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Warwick Economics Alumna wins Investment Woman of the Year

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Warwick Economics Alumna wins Investment Woman of the Year

A Warwick Economics alumna has won the Investment Week "Investment Woman of the Year (Small/Medium Firms)" Award in recognition of her work as a Policy Lead.

Caroline Escott (pictured in the centre), a BSc Economics, Politics and International Studies graduate, was awarded the Investment Week award for leading on investment and the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association and for coordinating the Association’s work on Diversity & Inclusion.

Investment Week, who are working in partnership with HSBC Global Asset Management to improve diversity within the Investment sector launched the Women in Investment Awards 2019, and since then, have received over 1,000 nomination and believe the ceremony will only get bigger and better.

We caught up with Caroline to ask her about her award and about her career.

What is the award for?

It is for “Investment Woman of the Year” for smaller to medium firms. It was partly in recognition of the work I do in my day job, leading on investment and ESG policy at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association – the trade association for the pensions and institutional investment sector. The award also acknowledged my role as co-ordinator of the PLSA’s work on diversity and inclusion to ensure that as “the voice of the pensions industry” we are at the forefront of efforts to build a more diverse pensions and investment sector, which can better respond to diverse savers’ needs.

What does the award mean to you?

The pensions sector lags behind many others in its approach to diversity and inclusion – 83% of pension trustee boards are male and 3% of trustees are under 40 – so it is wonderful to be recognised for our efforts at the PLSA. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration to the team going forwards: we have big plans for 2020, including a practical trustee diversity guide to support schemes in their recruitment efforts, a number of roundtables and events to bring key actors from across the investment chain together and redoubling our efforts to raise awareness in the sector of why diversity matters.

Why is it important to improve diversity within the investment sector?

There’s a whole host of evidence which shows that more cognitively diverse boards avoid behavioural biases such as groupthink and make better decisions. Individuals trust their savings and investment to the asset management industry and it’s vital that investment firms and pension trustee boards make every effort to ensure they make the right decisions which protect and enhance the value of people’s savings.

Have things started changing already or is it still a long way to go?

There are a number of organisations and individuals doing excellent work in the pensions and investment industry including The Diversity Project, NextGenNow, the Young Pension Trustees Network and many others. This momentum and genuine commitment is welcome but too many organisations still see diversity as a ‘nice to have’ or merely pay lip-service to the concept. Hopefully, the PLSA’s work to encourage pension scheme clients to ask their investment service providers and the companies they invest in exactly what they are doing to become more diverse and inclusive workplaces will draw good diversity practices up through the investment chain.

What would you say to our students considering a career in investment?

Mostly, that I hope that my answers don’t end up putting off anyone who thinks they don’t neatly conform to the asset manager stereotype or “look” from pursuing a career in the sector! A role in investment or investment policy can be extremely rewarding. You get the opportunity to work in a dynamic environment where no two days are the same and are taking decisions that can have a fundamental impact on the retirement incomes that people receive. My Economics and International Political Economy degrees at Warwick and the LSE were fundamental in equipping me to be unafraid to challenge others’ assumptions and approaches, which I think has stood me in good stead in my career: I’d strongly encourage Warwick Economics graduates from all and every background to consider a career in investment and investment policy.

About Caroline Escott

Caroline works for Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) as Policy Lead: Investment & Stewardship which involves working on a number of institutional investment and corporate governance issues. She is responsible for co-ordinating the Association's work on Diversity & Inclusion.

After graduating from Warwick with a degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies in 2006 she headed to LSE to do a MSc in International Political Economy. While there, she did a Parliamentary internship before getting her first job at a political consultancy. Then she got a full-time job in Parliament working on financial policy research for a couple of MPs.

Her next career step was to become Head of Public Policy at a sustainable finance trade association before moving on to pensions policy at the Association of Professional Financial Advisers and now at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, where she also co-ordinates the PLSA's diversity work.

Caroline says about involvement in various projects: 'I've always had a fairly active extra-curricular life, from volunteering in an Oxfam bookshop or local political activism to leading an anti-human trafficking organisation of 140 volunteers. This year I will become a trustee of one of the UK's largest pension schemes - which should keep me pretty busy in my spare time!'

The photo above is from the Award Ceremony and has been submitted by Caroline Escott.