UK Investment Sector Pushes For More Female Portfolio Managers

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 9 March 2022


Women are underrepresented in the UK and wider global investment management sector, figures show. In the UK, the funds industry is supporting new measures to change matters. With more women becoming HNW individuals, the business case for their increased involvement is becoming harder to ignore.

The financial sector around the world must work harder to draw in more women to fields such as fund management, according to a number of reports coming out to coincide with International Women’s Day.

In the UK, The Diversity Project, a group backed by senior figures in the investment and savings profession set up in 2016, has launched the Future Female Fund Managers Programme, designed to bring more women into the sector. 

At present, one in ten portfolio managers are women, the Project said in a statement yesterday. The Diversity Project has set its sights on doubling this number – aiming for a position where 20 per cent of fund managers are women by 2026 – through more targeted interventions to address industry-specific challenges. The new programme aims to help more women succeed in a career in fund management by putting an emphasis on the skills needed beyond technical competence, therefore complementing the existing CFA qualification, the Diversity Project said.

Separately, Preqin, the research firm tracking sectors such as private equity, credit and hedge funds, said in a new report that 12.9 per cent of senior positions in the alternatives industry are held by women. As of January 2022, 20.9 per cent of the alternative assets workforce is female – and when looking at investors alone this rises to 24.2 per cent (up from 20.3 per cent and 24.0 per cent respectively a year earlier).  

As this news service knows, wealth management, at its broadest definition, has traditionally been a male-dominated sector. But with more women becoming high net worth individuals via entrepreneurial wealth creation, as well as through inheritance/divorce settlements, their financial clout is growing. If more women are HNW clients, the argument goes, then more women should sit on the advisory side of the desk. (See here for an example of research which this news service has conducted into the needs and views of HNW women.)

Diversity Project
The new programme is being developed and delivered by the industry. Ten firms have coinfirmed their involvement: HSBC Asset Management, Schroders, BGF, JO Hambro Capital Management, Fidelity International, Newton Investment Management, abrdn, Aviva Investors, Artemis, and Columbia Threadneedle, with more due to sign up in the lead up to launch in January 2023.

Women will learn digital skills, how to navigate through cultural barriers and life events, how to create allies and long-term sponsors, and overcome challenges when the only woman in the room. Trainers will include Diversity Project leaders and ambassadors, current and former female fund managers, executive coaches, and male allies, the Diversity Project said.

“Workplace culture has changed considerably for the better over the three decades since I entered the sector as a graduate trainee, yet women still remain woefully underrepresented in the field of fund management. We need a programme that is very targeted to correct that – otherwise it just won’t happen,” Baroness Helena Morrissey, chair of the Diversity Project, said. “The Future Female Fund Managers Programme will identify women with the ambition and aptitude to become fund managers, and ensure they have every chance of success. A key element is that each participant will have a sponsor back at her firm, to champion her and ensure there is no mismatch between her growing skillset and her opportunities to progress.”

Mitesh Sheth, chief investment officer for multi-asset, at Newton Investment Management, said: “In addition to the initiatives we already run within our own firms, we need to collaborate as an industry to develop a new generation of female fund managers. I hope that this programme empowers women that are already working in support, distribution or consulting roles, to have the confidence to take on fund management positions and thrive.”

Alternative sector
In the aforementioned report by Preqin, Women in Alternatives 2022 said the proportion of female staff in alternative investment firms hadn’t fallen significantly during the pandemic.

When looking at the female representation in different asset classes, regionally, European private debt fund managers employ the most women – up from 21.6 per cent in 2021 to 22.8 per cent this year. Rest of World real estate fund managers have the lowest proportion of women on staff – down from 17.3 per cent in 2021 to 15.1 per cent in 2022. In terms of asset classes, infrastructure leads the way with a 28.6 per cent female workforce, compared with 24.1 per cent globally; and private equity trails the pack, employing 23.6 per cent women in North America and 21.9 per cent globally. 

As of February 2022, just one-fifth (20.5 per cent) of total private equity fund manager employees were women, Preqin said. While that proportion has increased for the past three years in North America, Europe, and Asia – although by less than one percentage point annually – Rest of World recorded a decline from 18.9 per cent in 2020 to 18.3 per cent in 2021. 

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