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Kate Bingham: Diverse firms create ‘the sort of tension you want’

Kate Bingham, managing partner at SV Health Managers and former chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, says teams from different backgrounds work better than those with the same cookie-cutter experiences.

Diverse investment managers foster pragmatic team dynamics which can lead to better results for the firm, SV Health Managers veteran Kate Bingham said on Tuesday.

Speaking at PEI Media’s Impact Investor Forum, Bingham, a managing partner at SV, which she has worked at for 29 years, said that diversity of gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds lead to “differences in how [firms] think and how they approach problems as a result”.

Bingham was reflecting on her experience as chair of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, a group responsible for identifying and procuring covid-19 vaccinations. That experience had cemented her appreciation for diverse viewpoints around the table in terms of gender, socio-economic background and nationality.

“I actually want people with very different backgrounds, so not people that have all got very cookie-cutter equivalent backgrounds where they think the same thing. You really want diversity of thought,” Bingham explained.

Jokingly, she said that Lehman Brothers, the former investment banking giant that went bankrupt during the Great Recession, may not have suffered its fate had the firm included more diverse investment professionals. “It wouldn’t have been Lehman Sisters that would have run it into the ground,” Bingham said.

She added that diverse firms may, at times, create tension between team members because of differences of opinion. “But provided you’ve got a motivated and engaged team, you’ll always find solutions,” Bingham explained. “That’s actually the sort of tension you want.”

“And being told you can’t do something may well mean you end up with a better solution as a result.”