Baillie Gifford: "Diversity and Inclusion is Fundamental to our Long Term Success"
Baillie Gifford is one of the world’s leading investment management firms, with over £300bn funds under management and more than 700 clients around the globe. Over the past ten years the firm have been working hard to create a more diverse workforce and increase the number of Black people across the firm. We spoke to Brenesha Cox, Client Service Manager, about her role in Baillie Gifford’s Multicultural Network as well as some of the firm’s other diversity and inclusion initiatives.
How did you join Baillie Gifford?
I joined the firm’s Client Service Manager programme in 2019 after working as a barrister and legal adviser in London and Turks and Caicos. Prior to joining, I specialised in Commercial and IP law, and became increasingly interested in how the successful management of capital could affect social change. I decided to apply to the Client Service Manager Programme as it was open to people from all industry backgrounds.
Tell us more about your work with the Multicultural Network?
I’m part of the firm’s Multicultural Network, which was created in 2019 to celebrate the different cultures of people throughout the business. Through the Network, I’ve helped to organise some successful ‘Let’s talk about race’ workshops to have open discussions about race. The workshops were really successful, as people right across the firm engaged with the sessions and it generated further discussions round the business. This in turn saw an increase in the Network’s membership from employees who want to educate themselves and help to make change happen. We also hosted some follow-up open forums, which discussed important topics such as ‘What do we think white privilege is?’ and ‘Pulling down statues’. These were attended by new audiences across the firm including senior managers and partners.
What other diversity initiatives have you seen within the firm?
Last November Baillie Gifford held its first ever diversity and inclusion festival - ‘Beyond Words’- for all of its employees. The firm invited a series of authors who specialize in diversity and inclusion to give talks about their area of expertise. There was also the option to request copies of the books for free, which Baillie Gifford sourced from a local bookstore. All of the events were held during the working day and colleagues were encouraged to attend as many as possible. I really enjoyed the talks I attended on race, neurodiversity and gender, and felt privileged to be able to ask the authors questions afterwards.
Why is diversity important to Baillie Gifford?
The partners that own and run Baillie Gifford believe that diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our long term success. They understand that a diverse workforce enables a diversity of thought in the business, which in turns improves our investment decisions and how we service our clients. They also realise that this is an ongoing commitment and there’s lots of work to be done. But by actively supporting and encouraging diversity and inclusion initiatives, the partners hope to build an inclusive culture where we can all feel like we belong.
How would you describe the culture of the firm?
One of the things I really enjoy about being a Client Service Manager is that it allows me to be myself without any pretence. My previous role had a very traditional culture, but at Baillie Gifford I’m given a great deal of autonomy. This enables me to really enjoy building long-term relationships with the clients and getting to understand their hopes and aims. The firm has also recently introduced its future ways of working principles, which allow us to work more flexibly from the office and home.
Baillie Gifford’s different to many other financial services firms, as it is wholly owned by 46 partners who work in the business every day. For me this means the opportunity to interact with the owners of the business on a regular basis. Every six weeks a partner joins our team’s brainstorm meetings, where they’re always happy to hear our ideas and share their thinking. I’m also continually encouraged to get involved in projects or expand my knowledge by attending relevant conferences and webinars.
What support did you receive to transfer to investment management?
I started the programme in summer 2019 with five other people from a wide range of backgrounds that included oil and gas, retail and the special forces. We were given a comprehensive induction to the firm, with an overview of the different investment strategies and introductions to each of the operational areas in the business. We’ve also been given professional tutoring; the books and study leave to gain professional qualifications that have been a great introduction to the industry’s terminology.
How did you find the move to Edinburgh?
I’m originally from Turks and Caicos but have spent the last few years working in London. It felt like a good time to try something new, so the move to Edinburgh was an exciting opportunity. I enjoy living in Edinburgh as it’s a smaller city. It has all the amenities you’d expect from a capital, but there’s also a sense of community that reminds me of home.