I have great pleasure in proposing Peter Harrison for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
Mr Harrison is Group Chief Executive of Schroders plc, a FTSE100 company that is over 200 years old and is one of the UK’s largest asset managers. It currently handles around £400 billion of its clients’ assets through operations in 27 countries and a workforce of over 4,000 people. He started his career as an analyst with the company after graduation and subsequently went on to hold senior positions at several major financial institutions in the asset management industry, culminating in his becoming Chief Executive of RWC Partners; under his leadership, the business grew from 20 to 100 people. He returned to Schroders in 2013.
The world of asset management may seem rather remote and unfamiliar, but the industry touches on people’s lives in many ways. For example, just under a third of the assets managed in this country belong to pension funds, the success of which has a direct impact on the financial well-being of millions of people, now and in the future. In addition, the industry makes a significant contribution to the UK economy. Asset managers in the UK deal with investments worth around £7 trillion, making the UK the largest centre for asset management in the world outside the USA. As a large part of this investment is for overseas clients, the industry makes a significant contribution to the UK’s service export income.
To build on this success in future, the investment management industry will require leaders with the insight and vision that Mr Harrison has brought to bear most recently at Schroders. For example, he is a strong advocate of the roles that information technology and data analysis can play in transforming the industry. Accordingly, he has led initiatives to ensure the company’s technology is 'state-of-the-art' and to embed people with data-science expertise in its investment teams to exploit data better and to improve decision making for the benefit of clients. This appreciation of the opportunities and risks that come from global change is also apparent in the company’s approach to environmental, social and governance factors, which are treated as integral not only to investment decisions but continuing management. The company takes an active role as a shareholder, using this position to engage with companies it invests in to improve their performance in these areas.
Perhaps above all, successful leadership in the asset management industry turns on the fact that this is a 'people business', relying critically on the quality of its workforce, and so needs to draw talent from as wide a pool as possible. Mr Harrison’s initiatives at Schroders have demonstrated his commitment to achieving this. As Group Chief Executive, he accepts accountability for ensuring that the company fosters an inclusive culture with a diverse workforce across the business worldwide, and he has strengthened the company’s efforts towards improving gender balance. Indeed, under his leadership, the proportion of female senior managers in the company has increased but so too has the target, recognising that there is still more to be done.
Mr Harrison’s achievements as a leader in a world-class sector of the UK economy should serve as an inspiration to all young people embarking on their careers and perhaps especially so to our graduates, as he is numbered amongst them, having first graduated from the University with a BSc Business Administration in 1988.
Chancellor, I present to you Mr Peter Harrison, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.'
Dr Philip Cooper