SVB's Tracy Isacke spoke to Akira Kirton from BP, Jaidev Shergill from Capital One and Sohaila Ouffata from BMW on the best ways of incorporating diversity into corporate venturing.

Tracy Isacke, managing director of corporate relationship management at venture finance provider Silicon Valley Bank, chaired a panel discussion at the Global Corporate Venturing Symposium today on creating positive working environments for female professionals and professionals from minority groups.

The panel was made up of Akira Kirton, co-head of BP Ventures; Jaidev Shergill, managing partner at Capital One Growth Ventures; and Sohaila Ouffata, investment principal at BMW i Ventures.

Explaining the process of integrating diversity and inclusion into the recruitment and hiring processes, Shergill said: “As we put together the team, we look at their professional background – whether they come from [traditional] venture capital, from startups or from corporate operations.

“The skill set is very important in CVC and, on that end, we are pretty diverse. We find that having a diverse point of view when making investments is really important. You have got to have people who disagree on a given investment when making the decision, so we feel pretty good about our team and the way it is structured right now.”

Kirton stressed the relevance of “inclusion” in investment decision-making, rather than merely diversity, and said there tends to be too much focus on diversity and not enough on inclusion, which is the more important.

Isacke suggested the corporate VC realm may be better equipped than the venture capital space to provide diversity and inclusion to women and minorities, given official figures on female employees. Female employees reportedly make up 6% of staff in traditional VCs and 17% in corporate VC units.

Ouffata pointed out that the one of the biggest challenges in attracting talent to corporate VCs from among women and minority groups is the fact some potentially talented professionals are simply unwilling to work for a corporate employer, which is a reason why there is little ethnic diversity among corporate VCs.

Shergill said he believed it is only the companies that have recognised the benefits of having diverse teams from diverse backgrounds – professional and otherwise – which will have an advantage in creating conditions to attract such talent, adding that several studies have shown that companies with a more diverse employee base are actually more successful. 

The panel agreed that in addition to ethnic and gender diversity, it is very important to look at diversity of skills and thinking in the corporate VC world.

Kaloyan Andonov

Kaloyan Andonov is head of analytics at Global Corporate Venturing.