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Diversity is really about challenging group-think

CurzonTrinitas has cemented its place as the leading search firm in the infrastructure sector and managing partner Chris Campbell makes sure firms view diversity in the correct way

The vast majority of the searches we conduct at CurzonTrinitas are in the infrastructure finance and engineering markets. You’d struggle to find two sectors which, historically at least, are less diverse. For years, as clients fought to keep pace with the changing regulations and diversity agenda, shortlists were crafted to fit with targets. It was often the case that our clients didn’t see the benefits of the diversity agenda, only the challenges of adhering to it.

Countless academic studies and substantial bodies of empirical and anecdotal evidence point to the fact that men and women typically make decisions in different ways; they view risk through different prisms. It follows logically that the teams with good gender diversity make more balanced and effective investment decisions.

The issue is how do you affect this in your recruitment policy when hiring from other institutions with poor gender diversity; it becomes self-perpetuating. But are infrastructure investors hamstrung by the intakes of investment banks from which they traditionally hire or engineering firms by the imbalance of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – graduates?

It is common to break down the issue of diversity in the sector to simply that of gender. This is still the primary concern of our clients, but consideration must also be given to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and disability. We must also broaden our definition of diversity to take into account diversity of values and beliefs, including the different ways that people think, behave and interact.

Equally, our clients’ portfolios and deal flow are internationally diverse, and teams therefore need to reflect this. The vast majority of the senior origination, asset management and board searches we conduct reflect the need for our clients to understand geographic and cultural subtleties.

Group-think is the worst of all scenarios and it is key that businesses hire individuals who think differently to the hiring managers

Group-think is the worst of all scenarios and it is key that businesses hire individuals who think differently to the hiring managers; unconscious bias dictates that people hire people who think like them and this is not good for building effective teams or for effective decision-making. I can’t tell you how often we hear the phrase “We want to hire someone from another investor because they will think like us”.

All firms would benefit from keeping in mind that the benefits of diversity are seen in outcomes, making better investment decisions and the like. Achieving diversity shouldn’t be a trophy simply to be paraded; it should be seen as the key to running businesses better and, unless firms measure this, the whole purpose will be lost.

We advise all our clients that achieving diversity in recruitment exercises starts by focusing on the desired outcomes of each role. This then helps define the competencies essential to achieve those outcomes, rather than looking at the way the role has traditionally been fulfilled. This means focusing on relevant skills, underlying competencies and personal capabilities, and not just hiring individuals with a particular job title from a direct competitor. This has additional benefits in an increasingly competitive market where clients often need to think laterally to source the best talent. This is where the real value of executive search is created.

For more than 20 years, CurzonTrinitas has led the way in the infrastructure executive search market. We have been at the forefront of the evolution of candidate attraction in the sector. We are now taking the lead in championing recruitment diversity in the sector and take our role as advisers in this sense very seriously. We are not simply here to “find” candidates, our role today looks increasingly to assessing their fit and value add to an organisation.

There are no set guidelines for adhering to diversity criteria in the private sector; the public sector remains ahead in this regard. In the past year alone, more than 40 per cent of candidates on our shortlists have been female or from ethnic minority backgrounds and our clients are benefiting from this, not just in having a more reflective workforce, but in running their businesses better.

CurzonTrinitas is a member of IIC Partners, The AESC and The GIIA

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