Asian investors least interested in diversity, finds research

Apr 23, 2019
But mismatch seen between investor interest and what Asian IROs are reporting

Just 6 percent of Asian investors say they are either interested or very interested in diversity or gender issues at the companies they follow or invest in, according to the latest research from IR Magazine.

This is far lower than the 29 percent of North American investors that are either interested or very interested in these issues or the 19 percent of European investors with similar enthusiasm, as revealed in the Board Diversity report. 

While 38 percent of Asian investors are neutral on the question of diversity or gender issues, more than half (56 percent) say they are either not interested at all or not interested in these issues. This is lower than the figures for North American investors – just 30 percent – or European investors (45 percent).

There is, however, something of a mismatch between these numbers and the interest in diversity or gender issues Asian IROs are registering. While just 6 percent of Asian investors say they are interested in these issues, Asian IROs place the figure at a notably higher 15 percent. ‘This may be due to Asian IROs seeing greater interest in diversity from their investors based outside the region,’ write the report authors.

At the same time, while 56 percent of Asian investors say they are not interested in these issues, IROs put the figure at just 44 percent. 

The region is generally seen as having lower levels of interest in ESG in general –both among companies and investors – than is seen in North America or Europe. But that generalization is becoming outdated, says Angela Campbell‑Noë, senior partner for Asia at the Singapore office of Tulchan. 

‘It is perhaps too much of a generalization to suggest that Asian companies are not focused on diversity – not just around gender but also ethnicity,’ she tells IR Magazine. ‘I have personally been involved in supporting the Diversity Action Committee in Singapore, for instance, and the effort and commitment is certainly authentic.

‘That said, there are, relative to the US or Europe, fewer large caps in Asia and more companies with majority family/controlling shareholders. These companies are more focused, I believe, on improving governance, transparency and disclosure in the first instance and are looking more for top-quality talent to drive the business forward for the second and third generations of the founding shareholders, rather than diversity per se.’

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