Matt, tell us a bit about you?
I’m 33 and was born in Blackpool, in north-west Lancashire, into a working-class family. My dad is a gardener, my mum is a finance assistant and my brother is a dairy farmer. In 2009, I started a career in recruitment specialising in the financial services industry. Five years later, I moved into partnership with Clare Scott and became the co-managing director of The Ocean Partnership. I launched LGBT Great’s Project 1000 in November 2017 with the support of Legal and General Investment Management, Fidelity International, T. Rowe Price, St James’ Place Wealth Management and Northern Trust Asset Management.
Throughout my childhood, I struggled with coming to terms with my sexuality and my identity because I couldn’t see anyone else like me. I attended a state school called Carr-Hill 11-18 High School in Kirkham and was the first person in my extended family to complete A-Levels and attend university. I read medieval and modern history at the University of Birmingham and moved to London in 2009 with stacks of student debt, a clapped out Ford Fiesta and a suitcase!
Looking back, my first few years in London were tough and I suffered from acute anxiety and poor mental health. I felt plagued by worry and insecurity, and totally lacked confidence in myself.
There were some real low points and I remember feeling so down that some days I couldn’t face the world. What I needed was some help, inspiration and motivation; I needed a visible role model who could give me the support and confidence that I needed to be me. I needed a beacon of hope.
Why did Project 1000 launch, specifically?
Project 1000 was launched specifically to firms in our industry to initiate and develop the visibility of LGBT+ employees and supportive allies. Since it began, the project has gained support from 375 industry professionals in firms all over the world who have ‘stepped into the light’ as visible role models. Given the traction, we also have others who have pledged support whom we are working with to include in the 1000. So far the project has gained the support of investment management firms, investment consultants and hedge funds. However, with a few exceptions, the pensions industry has remained noticeably silent.
Together with the PMI we are determined to change this. I have two personal objectives for the pensions industry specifically: to support employees in being comfortable in their LGBT+ and ally identities, and to bring our industry together in a joined-up approach for the benefit of savers and investors.
Why is Project 1000 important for the pensions industry?
At LGBT Great, the concept of role modelship is intrinsically linked to inclusive leadership and we see the former as an embodiment of the latter. Role models can have a positive impact on minority groups by demonstrating allyship and support, exemplifying good behaviours and by providing the confidence that employees need to thrive. Feeling supported at work and being able to embrace your full identity is statistically proven to reduce stress and improve overall mental wellbeing.
92% of LGBT+ employees working within the investment and savings industry are seeking visible support and allyship at executive and board level. However, our study ‘Aiming for Great’
found that only 10% of firms were found to be meeting this expectation. In addition to this, expectations of both talent and investors are also increasing as the LGBT+ rights equality movement progresses, and the lines of sexual orientation and gender identity become increasingly fluid.
Project 1000 provides our industry with a measurable and quantifiable vehicle in which to begin, and build, progress by helping, inspiring and motivating others. It has increased visibility and consciousness across the sector and we have been inspired by the support it has received from the ally community in particular. For example, last year we had an influx of support from influential allies who wanted to do their part. This proves that there is some good in the world and that allyship does exist in our industry, despite the negative perception externally. Project 1000 is partly about making these supporters visible. Allies are critical and together is the only way!
How did Project 1000 gain momentum?
The first phase of the Project 1000 plan has been to create the space in which people feel confident enough to be visibly ‘out’ or to be visible allies. Through a series of positive action social media campaigns, we have been able to galvanise support from a broad range of firms and provide a tangible way for others to contribute.
For example, the #hereiam campaign was our first major push and this achieved over 2000 views on YouTube. The executive leaders #Top100 campaign went on to achieve 1.6 million website hits. Our educational, awareness-building campaigns have been instrumental in encouraging those who have been traditionally silent and invisible to become vocal and visible.
What does being a Project 1000 role model actually involve?
There are several ways to engage with Project 1000 and here are 5 key points:
1. Being a visible ambassador for LGBT+ diversity and inclusion at your organisation
2. Permission to share your corporate bio, referencing your support of the LGBT+ agenda at your firm, with your photo alongside our role models web page
3. Permission to have your bio amplified on LGBT Great and your firm’s social media platforms
4. Supporting and sharing our awareness-building campaigns on social media
5. Participation in our events and webinars where your time permits.
Project 1000 role models within our member firms have a more intensified role and are involved in initiatives like our research and our new mentoring programme.
How can individuals support and sign up?
This is simple and takes less than two minutes. Applications involve sharing some basic information and then our team follows up to do the rest. Sign up here www.lgbtgreat.com/project-1000-sign-up
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine March 2021 edition.
Last update: 4 March 2021