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Epworth CEO hopes for diversity progress amid coronavirus

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The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns around the globe will change the way financial firms view flexible and remote working, one CEO hopes.

David Palmer, CEO of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, London, and subsidiary firm Epworth Investment Management, can see the “rigid” process with which the City of London operates changing.

“One thing that we think will change is in the city, one of the barriers to working parents (and other carers) was flexible working and working from home. We are very rigid with our stock market hours in the city — we want people at their desks,” Mr. Palmer said.

But the COVID-19 situation has proven that employees can “do as good a job at home. It is one of the great barriers in the city that led to an imbalance for gender, and this might actually break it down a bit,” Mr. Palmer said.

The CFB runs a number of strategies across equities, bonds and real estate, and together with Epworth it invests about £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) on behalf of Methodist and non-Methodist churches and charities in the U.K.

Investments are made with Christian ethics in mind, excluding certain stocks for ethical reasons, but the CFB also is an active voter.

“One big campaign for us has been boardroom diversity, across all genders and races. We are active voters and vote against companies without diversity,” Mr. Palmer said.

Regarding the now-global Black Lives Matter campaign, Mr. Palmer said he hopes other investors will join in the push for diversity as it moves up the agenda — “and about time, too.”

And the coronavirus situation has not stopped executives from taking ethical stances. Earlier this month, the CFB announced about £17 million in divestments made on climate-change grounds, plus a list of companies excluded from future investments and some now on its watchlist.

This content was originally published here.

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