What diversity means to me: Andrew Telfer
For managing partner Andrew Telfer, fairness and better decision-making lie at the heart of diversity and inclusion.
Tell us about your background
I grew up in Aberdeen, where I went to a comprehensive school before studying Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford. As much as I enjoyed my degree, I didn’t plan to work in that area. I did, however, know that I wanted to pursue a career in investment management. After training as an accountant, in 1992 I joined the Baillie Gifford graduate programme. Since then, I have worked in various roles in both the Investment Department and Clients Department.
What attracted you to the world of investment management?
From a young age, I was fascinated by how research could be used to help make decisions that could have a positive financial impact on people. In my student days, this led me to start investing while at the same time, I was doing other jobs to earn money. For example, I worked in hotels doing kitchen porter duties and cleaning. Out of all those roles, I found investing the most interesting and enjoyable.
Why has the firm placed such an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in recent years?
Until we focused our attention on diversity and inclusion, there was a general assumption that we were inclusive. As a result of our work in this area, we’ve realised that to foster a more inclusive workplace we need to think about it more proactively and ask ourselves what we could be doing to make the firm a more inclusive place to work. A lot of this is concerned with making sure there are no barriers to staff feeling included, and that our policies reflect this. Additionally, we must all ensure that our behaviour doesn’t promote a passively prejudicial culture.
We also recognised that historically our recruitment practices were quite narrow. That changed many years ago and now we have individuals from 37 different countries working at the firm. In terms of gender, 49 per cent of our employees are women and in the Investment Department, 50 per cent of investors with less than 10 years’ experience are female. In the Clients Department, half of all individuals recruited onto the Client Service Manager Programme since it was launched six years ago are women.
Clearly, we still have some way to go, and the Diversity and Inclusion Partner Group is currently working to establish how the firm can improve its efforts, while setting out what needs to be done to help us address certain areas.
What are the strategic benefits to having a diverse workforce?
There is a lot of research to suggest that more diverse teams perform better. In the context of the firm, I would hope increased diversity would lead to better decision making and better engagement with our clients. We are a global firm representing clients who are diverse themselves – in every sense of the word – and in order to meet their expectations we need diversity of thought. This doesn’t come from a workforce who all share the same background and experiences, but from what our different perspectives can bring to the table.
Can our position on diversity and inclusion have an impact on how the firm is perceived?
Very much so and it’s important that we take positive steps to avoid misrepresenting ourselves and what we stand for. One of the ways we are addressing this is in our approach to recruitment, where we are broadening our approach beyond our traditional methods to attract talent from a much wider demographic.
We have also partnered with Stonewall, the Business Disability Forum and Women in Banking and Finance who are helping us to create a more inclusive workplace.
What do you see as challenges for the firm regarding diversity and inclusion?
A big challenge – which spans the whole financial services industry – is how we retain female employees, especially when they are mid-career. If we don’t get this right, the current skew in favour of male leaders will continue. We have a strong pipeline of female talent, and we are optimistic that in the future we will have more women working in senior and partnership roles at the firm. However, it is certainly a challenge to ensure that happens.
We are a global firm representing clients who are diverse themselves – in every sense of the word – and in order to meet their expectations we need diversity of thought.
How do you balance home life with such a demanding job?
It is important to have a good work-life balance and, all things considered, I try not to work excessive hours. Additionally, I have a very supportive family, which helps.
Personally, I think taking time off is very important – it’s good to recharge, whether that involves getting away or staying at home. I also try to make time for the things I enjoy, like tennis, hill walking and reading.
What advice would you give to someone looking to build a career in the finance industry?
Across my career I have regularly pushed myself out of my comfort zone, which I think you have to do to succeed. It’s also important to keep learning new skills and expand your knowledge base. And, of course, hard work plays a big part.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
For me, it’s about fairness and better decision making. Everyone should have the opportunity to develop and maximise their potential, and it’s up to the firm to help them with that. Having an inclusive mindset helps when it comes to fairness, and this way of thinking will undoubtedly be beneficial for Baillie Gifford.
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