In the latest in our coverage from the Guernsey Funds Forum 2018 in London, GF Communications Manager James Falla reports on Dame Helena Morrissey’s views on diversity in financial services on the day she launched the 'Girl Fund'.

Pursuit of diversity in financial services needs to go “well beyond the boardroom”, according to one of Britain’s leading diversity campaigners.

Dame Helena Morrissey was one of the speakers at the Guernsey Funds Forum, where she shared the stage with private equity veteran Jon Moulton in a 'fireside chat'.

Her appearance came on the day she launched the so-called 'Girl Fund' with her firm, Legal & General Investment Management, which will prioritise investing in companies where women are well represented at all levels.

The fund scores and ranks blue chip companies according to gender diversity on the board, at executive level, in management, and across the workforce, and wants them to reach a minimum of 30% representation of women in all four measures.

The fund tracks an LGIM-designed index of 350 of the UK’s largest companies and will allocate more to firms with higher levels of gender diversity. It hopes the move will drive up standards.

“This is about gender and leadership,” she said, “about the women of the future, and investing relative to that approach.”

Dame Helena favours broader diversity – she is not limited to thinking about gender and boards.

But she told the Guernsey Funds Forum that boards can “resemble retirement homes of the great and good” and with a need for more fresh thinking “women are one of the most obvious places to start”.

“The shake up of the boardroom is very unfinished business. It should be about what’s the collective intelligence of the team, rather than people with great CVs.”

Dame Helena, below, is particularly targeting her own industry, criticising the many instances of recruiting primarily from a handful of universities.

“There are lots of difficulties and challenges for many businesses to work through and for that we need lots of talented people and need to think more laterally.”

Although she does believe in the power of targets – in 2010 she was involved in the launch of the 30% Club to boost gender diversity on corporate boards with an inbuilt target, which is now close to being reached, although the pace of change has slowed.

“If you start carving it up with various targets you end up needing a target for the white men,” she said.

“This is not about creating a boy band or a girl band. We had a moment in time where we needed to have this, and I still believe in targets and goals, but now need to look more holistically back to this idea of diversity of thought, and making sure we’re not squeezing out age, young people can teach us a great deal, particularly on digital, and we are still a little bit stuck in a rut.

“I believe in equality of opportunity – I also favour men having more choices in life – and we are only scratching the surface of what technology can do around changing patterns of work.”