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Finding it tough to hire? Maybe think about diversity and inclusion

The tight labour market demonstrates how ESG-related policies such as diversity and inclusion impact “real-world” business functions. Regnan’s ALISON EWINGS explains

WHETHER it’s a Great Resignation, a reaction to pandemic lockdowns or the product of border closures and low migration, one thing is true: it is harder than ever to find staff.

If that sounds familiar, you’ve probably been considering a variety of ways to improve your success in recruitment.

You may not have considered how an Environmental, Social and Governance lens can help.

Earlier this year responsible investing leader Regnan published an investor’s guide to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — an ESG-related issue that’s especially relevant right now for employers battling to attract candidates.

Consider, for example, that more than two-thirds of Australian financial planners are men — but 60 per cent of graduates coming into the industry are women.

“The future of financial advice is absolutely female-led,” says Benjamin Marshan, Head of Policy, Strategy and Innovation at the Financial Planners Association.

DEI can help recruitment

What are recruitment’s best practices post-pandemic? How can you ensure you’re not inadvertently putting off potential candidates? How can you benefit from what a truly diverse workforce can offer?

A well-considered diversity, equity and inclusion program can help, says Regnan’s Alison Ewings, a co-author of the Beyond Diversity report.

Employers can improve their hiring practices by rethinking the process end to end — from job descriptions and competencies through to the advertising process, candidate selection and interview, says Ewings, who leads Regnan’s program of ESG engagement with ASX-listed companies.

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“Minor tweaks can change the pipeline of applicants dramatically.”

Diversity in hiring matters. It widens the pool of candidates available for a role and so can help avoid inflating labour costs by artificially narrowing the number of applicants.

And when coupled with an inclusive and equitable work environment, it also drives improved business performance by harnessing new ideas and perspectives.

But much of the traditional hiring process can get in the way of hiring for diversity.

Take care with language

“The starting point is the job description and advertisement itself. You need to think quite carefully about what competencies are really required to do the job well,” Ewings says.

“Even in our own team, we drafted a job advertisement recently where we initially included a requirement for ‘superior project management’.

“That sounds like they need a formal qualification or have done major projects — but what we were really looking for was someone who’s highly organised.”

Careful use of language can broaden the pool of applicants.

A study of 4000 job ads found that women were put off from applying for jobs that used wording associated with masculine stereotypes such as ‘aggressive’, ‘ambitious’ or ‘persistent’,” she says.

Significantly, women did not consciously note the language or realise it was having this impact and when asked why they did not apply for a role, they cited personal reasons.

“It’s similar with imagery. Who you show in photos of your workforce can be a natural screen for people that they aren’t even aware of.”

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Rethink the interview process

Ewings also suggests rethinking the interview process itself.

“Not many job roles require someone to be good at being interviewed,” she says, saying some employers are now using a task-based approach for hiring that checks whether people can actually perform a role’s functions rather than whether they can perform well in an interview.

“It often started as a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, for instance to recruit people on the autism spectrum who may not interview well. But in fact, they discovered it’s a better predictor of job performance in many roles across all hires,” she says.

Where interviews are the best way to screen people or as used as a final check in the process, Ewings suggests ensuring the same questions are used in the same order and that interview panels themselves are diverse.

“You’re trying to sell the job and build rapport, so you don’t want to be too dogmatic about it, but there’s a balance — you need to be able to look back and evaluate each candidate against what you’re looking for.”

She also says the interview question themselves need to be linked to the role’s competencies.

“You’ve got to benchmark the questions you ask back to the requirements of the job. It’s not just a matter of going for coffee with someone for a general chat.”

And what about de-identifying resumes to avoid bias in the recruiting process?

That can be a good idea, says Ewings, but it depends on your objective.

“If you set a target of having shortlists with a specific percentage of, say, women or people from multi-cultural backgrounds, then de-identification won’t help.”

About Regnan

Regnan is a responsible investment leader with a long and proud history of providing insight and advice to investors with an interest in long-term, broad-based or values-aligned performance.

Building on that expertise, in 2019 Regnan expanded into responsible investment funds management, backed by the considerable resources of Pendal Group.

The Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund invests in mission-driven companies we believe are well placed to solve the world’s biggest problems.

The Regnan Credit Impact Trust (available in Australia only) invests in cash, fixed and floating rate securities where the proceeds create positive environmental and social change. Both funds are distributed by Pendal in Australia.

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For more information on these and other responsible investing strategies, contact Head of Regnan and Responsible Investment Distribution Jeremy Dean at jeremy.dean@regnan.com.

This information has been prepared by Pendal Fund Services Limited (PFSL) ABN 13 161 249 332, AFSL No 431426 and is current as at November 2, 2021

PFSL is the responsible entity and issuer of units in the Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund (Fund) ARSN: 645 981 853. A product disclosure statement (PDS) is available for the Fund and can be obtained by calling 1300 346 821 or visiting www.pendalgroup.com. The Target Market Determination (TMD) for the Fund is available at www.pendalgroup.com/ddo. You should obtain and consider the PDS and the TMD before deciding whether to acquire, continue to hold or dispose of units in the Fund.

An investment in the Fund or any of the funds referred to in this web page is subject to investment risk, including possible delays in repayment of withdrawal proceeds and loss of income and principal invested.

This information is for general purposes only, should not be considered as a comprehensive statement on any matter and should not be relied upon as such. It has been prepared without taking into account any recipient’s personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, recipients should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness having regard to their individual objectives, financial situation and needs. This information is not to be regarded as a securities recommendation.

The information may contain material provided by third parties, is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate as at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, and while all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is complete and correct, to the maximum extent permitted by law neither PFSL nor any company in the Pendal group accepts any responsibility or liability for the accuracy or completeness of this information.

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