Comment: Tomorrow's world will be an industry shaped by ESG

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Laura Bottega of Morgan Stanley Investment Management
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Laura Bottega of Morgan Stanley Investment Management

The future of diversity in the industry must be understood in the context of the working environment more broadly, which will be increasingly shaped by demographic, technological, social and environmental trends, says Laura Bottega.

In 25 years, we expect financial services will be even more diverse, inclusive and equal. This will have a positive impact on the asset management industry, helping to drive further innovation and creativity for investors.

Asset management employers will have higher expectations that their global employees should display digital skills, cross-cultural competence, cross-asset class insights, and harmonious and productive relationships with co-bots.

Progressive asset owners and innovative investment platforms will have opened up new opportunities for emerging managers. More diverse role models with varying work arrangements will demand to see their image on the other side of the table."

Encouraged by post-millennial leaders, the industry will seek a greater depth of dialogue with its clients and remain demanding of its investments, seeking to deliver simultaneously on financial and impact objectives.

A quarter of a century on, the industry will excel at purposeful allocation of capital. 

While asset managers will be significantly more sustainability-oriented compared to today, corporate embrace of ESG will be considered so mainstream it will no longer be a hot industry topic.

Mastery of the language and metrics defining both financial and non-financial risk and opportunity will be considered table stakes.

A scarcity in commodities - such as fresh water - may breed new asset class bubbles, while a democratisation of fund services, robo-advice and artificial intelligence will propel thematic funds, allowing ever more financially sophisticated clients to easily pick and choose investments across the industry according to their values or social affiliations, and to build their own bespoke funds.

Ultra-customisation will become the new mainstream. 

Diversity initiatives and areas considered niche in 2020 will have sown the seeds of a generation of portfolio managers with diverse backgrounds.

Progressive asset owners and innovative investment platforms will have opened up new opportunities for emerging managers. More diverse role models with varying work arrangements will demand to see their image on the other side of the table.  

Career paths may change, positively driven by diversity and inclusion forces, with asset management more readily accepting of flexible and unconventional skills and ever more reliant on diverse global teamwork for continuity and creativity.

More specifically, resourceful talent will seek out employers that offer career paths better fitting their personal interests.

They will value cultures that recognise our often conflicting impulses - to belong and to be different - that celebrate our specific identities, achievements and even idiosyncrasies while appreciating our homogenising needs and ambitions around the globe. 

Increasing numbers may prefer to work simultaneously for multiple employers and in multi-disciplinary environments.

This may prompt a knock-on effect of growth in roles in conflict management.

Increasing numbers will also expect and take advantage of extended maternity/paternity leave and other career-break opportunities. 

Urban congestion could mean that standard working hours are replaced by employee commitment contracts, whereby staff offer the best of themselves in exchange for greater time flexibility.

Wellness considerations and personal medical monitoring devices will raise early health warnings - such as jetlag, burnout and overly sedentary behaviour - and encourage digital detoxing and protection of the right to disconnect. 

These examples point to a combination of technological, environmental and societal advances that will shape our workplace and our attitude to diversity in 25 years' time.

A focus on further accelerating diversity will remain a continuing priority for the asset management industry.

Meanwhile, the successful firms of tomorrow will be busy showing the way forward and help make a difference.

Laura Bottega is managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. A version of this article was first published by Investment Week

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