Paige Ross, Blackstone Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Human Resources, was recently featured in The Talent Strategy Group’s InConversation series, which showcases HR leaders discussing their experiences and approaches.
Drawing on her experience at Blackstone and past senior roles across a number of industries, Ross discusses the unique approach to HR at Blackstone, as well as the opportunities and challenges of managing HR in the financial services sector.
Below is a selection from the dialogue, the full Q&A can be read here.
Talent Strategy Group: You’ve spent most of your Human Resources career at talent incubators like PepsiCo, Avon and Pfizer. In 2013, you shifted to the financial industry as Managing Director of Talent Management at Centerbridge Partners before recently joining Blackstone as Global Head of Human Resources. Can you contrast Human Resources in a product-based business (PepsiCo, Avon, Pfizer) to the financial industry?
Paige Ross: The biggest difference is that in traditional consumer-based businesses, HR functions have had a proverbial ‘seat at the table’ for decades, whereas within financial services, HR is in a different stage of the transition and is moving from being viewed as personnel to a strategic partner who can contribute to a firm’s bottom line. Financial services have consistently focused on bringing in exceptional investment talent, but their focus had not historically extended beyond recruitment into areas such as leadership and managerial development – areas where consumer-based businesses have historically excelled. This is changing, and I’m seeing firms start to invest in HR resources that support the development of strong leaders for the future.
TSG: Diversity can be improved in the financial industry. How is Blackstone approaching this issue?
PR: Diversity and inclusion matters greatly at Blackstone: it’s not simply an important goal, it’s also good for business. Having a diverse team with varied experiences and backgrounds brings a broader set of insights, and so is key to success. We are actively focused on bringing in talented and diverse leaders, and not only want to attract them but retain them as well. There is more work to do, but I think that the industry will continue to make strides here as we all make commitments to encourage and support more diverse workforce to join us.
TSG: If you were to explain what makes Blackstone’s culture unique, what would you say is your competitive advantage?
PR: Our competitive advantage is our people. We have really smart, talented and hardworking people across all functions and levels of the firm. We also have very nice people. Everyone works hard, everyone is accessible and there is no hierarchy. We win together; investing is a team sport.
TSG: Blackstone has stated that delivering the next generation of professionals is the most important thing the company can do. How does Blackstone make progress on that statement?
PR: We have an apprenticeship model for developing our talent. From the time a person joins at an analyst level, we offer them support through classroom and on the job training as well and mentors. We focus not only on technical skills, but also in helping to develop their leadership capabilities. To augment teaching technical skills with softer skills, we’ve created HR modules that cover performance management, interview skills training, career development, becoming a manager, leading teams and so forth.
TSG: Unlike some financial services firms, Blackstone intentionally positions itself to have a long-term outlook on most investments with an investing horizon of years, versus days, weeks or months. Does this same long-term outlook translate to the Human Resources function?
PR: Yes, we also approach HR with the same long-term outlook. Our goal is to develop the HR leaders of the future. We approach this by making sure we offer HR professionals of every level the ability to grow whether it be by experiencing different disciplines of the function or by working across the firm to get exposed to different business groups.