Hanneke Smits: My plans for 30% Club

BNY Mellon IM CEO takes up role as global chair of diversity campaign

The new global chair of the 30% Club has told ESG Clarity her focuses in the role will be women’s track records, increased diversity at the executive level – not just on boards – and racial equality.

Hanneke Smits (pictured), CEO of BNY Mellon Investment Management, was announced this week as the global chair of diversity campaign 30% Club, succeeding outgoing global chair Ann Cairns, who took up the role in 2020 after joining the campaign as co-chair a year earlier. Founded by Dame Helena Morrissey in 2012, the 30% Club aims to increase gender diversity of boards and senior management in the world’s largest companies.

Smits has focused on diversity throughout her career, telling ESG Clarity “we know it leads to better decision-making”, and in interview with ESG Clarity in March 2021 talked about having male and female sponsors throughout her career and setting up Level 20, a not-for-profit that aims for 20% of senior roles in the private equity sector to be occupied by women.

“Diversity has always been a part of my journey and career. In my private equity career, when I became CIO there weren’t many like me in other organisations,” Smits told ESG Clarity.

“And it has led me to my role at Newton and BNY, which were founders of the 30% Club.”

She mentioned the sponsorship programme at Level 20 and how the 30% Club has also seen a decade of cross-mentoring programmes, something she wants to continue to move ahead with.

“It is fantastic to see chairs of organisations continuing to put forward women for these senior roles.”

Smits applauded the progress of the 30% Club so far. Under the leadership of Cairns, the 30% Club formed new chapters in Mexico, Colombia and Chile and welcomed Poland, Ecuador and an investor group in France to the campaign. She also broadened the UK chapter’s target to focus on racial equality, which included the launch of the Mission INCLUDE strand of the 30% Club’s company mentoring programme enabling individuals from all underrepresented groups to participate, and launched the Leaders for Race Equity CEO development programme last year in partnership with Change the Race Ratio and Moving Ahead.

Smits’ focus will be on women fund managers who take maternity leave, and how this impacts their track records and ability to progress, as well as analysing the diversity on boards of asset managers – “we need to practice what we preach”, she said.

She also wants to reach the “30% tipping point around the world” in terms of board diversity and pushing women to the executive level, not just focusing on boards.

“Even today, the baseline target of reaching 30% women – either at board or senior management level – remains a stretch for many organisations throughout the world. Reaching the campaign’s ultimate goal of gender parity will take significant effort and investment.

“If they aren’t diverse, what are the steps being put in place to ensure they are in future? There is still a lot of work to be done in the workplace.”

Finally, she wants to continue the work around addressing intersectionality and setting racial equality targets.

“I look forward to continuing to grow the 30% Club internationally and tackle a wider range of diversity challenges, inside and outside the boardroom,” she added.


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...