A very warm welcome to everyone. It's great to see all of you here for the AVCJ forum, both in person and for those of you attending virtually. I’m delighted that we're spending time together to discuss this important topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I).
GIC was one of the earlier institutional investors to enter the private markets in the 1980s. Our private market portfolio spans multiple asset classes and strategies across private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and integrated strategies. As early investors in these markets and operating on the ground in locations like San Francisco, London, New York, and China, this has enabled us to access promising investments and build talent globally. We have benefited from a diverse workforce across cultures and different geographies.
In this challenging investment environment, we have continued our efforts to identify opportunities in line with our objective to achieve superior long-term returns and to invest across market cycles. We now have over 2,000 investment and business professionals looking to expand our range of public and private market capabilities and manage our portfolio across different sectors. DE&I has strategic importance for all of us as investors and it is a business imperative for good long-term performance.
Changing landscape on DE&I
In recent years, societies around the world have sharpened focus on social issues such as diverse representation, fair access to career opportunities, and inclusiveness in communities. Many global investors like us have reflected on our roles in delivering social impact by also advancing DE&I. Post-pandemic, the shift from verbal commitment to concrete actions has also intensified as we pave the way to integrate DE&I into our business decisions.
We are seeing several trends. Governments and regulatory bodies are increasingly introducing legislation to ensure businesses address DE&I and deliver positive social value. More asset managers are also focusing on DE&I stewardship, signalling a commitment to support the communities that they operate in. Industry players like ourselves are implementing more concrete DE&I efforts to bolster confidence in long-term value and to enable more inclusiveness within our ecosystem.
Adopting DE&I as a business imperative
As investors, we must not only recognise the impact of DE&I but also translate it to action. In practice, it means adopting DE&I as a business imperative for long-term success. This is critical to how we attract and retain top talent, build our brand and industry standing, and how we maintain our social licence to operate.
Having a diversity of insights, skills, and experiences will also meaningfully enrich our team's perspectives, and drive more competitive performance. As a collective professional community, we are called to model the right values and behaviours, and to foster an inclusive culture and level playing field for generations ahead. We want to do well, but we also want to do good in a purposeful way.
Taking meaningful action that sustains progress
We must take meaningful action in ways that are sustainable. It's heartening to be part of forums committed to active conversations for advancing DE&I, and to see all of us here having more active conversations around DE&I and how best to implement it effectively. With panels and leaders sharing perspectives, this will also help us to drive more actionable insights and sustain significant progress in this journey. These efforts make a difference especially in the Asia-Pacific, where progress has been more fragmented.
In GIC, diversity begins with diverse hiring at the early stage of a person’s career. Achieving a more balanced representation for gender requires integrating DE&I into our graduate recruitment practices and managing mid-career hiring processes to ensure a diverse slate of candidates. As we recognise that the industry’s gender balance is already skewed for mid-career and senior levels, we must focus on improving the employment potential at the junior entry level if we want to empower the next generation and create a strong talent pipeline to flow up.
Walking the talk as business leaders
As role models to advance DE&I, leaders must walk the talk and set the commitment from the top. This is a continuous journey that requires time and resources, as well as the ability to challenge our own assumptions and learn along this journey.
There are three pillars we must address in DE&I, and each pillar can be summarised with a question of “How”.
Maximising our strengths across different dimensions
First, in terms of diversity, the question is: “How can we maximise our strengths across different dimensions?”
At GIC we believe that building a diverse talent pool is essential as each person offers a unique set of strengths, skills, and experiences that will enrich teams. Each unique person is part of a high-performing team, and in fostering these diverse teams, we develop the capability to make better decisions. We drive greater innovation and cultivate new approaches to address complex issues that a group of people from the same background may not have considered fully.
Our differences also shape the way we look at the world and approach problems. Synergising these differences enables new ways of thinking, ideation, and solutioning. This is important as we navigate uncertainty and transformation for our business.
In applying a strengths-based approach, we build complementary teams to leverage collective capabilities in the same way we look at diversified portfolios. Each team brings a unique and different set of qualities which makes our overall performance stronger.
Diversity starts with gender, but it also encompasses other dimensions such as cognitive styles, skills, personal strengths, life experiences, amongst other inherent traits, and we have dedicated programmes to better integrate these dimensions into our hiring and talent development practices.
We adopt a Gender +1 approach to hiring, which empowers managers to proactively consider a variety of diversity dimensions, including educational and industry backgrounds, skills, and experiences. All this will meaningfully enrich the cognitive diversity of teams.
Creating an equitable workplace and fair practices
Secondly, under the equity pillar, the question to ask ourselves is: “How do we create an equitable workplace and establish fair practices?”
At GIC, we are anchored to our PRIME values as a commitment to principles of fairness, merit, and equity in our workforce. Our PRIME value of Respect is about treating everyone with dignity and valuing the perspectives and work of others, while our value of Merit stands for rewarding both achievements and behaviours equitably.
These are qualities that we assess as part of our 360° performance reviews for people managers, and in assessing and selecting leaders.
We also need to recognise that development needs will differ across individuals. Managers need to have open and honest conversations with team members on what is going well and what is not, and deal with performance as well as non-performance. As we pursue DE&I, we must not lose sight of fairness and merit, whether it relates to compensation, progression, or conduct.
Our annual compensation reviews are guided by performance and merit, and we regularly review our people policies and processes, and conduct data analysis on pay and progression to ensure that we eliminate any potential disparities or unconscious bias.
Our Dignity At Work policy also outlines clear expectations of conduct to ensure our people feel safe and respected. We offer multiple channels to surface incidents for investigation and share incidents as learning points to ensure they don't reoccur elsewhere.
Building a culture that enables our people to be at their best
And finally, under the inclusion pillar, the question is: “How do we build a culture that enables our people to be at their best?”
To drive greater inclusivity, we must seek diverse perspectives and promote constructive debates to make the best decisions. This requires an enabling environment built on openness and trust: from talent policies, to culture and values, to performance assessments and leadership.
We need to build an environment that provides psychological safety to our people. This enables better decision-making where people are empowered to speak up on different ideas and raise dissenting views. This ultimately contributes to a high-performance culture where we challenge ourselves more as individuals and as teams.
Of course, it takes two hands to clap.
Firstly, as leaders, we must be open to different perspectives, willing to learn and actively build trust and collaboration so that individuals can speak up without fear or repercussions. Secondly, everyone must subscribe to a culture where people are prepared to take risks and go the extra mile, as well as take ownership to fix what they see is not working well.
Employee experience, linked to purpose and inclusion, has had a big effect on performance. Beyond pay and benefits, expectations of individuals are shifting towards wanting to find more meaning in what they do, creating social impact, enjoying a sense of pride, and being valued in the workplace. Of course, employees also want to experience great culture and good leaders. We use organisation-wide surveys and team programs as touch points on the extent of our employee engagement, and whether people feel a sense of belonging.
Summing up inclusion
Inclusion boils down to having meaningful relationships at work and openness to perspectives, which are great for different views, learning opportunities, and ownership of outcomes. It is also important to nurture a high-trust working environment where colleagues are collaborative and enjoy psychological safety, supportive leaders, honest conversations, and positive team energy.
As an organisation, we must align the corporate values that we embrace with our personal values. Are we part of a strong social compact? Are we here to make a difference in the workplace and our communities? Are we being valued and recognised for our contributions?
Business leaders today have significant roles to play in advancing DE&I for our industry. We can change the narrative by setting the tone from the top and modelling these inclusive values and behaviours. And of course, we can provide the resources for more programmatic efforts.
Just as we recognise that the community needs to progress mindsets and actions, leaders must also recognise that we need new skills to advance DE&I in the workplace.
All of us act as guardians of an inclusive culture as we take accountability, because people care about working in a place where DE&I are not just mouthed as slogans but translated to values and behaviours that are practiced consistently. This is both a risk and an opportunity. If we do not meet our employees’ expectations, we will not be able to harness our people’s potential to sustain the long-term performance we need. On the upside, if we do this well, we unlock more potential to engage our people and deliver high performance.
On this note, I wish you all a most enjoyable day ahead with rich discussions and insightful takeaways in the upcoming panels. Thank you all for being here to make a difference.