In an interview with UK Investor Magazine, IG Group’s CEO, June Felix, discusses IG’s work in the community and how the online trading company is balancing shareholder returns with making a positive impact on wider society.

 

What steps are you taking to ensure IG’s core business is providing a positive impact to the UN’s SDGs?

In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and our own well-established purpose and values, it’s important that IG shows it is a responsible company. Most notably, we have committed to helping the most vulnerable children in the markets in which we operate by improving their access to a good education and future opportunities.

The creation of IG’s Brighter Future programme, the related IG fund and our international partnerships means we can help young people in society to reach their full potential, irrespective of gender, colour, race, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. This work is based on meritocracy, giving people the right environment and the right tools to succeed. This is a core part of our purpose and values as a company, empowering and educating our clients to succeed in executing their trading strategies.

One of IG’s key measures is revenue per client, how are you balancing this with the need to facilitate financial inclusion in the community?

Our clients are very sophisticated, financially savvy and risk aware, who want access to trade 24 hours a day in 16,000 markets globally on our platform. Our products are not for everyone. We have a very rigorous selection policy for our clients testing them based on appropriateness, market knowledge and if they have the financial means to trade markets. For some potential clients we have to say unfortunately we are not the right platform for you.

The key measure for IG is actually delivering the world’s best trading experience because it ensures strong client loyalty and longevity in our relationships. Within the UK, 68% of our revenue is generated by clients who have been with IG for more than three years. Our business model is always aligned with the interests of our clients. For instance, we think it’s important that we execute our client orders first and then we hedge, so we are not on the other side.

The establishment of the IG Brighter Future programme and our ongoing partnership with organisations like Teach First reflects our commitment to inclusion. When our employees go into the schools we partner with they are helping build understanding of global markets and economics, improving financial literacy at the grass roots level.

IG offers clients synthetic tradable indices such as the Cannabis Index and Crypto Top 10 Index but nothing related to Impact Investing or ESG, what is the thinking behind this?

Our traders choose to come to IG to express their ESG views because we offer access to over to 470 ‘socially responsible’ ETFs. All these are listed in full on our public website.

Is there more you feel IG can do to boost your ESG credentials?

ESG is a powerful discussion in boardrooms globally. Last year we established our Brighter Future programme as part of our overall ESG workstream because we recognise that society, our shareholders and our employees expect us to focus on this agenda. We polled 1,900 IG employees globally on what our initiative should focus on and the overwhelming feedback was on helping the environment, helping improve access to education and to improve social mobility.

The launch of the Brighter Future programme was just the start; we continue to address the environmental impact of our offices globally and are working to be a carbon neutral firm in FY2020. Our existing partnership with Teach First is improving the educational opportunities available to the least privileged children in UK communities, particularly by helping to train teachers in “STEM” subjects. I’m also very excited that we’ve hired our first-ever dedicated ESG manager, who joins next IG week, to really drive our ESG agenda and all our related new initiatives.

The launch of the Brighter Future Fund coincided with a trading statement revealing higher revenue due to volatility from coronavirus. If the coronavirus crisis had not occurred, how different would the Brighter Future Fund look in terms of size and focus?

I’m sure we all wish the coronavirus had not occurred, given how much uncertainty and sadness it has brought. We are all facing these exceptional times together, be that as corporates or individuals, within the wider communities we are part of.

The IG Brighter Future Fund reflects our wish to help others in an extreme time of need and on a scale never experienced in our life time. What’s made me so proud has been the work of our colleagues globally, who are doing what they can to help others in this crisis; by raising money to help fight the virus, supporting local food banks or providing medical supplies for staff in their local hospitals. As a leadership team, we knew immediately we had to make a swift and positive contribution but one that also reflected the priorities of our Brighter Future programme.

We decided the best way to do this was to launch our fund, and provide support to Teach First and other international partners to help the most vulnerable children deal with the fallout from the virus. Our extended partnership with Teach First will go directly towards the education of upwards of 40,000 pupils in over 100 UK schools most impacted by COVID-19.

Only 31% of IG’s employees were female in 2019, up from 30% in 2018. Many of the UK’s major financial institutions are close to a 50/50 split and some banks employ more women than men. Why is IG so far behind?

Improving our gender balance is a key part of our internal ONE IG goals, which focus on inclusion, diversity and collaboration. A large proportion of our workforce are in technology roles, which given the proportion of male to females in technology generally, provides the backdrop to our current diversity ratios.

We are undertaking several partnerships with external organisations such as Code First Girls and TechSheCan to support women changing careers and encourage more women into STEM subjects at grassroots level. We also have a vibrant and active women’s network, which is integral in how we attract and develop female talent within IG. In the past 12 months we have welcomed several senior women to our key Executive roles in UK, Europe and Asia proving we are tackling this top-down as well as bottom-up.

As a female CEO I am proud that 40% of our executive committee members are female, and over a third of our board members too. However, there is always more work to be done to improve diversity in the City, be it gender, ethnicity or socio-economic backgrounds.