At Morgan Stanley, our diversity is a reflection of the multi-cultural world in which we live. Here’s why I’m so proud of it

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“It is critical that the working environment is a reflection of the broader world in which we live and do business, to ensure that we create a culture of belonging and continue to strive for a more dynamic workplace,” says Jordon Clarke, Head of Exchange Traded Product (ETP) Operations and Operational Lead for Enterprise Blockchain Exploration at Morgan Stanley.

Since Clarke joined Morgan Stanley six years ago, he has also become a champion for diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the workplace, as well as leading talks and mentorships in local outreach programmes at schools and universities.

“When I speak about diversity, I’m not only speaking about the dynamic of male and female but also ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any aspect that makes someone unique. It’s about fostering a culture of diversity of thought.”

Diverse profits

For Clarke, it’s crucial to consider the impact of diversity and inclusion when hiring and growing a business. Companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33 percent more likely to see better-than-average profits, according to a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company, ‘Delivering Through Diversity’.

“Coming from different backgrounds allows us to approach problems from an alternative perspective,” says Clarke. “It means we can avoid the concept of groupthink, where everyone comes from the same mould, with the same approach to problem solving. Diversity helps prevent a continuous state of consensus.”

He adds: “Everyone should feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. If you are from a diverse background you should be able to express all aspects of your personality. You shouldn’t have to suppress aspects of yourself trying to conform to the archetypal stereotype of what you conceive an investment banker should be. Instead, expend that time and energy to be the most effective you can in order to excel in your role. And this is exactly what we at Morgan Stanley embrace and are putting in place.”

Race for standards

Clarke heads the ETP Operations division, following career progression from ETP Director and Structured and Exotic Equity Derivatives. ETP, he says, is an interesting area due to the start-up mentality of his team and the growth of the space.

“We often operate with the desire, agility and camaraderie of a startup but with the resources, infrastructure and reputation a leading investment bank. That hybrid environment leads to a sense of intrapreneurship and the need to think like an owner in every decision I make.”

As a hiring manager, Clarke is seeing the conversation around D&I impact the recruitment process. Morgan Stanley was the first investment bank to sign up to the UK’s Race at Work Charter. Signatories of the charter agree to principles in the recruitment and progression of ethnic minorities.

Clarke maintains Morgan Stanley remains a meritocracy. While there is a conscious effort to ensure the firm is diverse, that goal is carefully nurtured so as not to upend the broader merit culture. The first criteria is an individual’s ability to conduct the role to the highest standard.

Increased inclusion

“It’s not just about diversity,” says Clarke. “Inclusion is a critical aspect to ensure the cultural experience is shared. It is vital that all employee views are respected — even if you are not from a typically diverse background. It’s the only way to create a truly inclusive environment.”

To advance inclusion at Morgan Stanley, there are nine employee networks; each a reflection of key diversity groups at the firm. Examples are the African & Caribbean Business Alliance (ACBA, Clarke is a committee member); Women's Business Alliance; South East Asian Network; Pride and Allies, and the Family Network. The networks build cohesion and yet each group is open to anyone — participation is not confined to a certain group of people.

“The networks provide an instant sounding board – uniting colleagues with similar goals and interests. I’ve found it really valuable to meet with peers and senior leaders from across the firm who can provide perspective and offer guidance on challenging work situations. Being part of the ACBA has really opened my network within Morgan Stanley and it’s been great to work on exciting projects and attend events that are beyond my day to day role.”

Last year, Clarke formed a team that partnered with SuccessTalks to host the ‘Accelerate Your Career’ conference. The conference was designed to equip future Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) leaders with an understanding of the key skills needed to remain dynamic and explore how to prepare for future career progress. Reflecting on the experience Clarke recalls the impact of providing a unique platform to recognise high potential talent from within Morgan Stanley’s BAME population and the opportunity created to attract talent from the wider industry: “I was especially proud to see the energy created and even now, I witness the connections that live beyond the day itself.”

Of course, D&I initiatives only work with buy-in at senior management level. Clarke believes Morgan Stanley performs well and what is set from the top of the house is embraced and implemented further down. One example is the Diversity Action Council (DAC) — a monthly meeting where managing directors across all business divisions act as catalysts to drive forward the diversity strategy and specific initiatives.

Role models

On what drives him to motivate others, is the belief that a person’s socio-economic class can be key determining factor of progression within the corporate environment.

“Being able to understand and adapt to nuances in the corporate world is key. An individual’s ability to develop such skills prior to entering a professional environment lessens a culture shock and steep learning curve.” he says. “If throughout your formative years you receive a high standard of schooling and are surrounded by professionals, you can more easily develop an ability to navigate a smooth entrance to a professional career. That tends to apply less to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.” It’s these people he strives to inspire.

“What I try to do with myself and other people is help them reach their own potential and then exceed it.”