Reflections on “Embracing Cultural Diversity in the Investment Industry” Event
Author: Isabella Jingwen Zhong
As a student who is from a social and political science background, “investment” was something that I could not see myself working on in the future. However, what I have neglected is, the investment industry has been going through a transitional period where things are going towards paths that are a bit different from the traditional investment industry.
Late October this year, I had the chance to organise and promote an event co-hosted by the Asia Scotland Institute, CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and Unity (Standard Life Aberdeen), and the theme of the event was “Embracing Cultural Diversity in the Investment Industry”. Apart from having the sense of achievement when I saw many students from universities across Scotland and our business partners sitting in the Auditorium of the Business School, University of Edinburgh enjoying the talks, I was also very much inspired by the insightful, thought-provoking and forward-looking speeches all our speakers gave.
The main speaker of this event is Li Yu, CFA, China Specialist and Chair of HSBC China Connect. Born in Chengdu, as Ms Li herself introduced – the hometown of pandas, Li Yu had travelled to many places with her parents because of her father’s vocational duties. At the event, Li openly shared her stories as an ethnic-minority woman climbing the career ladder in the investment industry. Before coming to the UK, Li worked in Hong Kong where she found it hard to adjust herself into the society at the very beginning. Language barriers and the cultural difference had brought Li many troubles, however, she strived hard and never gave in. Moving to Britain meant Li had to face bigger challenges in every possible aspect, but the living and work experience in Hong Kong had taught her to stay strong and not lose heart. When the investment industry started to show a sign of reforms, Li took the opportunity to stand up and speak for women, ethnic-minority women in particular, in the investment industry. During her speech, Li encouraged the audience that women should value their own gifts and abilities; though the general environment might still not be completely friendly to women, nevertheless, Li remaindered the audience that compared to the past, the investment industry had already gone through significant changes and now was developing towards a path that was more inclusive, diverse and innovative.
After the inspirational speech given by Li Yu, another four guests joined Li and started a panel discussion. Well-coordinated by Carolina Martinez, Vice-Chair CFA UK Diversity Network, Scotland, all the panellists had given the audience great ideas regarding women, ethnic-minority population, diversity and their relations with the investment industry. This very event would not happen if Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director of Close the Gap, did not publish a report named “Still Not Visible”, a research on black and minority ethnic women’s experiences of employment in Scotland. In addition, we would not have the opportunity to collaborate with Unity if Fernando Sanchez, co-Chair of Unity, did not read Anna’s report and discussed it with his colleagues. While other panellists put great attention on women in the investment industry, Andrew Fairbairn, Founder & CEO at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London, shared his experience of working with and helping people who come from an unprivileged background to pursue a great career. Without any doubt, what Andrew has done echoed one of the themes “diversity” – not only women, but people who have different backgrounds should also be hired and valued in all the top industries. All the panellists mentioned a truth that companies who put great attention and value on diversity perform much better than those who do not.
The whole event has undoubtedly opened my eyes and reshaped my impression of the investment industry. I used to think the investment industry would only accept people who have to gain a degree in either Finance, Business or Math, but now I have realised that this industry has become more open to people from all disciplines, as long as they have a genuine interest in learning and bring new ideas to the investment field. Equally important, as an ethnic minority woman, studying and working in the UK, I have been encouraged by the amazing talks at this event to stay strong and positive, at the same time value my own talents and pursue what my heart desires.