Magazine Issues » March 2018

OPINION: Girls who invest

Fiona_RintoulRecently, I rewatched a 1970s’ TV adaptation of John Le Carré’s Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I was struck by the complete absence of women. Apparently, the British secret service was an organisation run entirely by and for men.

It reminded me a little of holiday I once took to Tunisia, where all the cafés were stuffed full of men. And on the terrasses of Tunisian cafés and in the corridors of 1970s MI6, a funny atmosphere prevailed. A kind of brooding malevolence.

Probably it would be just the same if all of Tunisia’s café-goers were women. Or all of MI5’s top brass – an almost unimaginable circumstance. For we are meant to mix.

International Women’s Day on March 8 provided a moment to reflect on such matters. The day has been celebrated in one form or another for over 100 years, starting in 1917 in the Soviet Union. How far have we come? Watching 1970s TV with the benefit of 40 years’ distance helps one to feel good about the progress that has been made on gender equality. But there is so much still to do – particularly in the fund management industry.

Globally, just 10% of fund managers are women. This means women are far less well represented in fund management than in other sectors, as a 2016 study by Morningstar showed. If we take the example of Belgium, 13% of fund managers are women compared with 45% of lawyers and 39% of doctors.

This matters – a lot – for two reasons. First, just as we cannot expect governments to make laws that are fair to women if all politicians are men, we cannot expect investment managers to serve women well if all their fund managers are men. All the research shows that investment managers and the financial services industry more generally are not serving women well.

The Lifetime Savings Challenge Report, developed by Close Brothers Asset Management in conjunction with the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) in the UK, shows that 51% of female employees feel financially unprepared for their retirement, compared to 35% of male workers. Female workers are also twice as likely to have less than £5,000 in workplace savings, and the average amount in a woman’s workplace pension scheme is £53,000 (versus £120,000 for males).

“The savings crisis is thrown into stark relief when looked at under the lens of gender imbalance,” says Jeanette Makings, head of financial education at Close Brothers. “Women are not only earning less and therefore saving less, but are significantly less confident about the savings options available.”

Bringing more women into fund management is part of fixing that. Fund management companies are starting to realise this, as the number of press releases in advance of International Women’s Day shows. Pimco has announced a partnership with Girls Who Invest, an organisation dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the industry. Investment managers that pursue such initiatives will be winners in the future. For research also shows that gender balance is good for business – the second reason why the lack of women in fund management matters.

A study from French food services and facilities management company Sodexco shows that companies with gender-balanced management (40%-60% women) have higher scores in five key performance indicators: operating margins, employee retention, client retention, safety and employee engagement.
I expect they’re better at counter-intelligence too.

Fiona Rintoul is editorial director at Funds Europe

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