Almost two years ago, in our annual Citisoft Outlook, we closed the whitepaper with our take on financial services and the lack of progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) efforts. We cited various—and largely dismal—statistics on gender and ethnic diversity within our industry and we also detailed some of the initial steps that we had taken as a firm to do our part in making incremental progress in this area. Internally, we wanted to ensure that we were going to “walk-the-walk” and infuse our organization with a set of corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) measures that would become part of our company culture and ethos. We were, and continue to be, cognizant of forward momentum with any internally driven initiative and that is especially true of this topic. From the beginning, we wanted to ensure that we deliver on our commitments and sustain the internal energy that fueled our DEI programs.
I would suspect that we are no different from many other firms as it pertains to our DEI journey. As I wrote in the Outlook paper a few years back, it took the jolt of several, gut-wrenching tragedies to realize that we need to do better, both as individuals and corporate stewards of industry. Citisoft’s journey and the work that has accompanied it has certainly not dissipated over the past 2+ years; in fact, it has only grown in importance as we’ve educated ourselves, implemented long-term programs, and realized the impact that we can have as an organization.
I think our commitment is best described in our formalized Citisoft CSR policy, and best enacted in the internal initiatives that we have undertaken since we implemented it. At the outset, we agreed on a three-pillar approach to CSR with employee-led committees focused on equity in talent development, diversity in our industry and communities, and charitable giving. We have taken several steps to progress these pillars, some of which I’ve captured below:
Creating a forum for DEI education and conversation
The heartbeat of our efforts in this space is our employee-led Citisoft Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion forum. This forum was launched well over two years ago and is held firmwide on a monthly basis. The DEI forum covers a wide range of topics each month including DEI “in the news” (focused on the asset management industry); guest speakers focusing on topical issues that may not be industry specific; internal employee survey results that influence our overall direction and upcoming agendas; and updates on various in-flight DEI-oriented initiatives. Perhaps the most important aspect of this forum is to promote healthy dialogue in a safe space. There is no judgement, as we are all learning and entering these discussions at different points in our personal journey.
Formalizing our approach to corporate giving and matching
We formalized a Charitable Giving Committee which works with senior management to establish an annual budget, and then subsequently identify and qualify organizations that are aligned with Citisoft’s values, which we then specifically target for corporate charitable donations. Additionally, the committee spearheaded the formal launch of a comprehensive matching gift program for our employees. We recognize that our staff have causes and organizations important to them personally. As a benefit to employees and in the interest of giving back to the organization closest to our staff, Citisoft now provides a gift match for employee contributions to eligible charitable organizations.
Creating opportunities to give back to our communities
Our Volunteerism Committee was formed early in 2021 to promote employee involvement specific to DEI initiatives in our respective communities. We specifically targeted financial literacy and business skills for underserved populations to encourage hope and provide services that can help individuals unlock their own potential. One of our first steps was to identify a community-based partner with volunteer opportunities, and we are proud to say that we have been aligned with Junior Achievement (“JA”). Working alongside JA and their fabulous leadership, we have participated in several skills-based workshops, at first in virtual settings due to COVID, and more recently in person, working in local schools with students on topics ranging from financial literacy to career-based training.
Launching the EMEA Insights Programme and Citisoft Scholars Program
Arguably the crown jewels in our DEI-oriented efforts thus far have been both the launch of our EMEA Insights Programme and Citisoft Scholars Program. In late 2020, we announced our initial EMEA Insights partners, working with London Metropolitan University and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge. Citisoft teamed up with lecturers at these universities and integrated a series of topics including ESG investing, fintech, resource wealth and providing for future generations, and investments in major frontier markets into the students’ coursework. Students from the two participating universities spend the semester researching these topics, and then with Citisoft’s support, bring their research and viewpoints back to Citisoft via ‘all-hands’ presentations for our staff.
In November 2022, Citisoft also announced the launch of our Citisoft Scholars Program, in which we partnered with Youth Guidance, a non-profit organization improving outcomes for young men and women in US cities. We recently selected our first Citisoft scholar, who will receive an annual scholarship for academic support, as well as a discretionary spending fund, funded directly by Citisoft employees and supporters. Citisoft will be selecting additional scholars on an annual basis, and will support those recipients throughout the pursuit of their four-year higher educational goals.
I am extremely grateful and inspired by the hard work exhibited by so many at Citisoft on these initiatives. We are all volunteers on these committees, and it would be easy to simply say that we are too busy to participate. That has not been the case, as our employees have repeatedly raised their hand, brought new ideas to the table, and provided leadership that makes a true difference in our firm and in our communities.
In closing, while we are proud of the progress that we have made as an organization on these efforts, I truly believe that we are still only scratching the surface of the true impact that we can have in this space. The journey is real, and I am eager to see what comes next.