Head of Corporate Affairs
Columbia Threadneedle Investment
Exclusive Q&A with Alison Jefferis from Columbia Threadneedle Investments
Could you tell us a bit about your background and role at Columbia Threadneedle Investments?
I’ve worked in the finance sector for most of my career, in Australia and the UK, including roles in retail banking, investment banking and in government. As Head of Corporate Affairs at Columbia Threadneedle my role is particularly varied and I tend to get involved, one way or another, in most things the company is doing. Our industry is under a lot of scrutiny, but it’s also a time of great opportunity when reputation, culture and engagement are critical. At the same time the media landscape and the way we communicate are changing dramatically. So it’s an interesting time for me and my team.
Tell us a bit more about your role as Chair of the Columbia Threadneedle Foundation.
As Chair of our Foundation I oversee our relationships with community organisations and charities. We view our charity support as investment in the future and believe in active, multi-year partnerships that aim to achieve long-term social change. We run an extensive volunteering programme where employees work together in an entirely different context so they build new relationships and get to know a different side of their colleagues.
At TSAM London 2018, you’ll be joining a keynote panel discussion on “Gender Equality & Diversity in Asset Management.” Compared to other industries, how do you think asset and investment management is faring in regards to this?
As an industry, asset management is relatively conservative and has been slow to modernise in some ways, including in terms of diversity. Having said that, diversity is now firmly in the spotlight and we have a great opportunity to push ahead of others. It’s an industry that is well suited to flexible working, where diverse views and opinions truly enhance the ability to produce positive outcomes for clients.
What initiatives are in place at Columbia Threadneedle to promote gender equality & diversity in the workplace? What more can be done?
We have been actively working to improve our gender balance for the past five years, and have made good progress although there remains more to do. Recruitment practices are critical to ensure more qualified female candidates are coming through the process – if you can’t find them, try harder! We have also focused on supporting early and mid-career female talent to ensure a strong pipeline of future leaders, with coaching and peer support /learning programmes. And of course good policies for maternity, paternity and shared parental leave along with genuine, flexible support for those transitioning to and from work. Finally, culture is fundamental as is accountability at the highest level – if those two things aren’t supportive it’s very hard to make a difference.
Effective stakeholder management is integral to any internal project. What stakeholder management advice would you give to leaders who are looking to achieve gender equality across the organisation?
Leaders need to have the courage to take what they may perceive to be risks, and do things differently. Hire someone who is not like you, or who’s experience does not exactly match the role you’re recruiting for. Consider the view of someone who may not be the accepted voice of wisdom on a topic. As the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got”.
Join Alison for our keynote panel discussion on Gender Equality and Diversity at TSAM London on the 13th March 2018 – visit our website https://www.tsamlondon.com/ for more details