A piece of advice for the future generation of female fund managers

Believe it or not, there are more fund managers called Dave, than there are female fund managers in the UK. And globally, just one in every ten fund managers is a woman* – a figure that has remained constant since 2016.

Evidence suggests that this isn’t because men are any better at managing money than women. In fact, a Barclays study of 2,800 Smart Investor customers, over a three-year period, shows that female investors actually achieved annual returns that were, on average, 1.8% higher than men**.

Happily, after a little analysis, I discovered 16% of funds on FundCalibre are run by, or co-managed by, female managers — a still low, but much better number***.

With International Women’s Day on 8th March, and a number of relevant anniversaries this year (including the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls anywhere; the 20th anniversary of the UN resolution on women, peace and security; and the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s establishment), I decided to take a look at what drew a few female fund managers to the job, and ask their advice for breaking into the industry.

“Despite all the noise and all the right words being said, the fact remains that not enough has changed…It’s not about who can shout the loudest, real action is needed.” — Dr Nisha Long, head of cross-border research at Citywire

Advice to the future generation of fund managers

In the past year, only seven women fund managers have joined the European and Global Equities sectors, compared to 106 men*. Martin Gilbert, chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investments, suggested client pressure was working against efforts to equalise the ratio ‘because clients want zero percent change and that’s the issue,’ he said. But what do the women themselves think?

Abby Glennie, deputy head of Aberdeen Standard Investments’ Global Smaller Companies team, says: “Don’t be intimidated or worried about your background — what your education is, or what your previous roles have been. Personal skills are just as important as an analytical mind — and having the confidence to challenge company management teams.” That’s no surprise, as she mentioned in at our speed dating event how engaging and building relationships with companies is one of her favourite aspects of the role.

Lucy Isles, co-manager of Baillie Gifford High Yield Bond, agrees, adding: “Don’t be afraid to be 100% yourself and don’t conform to what you think the industry wants. You’re adding to the diversity which ultimately helps everyone — every team and every business.” She’s right, diversity has been a focus for many businesses, not just in financial services, but globally.

This week American Express is launching their Ambition Project, which focuses on empowering women to own their ambition. The programme comes after a study of professional women around the world found that a majority of women consider themselves to be ambitious, however only 1 in 3 women**** are proud to call themselves “ambitious.” The goal of the programme is to encourage leaders to recognise their responsibility to nurture female colleagues’ ambitions, and talk more openly about career progression.

Alexandra Jackson, fund manager at Rathbone Unit Trust Management, said exactly that: “Be confident and proactive — ask for opportunities. Most importantly, find a company with a culture you like, then work towards a job there. It’s hard to do a good job if you are miserable.” Alexandra tells us more about how she got into fund management in our recent video.

One thing that’s obvious when talking to these women is that no path is clear. From those who joined straight from University, to those who got into fund management by “accident”. Ainslie McLennan has been co-manager of Janus Henderson UK Property fund for over 10 years, but she actually started out at University doing accountancy and philosophy before settling on land economics…

I did a degree in criminology and criminal justice, and my Masters dissertation was on international laws surrounding human trafficking. Now I write about millennial money!

My advice? Go for it.

*Source: Citywire Alpha Female Survey 2019
**Source: A woman’s guide to investing, Good Money Week 2019
***Source: FundCalibre as at 4 March 2020
****Source: Introducing the Ambition Project by American Express, Feb 2020

The views of the author and any people interviewed are their own and do not constitute financial advice. However the knowledge that professional analysts have analysed a fund or trust in depth before assigning them a rating can be a valuable additional filter for anyone looking to make their own decisions. Before you make any investment decision make sure you’re comfortable and fully understand the risks. If you invest in fund or trust make sure you know what specific risks they’re exposed to. Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns. Remember all investments can fall in value as well as rise, so you could make a loss.