Hedge Funds Face Pressure to Hire Diverse Talent for Sales Roles

By Alexendra Semenova 

August 25, 2021

Hiring for marketing roles at hedge funds is at an all-time high, after the industry adjusted to remote work and virtual recruitment – and posted a strong 2020 performance year. But managers still are vying for diverse talent to fill sales, marketing and other front-facing roles as demand in the space booms.

“One of the things we are seeing now is the play for more diverse individuals on each platform to represent a firm from a front-office perspective,” said Sasha Jensen, founder and CEO at alts recruiter Jensen Partners.

The hedge fund universe is catching up to other private market managers in terms of establishing specialized diversity and inclusion units and having a pipeline of diverse candidates, Jensen said.

“Some of the big ones have started to figure it out,” she said. “The small ones are still doing so.”

But the hiring data is still lopsided. Of the 222 hedge fund marketing hires year-to-date, 189 identified as white, or 85%, according to numbers provided to FundFire from Jensen Partners’ Diversity Metrics platform. Hires of East Asian professionals followed with 10 moves, hires who identified under “other” were next with eight moves and Black hires accounted for seven moves, according to the Jensen data. From a gender perspective, 134 hires, or 60%, were male and 88 female.

While data shows there is work to be done, Jensen expects the industry will continue to make progress in expanding diversity, with more hedge funds focused on “new intentions and standards” when it comes to onboarding and integrating diverse candidates. Firms are also holding themselves accountable by establishing internal D&I units and strategies, conducting surveys and building out candidate pipelines.

“It’s not just optics” said Melissa Norris, founding partner at Jamesbeck, a woman-owned executive search firm. “Clients aren’t just saying that they want diverse talent – they are actually putting their money where their mouth is and pulling the trigger on diverse placements.”

To do so, firms are asking to see a more diverse slate of prospective candidates and taking a hard look at who recruiters introduce into the process, according to Norris. If that doesn’t produce adequate results, some firms are asking recruiters to go back to the market and focus solely on diverse candidates.

Many firms are taking it a step further with measures such as ensuring diverse people within the organization interview potential hires.

“It’s one thing to attract, recruit and hire diverse talent, but when you bring people in house, you have to make sure they are included, you have to work with them and you have to make sure they see a path forward,” Norris said. “The better firms are not focusing only on getting diverse talent on board, but on their success and growth internally, and ensuring they feel like part of the fabric of the organization.”

With a limited number of senior talent and a highly competitive market for diverse candidates, firms are also focusing on “grassroots, bottom-up efforts” that include specialized mentorship and training, according to Norris.

Norris said one of her clients created a separate pool of capital just for opportunistic diverse hires. If the firm comes across a diverse candidate who it likes, but do not have an opening for the person’s specialization, it can use the capital to bring them into another role and in the future work to move them into the area suitable for their skillset.

Hiring has been particularly strong at the senior level – a major change since the start of the pandemic, said Laurie Thompson, founder and executive recruiter at Willow Hill Advisors.