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Scaling new heights together: The power of diversity and inclusion in the asset management industry

Scaling new heights together: The power of diversity and inclusion in the asset management industry

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Candice Thys - Regional Manager of the Western Cape and Chairperson of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Forum

In the dynamic world of asset management, we often find ourselves on a challenging ascent resembling the act of climbing a mountain. It is a journey filled with obstacles, lessons and opportunities, where reaching one summit only reveals more peaks on the horizon.

This year marks my 21-years in the asset management industry and 16-years at Nedgroup Investments. This significant milestone coincides with my inaugural year as the Regional Manager of the Western Cape and my current service as Chairperson of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Forum at Nedgroup Investments, and I believe I am well-equipped to say that the above analogy not only applies to the industry and our individual careers but also holds great significance in the context of fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As we strive to cultivate a more inclusive environment, it is crucial for us to remember that the path to success is not linear, and the stories that brought us here are as unique as the individuals themselves.

In our fast-paced work environments, it is easy to perceive our colleagues as skilled professionals with distinct personalities, strengths, and perseverance, but how often do we truly take the time to understand their diverse backgrounds and the challenges they have been confronted with? While the ongoing conversations around diversity and inclusion are commendable, making a meaningful difference and effecting substantial change requires that we all do our part by delving deeper into the narratives that shape our colleagues' lives. Only when we take the collective responsibility to have the right conversations and understand these nuances, can we authentically embrace the principles of diversity and inclusion.

For many people, life's journey has not been smooth. Some people have grown up in and navigated environments marked by discrimination on the basis of race, gender, socio-economic class and disability. I, too, as a woman who is also mixed race, was no exception to this rule and faced discrimination even from those who themselves have endured prejudice, because I didn’t fit neatly into predefined categories. Nonetheless, this background has fuelled my determination to seize opportunities, confront challenges head-on, and acknowledge that my journey, though marked by obstacles, has shaped me into the person I am.

Over the course of my life, I have been profoundly influenced by extraordinary women, starting with my late grandmother. Although she was not formally educated, her wisdom and compassion left an indelible mark. She lit up every room she entered, extended care and kindness to her community and emerged as a leader who inspired others. It was then that I learned that these values are not taught, they are caught. In my professional journey, I have continued to cross paths with women who recognised my potential and provided me with opportunities.

The privilege I have had to learn and evolve alongside exceptional women has shown me the importance of serving as a guiding light for other women in the industry and the broader business world. At the core of our Group’s culture, is a steadfast focus on the people that make it what it is. We firmly believe that prioritising and caring for our people is the cornerstone of sustainable success because maintaining a happy workforce yields profitable outcomes. Diversity and inclusion are not just moral imperatives, they are also strategic advantages in the world of asset management because a diverse workforce is essential for innovation, risk management and overall financial success.

Furthermore, the spirit of Ubuntu, "we are who we are because of others," is not just a motto but a fundamental practice for us. In my personal experience, it is this spirit that has allowed me to pursue further studies and opportunities in the industry and pay it forward by becoming a mentor to other women and young girls, which is a source of immense pride.

Let us invest in each other, take risks, offer second opportunities, and, as Nelson Mandela once said, "rise above our circumstances through dedication and passion."