Nigell Todd, Fidelity International:
Making Diversity & Inclusion A Competitive Advantage

Strong D&I initiatives have correlated to increased revenues, greater access to talent pools and better outcomes for clients.

This week, Nigell Todd, Director of Global Foreign Exchange at Fidelity International took some time out to drop into The Finance Hive where he shared his passion and ideas on how individuals can drive diversity and inclusion forward.

This is part of The Finance Hive’s wider commitment alongside leaders like Nigell to improve D&I in capital markets, which involves providing guidance for the buy side on how they can enhance D&I from recruitment through to retention, progression and support.

Interviewed by Oliver Kirkbright, General Manager and Editor, The Finance Hive

Nigell, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Why do you think we are not seeing the levels of D&I in trading and capital markets versus other industries?

D&I is now progressing. From what you are seeing in the media and elsewhere, firms are making D&I a priority, and we now have external bodies to support us such as regulators, industry groups and clients. These bodies are all recommending best practice steps which organisations are now taking on board.

However, I believe, one of the key reasons as to why we are not seeing the levels of D&I one should expect is due to the barriers to entry in capital markets.

Many organisations are not providing a pathway for ethnic minorities, females, those with physical or non-physical disabilities, or those from different socio-economic backgrounds to get into trading roles. And on top of this, the opportunities for further career development and progression for these groups can be limited and this needs to be looked at and addressed. Whether these barriers to entry are perceived or real, the effect is the same. Perhaps some of these barriers can be removed or at least reduced going forward.

Whether you are a senior leader or just starting out a career in trading, you need to be asking yourself if we are truly addressing unconscious biases in our hiring processes. Just look within your own firm as a fact-check; are there visible role models, especially in senior positions? If the answer is no, then you should be thinking about how you can drive change within your organisation.

We recognise that the talent, energy and balance that comes from a fully diverse workforce alongside a culture of inclusion, brings benefits to our customers, our business and our people.”

Could you tell us a little about the D&I initiatives at Fidelity International, and your involvement?

Fidelity is committed to a diverse and inclusive environment where talented individuals have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We’ve made significant progress in recent years, but we will continue to drive improvement on diversity and inclusion. We recognise that that the talents, energy and balance that comes from a fully diverse workforce alongside a culture of inclusion brings benefits to our customers, our business and our people. The more perspectives we have, the better equipped we are to meet the demands of our diverse customer base.

We are very proud of many of our achievements in the D&I space. As an example, here at Fidelity International we recently announced our Enhanced Parental Leave policy, which enables fathers and secondary carers to take the same amount of paid time off as mothers and primary carers when they have a child. This applies to each of our 27 operating locations. We’re also delighted to be recognised for the first time as a ‘Stonewall Top Global Employer, and our Mental Health Champions Network have won Employee Network of the Year award.

Outside of my day-to-day trading job, I’ve had varying degrees of involvement in our D&I network. At first, I was LGBT+ lead for our Dublin office as it grew from 20 to now over 500 people, helping establish a culture of inclusion within the firm and specifically within our location. I then moved into the role as Chair of our Fidelity for Everyone employee network in Dublin which focused on gender, LGBT, ethnicity & culture, and disability. In addition to this, I’m one of the global leads for our Enable network which aims to improve accessibility and enablement for clients and employees with different abilities and health conditions. We strongly believe that an individual’s condition, whether physical, sensory, mental or neuro-diverse, should never be a barrier in customer service, employment or building their financial futures. I’m personally passionate about putting the focus on celebrating the achievements and strengths of people with disabilities.

What I can bring to the table and share with peers both inside and outside Fidelity is my expertise, my life experience, my leadership and my knowledge. I hope that the steps that myself and others are taking within the firm are changing the culture for younger generations and others to feel safe and supported in bringing their whole self to work.

Improving your D&I across the trading floor will lead to more innovation, better returns, higher sales, and a destination of choice for new talent.”

The steps you have taken have been very inspiring. If someone wants to make a difference within their firm, what is the first step you suggest an individual can take?

I always say just get involved; if you’re not in it then you can’t really make a change. Start by looking within your firm at the employee resource groups and know that no matter how big or small your contribution is, every little helps. This is a great way of networking and meeting other people with a similar passion from other business units within your firm. Just getting to know the challenges, barriers and struggles of some of the marginalised groups helps build character and empathy. Empathy is what I’ve learned myself; just understanding someone else’s struggle and trying to help, I think that’s a really good leadership quality to have.

Also, if your organisation is collecting personal data and if you feel comfortable with declaring details of your sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity, then please do; this information is vital for companies to set their D&I objectives and strategy. This means organisations can improve those areas or gaps if they’re able to measure or track the progress of the actions that they are taking.

Finally, if you are an ally of D&I, be visible. Show your support by attending events, speaking up in situations where perhaps inappropriate language is being used. Educate yourself and recognise your privilege so you can use it for the good.

Empathy is what I’ve learned myself; just understanding someone else’s struggle and trying to help. I think that’s a really good leadership quality to have.”

Have you ever experienced any internal roadblocks or challenges when pushing forward D&I initiatives yourself?

I think for the most part I’ve had a positive experience. This has been helped with our objectives at Fidelity International which were set from a global and senior level with clear accountability, goals and commitments. When you have this backing and reinforced messaging from your senior management, it makes having open discussions around D&I much more productive and a little bit easier. You’re always going to get people who don’t agree with you, that’s just life. But once that messaging is set and it’s clear from the top, everyone is more open to getting onto the right path.

What is the business case and the key benefits of having a more diverse team on the trading desk?

There are many papers that document how D&I has huge benefits. One paper I read recently which really resonates was titled ‘Diversity Is The Solution, Not A Problem To Solve’ which I would recommend both leaders and trading teams to read as an education tool. It is absolutely clear that improving your D&I across the trading floor will lead to more innovation, better returns, higher sales, a destination of choice for new talent, stronger customer relationships, better decisions and ultimately better outcomes for your clients, individuals and organisations as a whole.

Would you link this to ‘diversity of thought’ where people from different backgrounds and experiences can come up with new ideas, which can aid the decision-making process?

Exactly. And it’s not looking at solely gender, race or ethnicity. I think there are varying degrees of diversity and especially diversity of thought, which can help lead to greater innovation, greater ideas and greater outcomes. Socio economic backgrounds and diversity of thought are probably the two aspects that get a lesser focus in some of the D&I agendas, but they are all equally important.

Show your support by attending events, speaking up in situations where perhaps inappropriate language is being used, educate yourself and recognise your privilege so you can use it for the good.”

You mention that there are some associations and industry bodies who are supporting firms to become more diverse. Who are they?

The Investment Association are a relevant industry body which Fidelity are part of. They have helped push this initiative and raised awareness through campaigns.

Organisations such as The 30% Club, The Valuable 500, Involve, Stonewall, Diversity Project, Business Disability Forum and LGBT Great are a few others that we work with. They can all help you depending on your organisation’s needs, region and market segment. There’s definitely a lot of additional value which these organisations offer, especially with smaller buy side that are looking for guidance and best practice. I know that at Fidelity we have leaned on some of these organisations to understand best practice and improve our D&I across all our locations. Ultimately, the more perspectives you can get on D&I, the more it can help formulate the framework to drive this forward in the right way.

Working together, including in groups such as here at The Hive Network, means we have each other. We need to help each other out, share ideas and have these discussions which are crucial for us to continue to improve D&I in our industry.

As a role model for D&I yourself, what advice would you give to individuals who want to push themselves forward and take on the mantle to drive this within their firm?

It’s all about stepping outside your comfort zone and making the time to do that. You have to do this consciously as people are looking up to you. I look back at my legacy and ask myself “Have I made a difference in the workplace that I’m in?”. I am taking those steps, getting involved and putting myself out there so that the 21-year-old version of me can see somebody who is in trading, who is gay, who is black, and with whom they can identify.

I’m taking those steps and being involved and putting myself out there so that the 21-year-old version of myself can see somebody that is in trading, that is gay, that is black, and that can identify.”

If you want to make a difference, meet other organisations and peers who are similar minded, want to drive forward D&I in capital markets, widen your opportunity for talent and find out new ways to give more diverse groups of individuals a pathway into trading, please get in touch to find out how The Hive Network’s diversity initiative can help you.

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