Diversity is an increasingly prominent topic, and it holds even more significance in the private equity industry where, according to Mckinsey and Company, research data from the United States and Canada shows that ethnic and racial minorities represent only 20% of managing-director-level investing professionals and women with only 15% of managing-director-level investing roles.
Limited Partners (LPs) are key players in the private equity industry, and their views and practices when it comes to diversity can and should be a part of GP and LP conversations.
In our webinar series The LP Lens, Katie Moore, Managing Partner, Fund Investments, Hamilton Lane, and Aditya Fontana-Raina, Managing Director, Stepstone Group shared their thoughts on how to engage LPs on the topic of diversity.
The Unique Nature of Each LP’s Initiatives
It's crucial to recognize that LPs are not a homogeneous group, each has its own unique characteristics and approach to diversity. Some may have explicit diverse asset managers initiatives, while others may have their own internal definitions and philosophies surrounding diversity.
These distinctions play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of private equity investments.
One aspect that LPs emphasize is the importance of their proprietary risk management tools.
To make informed investment decisions, LPs ask questions about the risk of groupthink and the effectiveness of diversity policies within General Partners (GPs). They rely on data-driven tools to assess these factors and mitigate risks associated with a lack of diversity.
Impact of Diversity on Investment Returns
Most LPs value diversity data as a tool for decision-making.
While it may not be the sole factor in their investment choices, it holds significant weight. Data related to ownership, economics, investment teams, and decision-makers are carefully examined to ensure a comprehensive understanding of a GP's diversity profile.
Diverse private equity managers tend to produce top-quartile returns, outperforming the broader buyout landscape. This finding underscores the importance of diversity in investment decision-making and suggests that diversity is not just a moral imperative, but a smart business strategy.
LPs' Structural Diversity Targets
Despite the growing focus on diversity, not all LPs have structural diversity targets in place. Some LPs may be constrained by regulations and unable to allocate dedicated capital to diverse managers. Nevertheless, LPs are beginning to ask questions about emerging manager programs and dedicated initiatives for diverse managers.
Beyond Data-Centric Approaches
It's not all about the numbers.
LPs recognize that understanding a GP's journey regarding diversity is equally important. They encourage GPs to focus on qualitative aspects of diversity, such as their approach to recruiting and sourcing diverse candidates. Building a diverse team and fostering an inclusive culture are factors that LPs consider beyond quantitative data.
LPs place importance on GPs' internal diversity efforts. This includes the GP's commitment to internal diversity targets and efforts to promote diversity within their organization.
For the LP Lens panelists, it’s a GP's responsibility to consider diversity questions.
Diversity is not just a buzzword in the private equity industry; it's a critical factor that LPs take into account when making investment decisions. Understanding the unique nature of LPs, their use of risk management tools, and their perspective on diversity data is essential for GPs looking to attract investments.
As diversity continues to be a focal point, LPs and GPs should collaborate to promote diversity within the private equity sector, recognizing that it not only aligns with societal values but also leads to better investment returns and more sustainable growth.