The issues that lay at the root of the social justice unrest of 2020 haven’t dissipated and four years later, many investment organizations are focusing on building up their internal support networks for employees from the Black, Indigenous and people of colour communities, says Sri Vemuri, senior vice-president and national sales manager at Capital Group Canada.

“While [Capital Group] has always focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, the social justice movement [in] 2020 really amplified our voices internally and set forward programs that were both organic in nature [and] really tied into our existing DEI initiatives,” says Vemuri, who also chairs a DEI roundtable events committee and is part of Capital Group’s North American DEI steering committee.

In 2020, the organization launched anti-racism study groups that allow employees from different backgrounds to share their personal journey. To date, there are five study groups with nine employees each. The group was first launched in the U.S. to much success and Vemuri worked to bring the campaign to its Canadian workforce.

Read: Are institutional investors meeting diversity targets set for investee companies?

He credits this initiative with helping employees bring their authentic self to work. “Having an open safe space to have those conversations was really, really important,” he says.

Many financial organizations are also focusing on inclusive hiring practices. In 2020, Capital Group announced that it’s aiming to have Black Americans account for seven per cent of its leadership positions by 2025, up from 4.8 per cent in 2022. Overall, the firm is aiming for 15 per cent of its senior management roles to be filled by individuals from underrepresented groups by 2025.

To help examine barriers for underrepresented groups, Black client-facing associates at the organization came together in Canada and the U.S. to create ‘The Community,’ an employee resource group that examines individual challenges in the workplace and provides opportunity for workers to discuss what can be done to increase the number of Black employees in sales and leadership roles.

Using outside consultant groups that specialize in diverse hiring practices can help institutional investors see success in expanding the talent pool, says Omo Akintan, chief people officer at the University Pension Plan. Indeed, the UPP works with organizations like the Black Professionals in Tech Network for strategic recruitment that helps it identify key talent.

Read: How Canada’s institutional investors are increasing gender parity

Regina Curry, chief diversity officer at Franklin Templeton agrees, adding these recruitment partnerships can help break through the “historically homogeneous nature of the industry” that can challenge the pursuit of underrepresented talent. However, the roadmap to attracting and retaining talent from a racialized background for institutional investors requires a long-term approach.

“A comprehensive long-term approach and commitment to DEI is required — one that focuses not only on bringing in underrepresented talent but also fosters an inclusive culture to ensure equity of opportunity, so that everyone in the organization has a fair chance to compete.”

The UPP also relies on data examinations through internal race and gender breakdowns to try and identify gaps in representation and make sure pay parity is in place. A thorough breakdown, Curry adds, was born out of the need to recognize the different needs across several marginalized communities.

“For years, we just had diversity initiatives that were broad without differentiation. But the data started to show that Indigenous People, Black people [and] people with disabilities weren’t getting ahead. We’re not just saying ‘we have 50 per cent diverse people,’ we’re [asking] ‘who’s in? Who’s missing?’”

Read: Companies must listen to racialized employees in tackling racism at work: experts