The IIA sat down with Amelia Furr, Global Head of Sales for Morningstar Indexes, to talk about her role at Morningstar, her thoughts on inclusive leadership and the role of women in the index industry, what she is most excited about for the index industry and how she defines leadership.
Q: What is the most rewarding – and challenging – aspect of your role at Morningstar?
I was attracted to the reputation of Morningstar as a very inclusive culture and a great place to work, and this has been my experience. I have had very strong support at Morningstar as a female leader and it has been a lot of fun building out a global sales team nearly from scratch in the last three years. What’s most challenging about my job is actually what makes it most rewarding. As we work across multiple markets, time zones, channels of distribution and regulatory regimes, we need to really stay on our toes and on top of the trends. We also need to communicate and collaborate in a very trusting and inclusive way to find opportunities and anticipate market risks.
Q: How do you think the index industry is doing with inclusive leadership and opportunities for women?
I believe a diverse and inclusive culture can drive better decisions and better performance. And the index industry and other areas closely linked to it, like the ETF industry, have made huge strides in empowering women and diverse leadership in general. I see influential groups such as Women in ETFs helping to create communities in which women can thrive and see the opportunities to grow their careers despite being outnumbered in many firms. And while some industries lost much of their female talent due to the unevenness of work-life balance and the extra stress of childcare during Covid, I have seen positives in my index community including a lot more flexibility for most, which has been a huge shift for many women balancing career and motherhood.
Q: What do you think is one of the key challenges – or opportunity – facing the index industry?
This is an incredibly dynamic industry. As the competitive landscape shifts, in each market where we compete we’re seeing the top two or three providers being challenged by a couple of newer players in the market. Additionally, we are seeing investors looking for more customized approaches and unique capabilities. We’re all chasing those opportunities. The key differentiator for index providers is often the underlying datasets they use to create indexes. If you don’t have your own rich datasets, as an index provider you may fall out of favor in the future. That is very exciting for growing players with unique value propositions such as Morningstar Indexes and also good news for clients, who always benefit from a more competitive landscape and a wider array of providers.
Q: How do you define leadership? And have you had any female mentors who set an example for you in your career?
I believe leadership is largely about raising up your team and creating a path for them to be successful. I was fortunate earlier in my career to have had very strong female mentors. Among other things, they imparted to me a sense of conviction and boldness. But I don’t want to make this only about female empowerment. It’s about inclusive leadership in general. Some of my most recent mentors at Morningstar have been male. They have had a very strong “EQ,” an inclusive leadership style and an understanding that work-life balance may be slightly different for each employee. This has helped push the focus beyond solely gender equality to an inclusive workplace and an environment of full transparency.
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