extraordinary colleagues.
We Rise by Lifting Others
As ambassadors of the asset management industry, we believe it is incumbent upon us to help diverse talent explore careers in our industry. Addressing the long-standing issue of poor diversity in asset management requires a coordinated effort by all involved. In 2022, we are excited to welcome our first summer internship class, which will consist of students we connect with directly, as well as through our partnerships with various entities, such as the United Negro College Fund and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These exceptional students will participate in a rotational program that will expose them to the following teams – Client Service, Investments, Enterprise Solutions, and Operations. Our interns will be closely tied to senior management and other colleagues, paired with summer mentors, learn the intricacies of the bond market, and participate in the many social happenings at IR+M. As a firm, we will benefit tremendously from their presence. They will provide us with fresh perspectives, help us hone our mentoring skills, boost our talent pipeline, and forge new connections.
Retaining our Talented Colleagues
At IR+M, one of our hallmarks is our long-running new hire mentor program. During the onboarding process, every new employee is paired with a seasoned mentor, who provides guidance and camaraderie as the mentee navigates the first year at the firm. To further support our diverse colleagues, we recently developed a supplementary career mentorship program. The program matches colleagues with mentors who provide advice on developing valuable skills, expanding networks, and navigating career growth opportunities. The intended byproducts of the program, which is overseen by our HCM team, are mentees’ further professional development, increased value to the firm, and, ultimately, retention.
Our Community: Building Bonds
Our colleagues are not the only ones who are counting on us to implement an authentic, multi-layered DEI strategy – so are our community partners. We are in this for the long haul, and to underscore our commitment, in 2020, we launched the IR+M Community Initiative. This initiative, which seeks to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, is an internal partnership between our Community Outreach Group (COG), DEI Council, and the ODEI. The initiative is predicated on the following six key themes, which raise awareness of racial and social injustices in the Boston area and beyond:
The program highlights charitable and community organizations that endorse each theme, as well as supports other DEI-focused associations. Importantly, the Community Initiative identifies volunteer and community engagement opportunities, and will direct $2.5 million in charitable giving over the next five years to these DEI-related endeavors.
Additionally, employee donations to organizations that back each theme, or relate to DEI, will be double matched by IR+M.
Actions From the Heart
A common thread unites IR+Mers – the desire to engage with the surrounding community and to act, particularly during times of need. Our Week of Giving is easily the firm’s most highly anticipated and inspirational event. It typically occurs in the third week of June and is universally known as the best week of the year. It is a time when we come together en force to listen, volunteer, support, and fundraise for organizations that need us – a list that continues to grow. Week of Giving is about getting up from the sidelines and effecting change. The profound impact on our community partners and our colleagues is undeniable.
During the 2021 Week of Giving, IR+Mers enthusiastically participated in a myriad of events ranging from a DEI panel discussion, an ethnic cuisine-focused cooking tutorial, calling out bingo numbers at a local senior living facility, early morning boot camp with InnerCity Weightlifting instructors, and more. The impact was a profound one. In 2021, over 95% of IR+Mers signed up for 16 Week of Giving events (481 signups in total), which amounted to approximately 500 volunteer hours. Concurrently, we also held our annual employee granting contest, which featured emotional videos from IR+Mers requesting colleagues’ support for charities close to their hearts, many of which had a DEI-inspired mission.
IR+M: Invested in All
The asset management industry’s diverse talent today – and tomorrow – are depending on us to finally enact substantive DEI changes. We readily embrace the challenge of being a better IR+M for our colleagues, our clients, and our community. As such, we are completely committed to reexamining and redefining who we are as a firm, and to developing, promoting, and engaging the diverse colleagues who make us stronger. While we have made considerable advancements, there is much work to be done. We are firmly invested in all, and promise to share the highs and lows related to our endless pursuit of creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry and IR+M.
As of 10/1/21. The views contained in this report are those of IR+M and are based on information obtained by IR+M from sources that are believed to be reliable. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice, recommendations for, or projected returns of any particular IR+M product. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission from Income Research & Management. The statements provided above are not by individuals or organizations that are current clients or investors of IR+M and do not promote or endorse IR+M’s investment advisory services.