Despite “too many obstacles” still present in the investment industry when it comes to better representing the world it operates in, Hawksmoor Investment Management CEO Sarah Soar says to “just keep going”.
In this latest episode of the Green Dream video series, she describes a stand-out moment in her mentoring work, and how her firm is starting to look at diversity and inclusion in its investments as well as just looking inwards.
Watch the full video interview above and read the transcript below.
NT: Hello and welcome back to the Green Dream video series, where we interview leading experts in the sustainable investment industry. I’m ESG Clarity global editor Natasha Turner and today, I’m delighted to be joined by Sarah Soar, CEO of Hawksmoor Investment Management.
Sarah, you’ve been working a lot on diversity and inclusion in the industry for a number of years, what’s your biggest bugbear when it comes to this topic, which seems to be a bit slow moving compared with other topics?
SS: Part of the problem is that there are still too many obstacles, particularly from the gender situation, and a lot of women I know find it particularly challenging when they have children. And the cost of childcare, for example, is almost preventing people from wanting to come back to work. So that is extremely frustrating.
As far as ethnic diversity is concerned, I don’t think we’re attractive enough as an industry and we’ve done a number of mentorship programmes, internships, things like this.
NT: Describe one takeaway or one poignant moment or story in this kind of work.
SS: It wasn’t so much a mentorship as when I was asked to speak – I sit on the board of a trade body for the wealth management industry – and I was asked to speak at one of the women’s events a few years ago, and I just talked about my journey and how I got into the industry in the first place and how I’d progressed my career. And I talk a lot and I say this to mentors or mentees: just keep pushing the door and always try something because it may be the direction of travel you need to go and maybe it’s a different direction.
Anyway, I finished the talk and with chatting to people afterwards and it was about two years later this lady comes bounding up to me at an awards event and said, I cannot thank you enough for what you said that evening. It made me completely change my attitude to my career, I’ve progressed. And I was absolutely delighted.
And then about a year later, some of her colleagues I met at another event and they said, you do realise that what you said that evening completely transformed that girl’s career. It’s the Alice in Wonderland effect when she’s sitting in that space with all the doors around her. And I always say, just push the door. It might be firmly locked and you’re not supposed to go down that route. You might push the door and you might go flying through and fall off the other side. And you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you go, oh, maybe that one. Or there’s another door you push open. And that’s the Garden of Eden on the other side. And you walk through and that’s your destiny. But you don’t know unless you push the door.
NT: What do you do to ensure that diversity and inclusion is taken into consideration in investment decisions as well?
SS: We do have a clear investment process. We’ve been running Sustainable World portfolios for a number of years and certainly before I joined the firm. So, we have, I wouldn’t call it necessarily screening, but we have a whole process around sustainability now. It’s such a wide topic that it’s very difficult to ensure that you cover everything. And we all know about greenwashing and everything like that, but it’s very much high on the agenda and it’s something that we’ve kept focused on for a number of years, and we’re certainly not new to the party.
The other thing that I would like to do, and I was discussing this with our head of research recently, is to look at businesses that are mostly female, at least 50% female-orientated and just generally more diverse boards, because I think we need to start looking at not only delivering on what we say we do from an ESG point of view in terms of sustainability, but also in terms of actually the governance side and, you know, lead by example, invest in those companies that have got a much more diverse board.
NT: If there was just one message you’d have to the investment industry on D&I, one thing we should do this year, what would that be?
SS: Just keep going. There’s no one silver bullet here. We talk a lot about diversity of gender. We’ve talked about ethnicity. I’m also very, very keen that we should start looking at young individuals coming from less privileged backgrounds.
NT: We always finish this series on a fun question. What is your favourite sustainable drink or snack?
SS: Well, it’s going to have to be a drink and it’s going to have to be blackcurrant cordial because I’ve got so many black currants at home and I never know what to do with them. So I make blackcurrant cordial, delicious. I’ll bring you some.
NT: Great! Well, that’s very much for joining us.