Ideas for Building Strong Investment Teams

Experts discussed their views of what maintaining a positive culture looks like, including how to recognize team success and how to incorporate DE&I initiatives during CIO's latest webinar.

The July edition of the Chief Investment Officer Allocator Insights webinar series presented some best practices CIOs can use when looking to attract and retain talent for their investment team—and how they can foster a culture conducive to retention and growth.

Experts from the panel also discussed how to measure and recognize team success, and how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the culture building process. Additionally, they spoke about the best ways to build an effective reporting hierarchy to meet changing organizational needs. (You can register here to watch a recording of the webinar.)

“When you think about team building for an investment business, one of the tremendous opportunities unlocked by the pandemic has been remote and hybrid work—and after more than two years, the trend is becoming permanent,” said George Wilbanks, founding partner of Wilbanks Partners. “Remote work has provided an enormous efficiency gain for a lot of tasks, including less distractions and a reduced commute.”

One thing that Shifat Hasan, head of investment performance and compliance at CalSTRS, said the pandemic has taught her is to revisit even her most strongly held beliefs about what a workplace should be like when it comes to making decisions that impact an employee’s work experience. She has learned to be both open and flexible in situations that may demand quick action, she noted.  

When it comes to maintaining a positive culture, Hasan said there are two area that she focuses on the most, and these are “wellbeing” and “opportunities.”

“When I talk about wellbeing, we want a safe and open platform or culture for people to share ideas and thoughts,” she said.

Traditionally, Hasan said, this effort was all about “workplace-specific wellbeing,” but that has changed.

“Post pandemic, what I have learned is the wellbeing can expand beyond just the workplace issues,” she said. “It can be about enhancing the individual and the family life experiences of the team members. Wellbeing has expanded significantly.”

When thinking about how best to offer opportunities to the team, Hasan said, it is important to realize that opportunity can mean different things for different people—meaning that she has to find a way to bridge those gaps.

“I think a key component is building human connections,” Hasan said. “If I am having those one-on-ones with my team members and learning what makes them tick, what gets them up in the morning, I am able to have a better understanding of what opportunities mean for them.”

For some, this could be allowing them to do something they have never done before, while other staffers may want to take a class to develop new skills, Hasan aid. Opportunities for many employees may not always be about a promotion or salary bump. Sometimes, employees value a leader that can keep them engaged and provide a good experience at work within their current role.

It is important for leaders to set the culture and expectations for the work experience, said Angela Rodell, chair of the Pacific Pension & Investment Institute. That includes having diverse voices to learn from at the table.

“It is not about having people so we can check a box saying that we have diverse voices,” Rodell said. “It is about actually learning from those diverse voices and making us better investors. With diversity, we have better performance and therefore we can deliver to our shareholders and stakeholders what they are expecting from us as an organization.”

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By DJ Shaw