The COVID-19 pandemic in many ways defined 2020—in terms of its human toll and suffering as well as its extraordinary impact on the world economy and financial markets. We’ve seen human tragedy and economic hardship across the globe, particularly in underserved or marginalized communities.
As a firm, AB has worked tirelessly to ensure our employees’ health and safety, continue serving our clients, and support communities across the globe. We’ve also taken steps to promote racial and gender equity.
Adapting Our Operations to the Pandemic
COVID-19 required us to respond rapidly to ensure business continuity while protecting employees’ health and safety. Guidance from local authorities and health officials varied widely and evolved quickly as the virus spread globally, so we had to tailor our approach locally and continue refining it.
Our teams functioned fully outside the office in a secure technology environment, with virtual access to office desktops and videoconferencing technologies, enabling us to collaborate and communicate with clients. We also communicated clear procedures for employees diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19.
As we evaluate the path to return to AB offices around the world, we’re adhering to four principles: ensuring our people’s safety and well-being, taking a measured pace, determining schedules by state or country factors, and ensuring that our physical office environment is as safe as possible.
Engaging and Supporting Employees—Even When We’re Apart
The wellness of employees and their families has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic, with so many colleagues working from home. We’ve enhanced our programs to promote mental and physical health, and we’ve emphasized transparency in senior leadership decision-making.
Our diverse slate of initiatives to support physical and mental well-being includes tools for sleep improvement and connections with licensed therapists. Podcasts, including Ask the Doctor and Ask the Expert, help people cope with COVID-19. Health and fitness and other activity classes promote wellness and engagement, and we offer mental health first-aid leaders, bereavement resources and family-care support.
Supporting Communities in Times of Need
In many ways, 2020 has demonstrated to all of us how global and expansive the concept of community is. From the COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters and inequities in race and gender relations, the call for community service is stronger than ever.
AB launched a two-for-one employee gift-matching program supporting COVID-19 relief, which was met with an overwhelming response: we channeled funds to more than 160 charities globally. AB’s employees personally aided the cause with creative efforts.
AB also supported local charities involved in the recovery efforts from powerful tornadoes that struck the Middle Tennessee region in March 2020, including Nashville, home of our new corporate headquarters and many of AB’s employees.
If there was a silver lining to what was a very difficult year, it was people coming together to help each other. Our AB colleagues contributed as individuals and collectively—whether it was making protective equipment, raising funds or launching food drives. Community is the bond that has helped all of us persevere in a time of crisis.
Kate Chinn—Global Head, Community and Civic Engagement
Working Toward Progress in Racial and Gender Equity
The civil injustice and unrest that erupted in the US and elsewhere during 2020 reinforced the need for progress. To do our part in advancing the cause, AB added a Black man and women to our Board of Directors to enhance diversity. In July, we named three new members to the Operating Committee—including our Head of Diversity & Inclusion—to bring talent, experience and distinct perspectives.
On June 15, 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars sex discrimination in the workplace, indeed protects LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation. AB signed the amicus brief to the Court in 2019, and it’s particularly satisfying that the decision was delivered in the middle of Pride month.
While we still have work to do, the initiatives we’ve implemented—and will be implementing—reflect our culture and our people who strive to make a difference.
Making Strides in Battling Climate Change and Modern Slavery
In 2020, AB adopted statements and policies to address key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues: climate change and forced/unethical labor. The documents were endorsed by AB’s senior leadership and were unanimously approved by the firm’s Board of Directors.
The Climate Change Statement details how AB addresses climate change across its business, including investment integration, governance, risk management, and metrics and targets. It aligns with guidance from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which AB strongly supports. TCFD guidance advocates better identification, evaluation and reporting of climate risks and opportunities.
Our Global Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement addresses forced labor across the investment processes, business operations and our supply chain. We’ve also bolstered our vendor selection and management procedures and developed a new Vendor Code of Conduct to address forced labor, among other topics.
A Closing Word
While we’ve officially turned the page on 2020, the challenges it presented provided all of us with a stark reminder of the timeless importance of service and community. At AB, that notion extends far beyond our own firm and its people, embracing the many communities we serve.