INCLUSION & DIVERSITY
INVESTOR PERSPECTIVES ON DEI
The NAREIM series of interviews with institutional investors on DEI perspectives, portfolio allocations and manager underwriting.
As part of the work of NAREIM's Inclusion & Diversity Committee, NAREIM has produced a series of interviews focused on investor perspectives on DEI.
Since early 2020, NAREIM has invited institutional investors to sit down and discuss their perspectives on diversity and inclusion and how they are working with investment managers to deliver lasting change for the industry.
John McClelland, the former real estate head of LACERA, said LPs can be stewards of change, particularly in relation to DEI.
Speaking with Suzanne West, Senior Advisor at The CenterCap Group, over the course of two interviews in January and July, McClelland offered his perspectives on DEI, how institutional investors will get more active in relation to diversity and urged managers to bring more junior talent into due diligence and onsite visits as well as diversify the composition of the Investment Committee.
Once investors collected more DEI data, McClelland said LPs would need to ask themselves what they wanted to do with the information. "At the moment, LPs are leaning towards encouragement. They won’t fire or hire managers that are not diverse. However, I’ve seen “no” votes by individual members of a board in a public environment because the manager was not diverse ... LPs will want to see improvement over time in the [DEI] efforts of the firms."
calstrs & the world bank
Mike DiRé, director of real estate at the California State Teachers Retirement System, and Christina Scarlato, principal portfolio manager, real assets at The World Bank Pension Plan, both agree that it’s difficult to demand managers meet preset criteria on diversity, either at the ownership or corporate level.
However, they say it’s not difficult for investors to talk more about the diversity of their manager partners — or for managers to show traction on progress in diversity.
Speaking to Suzanne West, senior advisor of The CenterCap Group, DiRé and Scarlato talk about how their plans have worked with managers to encourage and enact change, and how managers can communicate better with their investors about how they’re focusing on diversity at the corporate, as well as asset management, level.
For StepStone Group’s Global Head of Responsible Investing, Suzanne Tavill, who grew up in apartheid South Africa, there is so much opportunity to effect change within the real estate sector.
Speaking to Marjorie Tsang, the former interim CIO and Head of Real Estate at the New York State Common Retirement Fund, Tavill says there are opportunities for diversity and empowerment ranging from outreach to local universities, to enhanced recruitment, training and sponsorship practices across the construction, asset- and facilities-management sectors. The real estate sector is such an important employer that, by addressing D&I, the sector can have a material impact on improving social equity.
For Anthony Breault, senior real estate investment officer at Oregon State Treasury, and Robert Sessa, head of real estate at the Employees Retirement System of Texas, their job is to ensure their GP partners have robust processes when it comes to operating and investing.
Diversity — which enables greater diversity of thought — is an essential part of their GP underwriting, they reveal, with both pensions having “full conversations” on team engagement and backgrounds.
Speaking to Marjorie Tsang, former interim CIO and head of real estate at the New York State Common Retirement Fund, Breault, Sessa and Sam Spencer, investment officer at Oregon State Treasury highlight how each public pension approaches, tracks and asks questions about diversity within real estate managers, what’s driving their push for greater diversity among GPs and how the industry needs an industry standard for best practices.
Peter Braffman, Managing Director, Real Estate Investments at GCM Grosvenor, has been tracking emerging manager and diverse manager performance for the past decade.
He opens up his data demonstrating there is no sacrifice of returns by an investment in diversity and that diverse real estate managers consistently perform relative to the traditional benchmarks. Braffman notes that the devil is in the details, of course. To get better, the industry needs to agree on definitions and standards, and increase transparency by reporting performance regularly and consistently.
Speaking with Zoe Hughes, CEO of NAREIM, Braffman highlights how he looks for managers who aren’t only great investors, but who treat their employees the same way LPs underwrite managers, as fiduciaries.
Alisa Mall, the real estate head of Carnegie Corporation of New York, talks about the endowment’s work to improve diversity across their own portfolio, and the industry.
Speaking with Suzanne West, senior advisor of The CenterCap Group and former investor, Mall says it’s critical for real estate investment managers to become “mentally, emotionally and financially committed to diversity” to create a culture that values diversity of thought to drive performance.
Mall and West explore the tactics Carnegie is employing to promote diversity among its managers, how they are being constructive not punitive and how the endowment is underwriting new and existing relationships on manager ownership and employee diversity metrics.