In both the boardroom and portfolio management, women are under-represented. It’s time for leaders of asset management companies to tackle the shortage of women in senior roles.


Managing director and chief investment officer, global equities, Allianz Global Investors

Other roles: Non-executive director, Ibis Media; non-executive director, Apollo Media; member of the CFA UK Advisory Council
Previous position: Director, Baring Asset Management (portfolio manager, UK and global equities)

Lucy MacDonald was not always aiming for a top job in the city, having originally studied music at the University of Bristol. After choosing to make music a hobby rather than a full-time career, she arrived in London in the mid-1980s to look for an alternative.

Deciding that trading and corporate finance were too male-dominated, she turned to fund management, where she found more women. Macdonald began working for an economist at asset manager Barings, a firm she would stay with for 17 years, focusing on concentrated equity portfolios. 

At Barings, Kathryn Matthews – “a great supporter” – gave Macdonald her first opportunity to manage money. Another key figure is Elizabeth Corley, global chief executive officer at Allianz GI. “There have been men who’ve helped as well, but I think having women there has been helpful too. I feel, in the position I’m in now, that it is very important to help other women as they work their way through,” says Macdonald.

As well as her current position as managing director and chief investment officer for global equities, Macdonald holds two non-executive board roles.

She describes the most challenging time of her working life as the Barings crisis, when the London-based merchant bank collapsed in 1995 following rogue trading activity. The collapse happened just as Macdonald returned to her role there from maternity leave. “I’d got everything sorted out with a new nanny and then came back in, which is daunting in itself, and I got right back into the job. I was doing quite well and thinking, ‘This is great, I’ve got good performance going here, the baby’s happy, the nanny’s happy, we’re all absolutely fine’ … then February came out of the blue.”

The event was a shock, and rebuilding a client base after ING Investments bought the firm was a considerable challenge.

“It certainly has affected my thinking about financial markets and understanding of risk … but it ended up being a very good learning experience. You need resilience in this business.”

A further challenge for Macdonald came between the births of her children. 

“I had a near-death experience between my children; a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which ended up with me nearly dying. That was a resilience-building experience as well, because when I came back after that I thought, well, I could do anything now.”

She says that male colleagues were supportive, but adds: “I don’t think they really understood.”

However, Macdonald believes that the challenges of having a family while working are improving, as more men have working wives or girlfriends and some men choose to stay at home with their children. 

“The men I work with, the next generation down in particular, are much more family-orientated. People organise their holidays around children’s holidays, which was never the case when I was having my children.

“At the time, you daren’t put pictures of your family on the desk. Men could, but the women would feel that it wouldn’t be taken seriously if you did that.”

This improvement means there are no excuses for gender inequality to persist in the workplace, she adds, and positive feedback in public for women is vital. “We really should have women coming through the system now … it is getting the other elements right – the promotions and the understanding of what leaders look like.”

Macdonald says technology has also helped to level the playing field. In a virtual environment, hierarchies are evened out, providing an environment where women cannot be judged on their tone of voice or physical presence.

Allianz Global Investors uses an in-house social networking system called Chatter, and Macdonald says women are posting just as much as men. “Their voices are being listened to, because you can’t ignore somebody in that environment. You can’t pretend you didn’t hear, or attribute what they’ve said to somebody else – it’s there in black and white.”


Chief executive, Alliance Trust

Other roles: member of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank; vice-chair of the Baring Foundation
Previous position: chief investment officer and executive director of Morley Fund Management, the fund management division of Aviva

When it comes to speaking out on important topics in the investment management industry, Katherine Garrett-Cox is not one to mince her words.

“I’m frankly shocked that we’re sitting  here in 2015 and still having conversations about how you get more women into the City and into fund management in particular,” she says.

She is vocal on women’s issues, calling for the UK’s new Conservative government to make it easier for women to return to work after maternity leave. 

She has also stood up to media criticism about challenges to her leadership of Alliance Trust, where she has been attacked by activist hedge funds over high pay and periods of underperformance. The Trust has £2.87 billion (€4.03 billion) of assets under management. 

Garrett-Cox, a history graduate who recently won the 2015 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, started her career in investing when she was headhunted by a female broker for a role as an investment analyst and fund manager. Support from others in the industry has been important for Garrett-Cox. “I’ve never had a formal mentor but I’ve got a wonderful group of people – peers, people older than me, people younger than me – to whom I turn to for advice, for information, and for help sometimes when it comes to making tough decisions.”

Being able to see examples of women progressing in the industry and elsewhere is also an important incentive for others to push forward in their roles. Garrett-Cox thinks the make-up of the new UK government, for example, will be a  positive influence. 

“I’m absolutely delighted to see that the prime minister has brought so many women, high-profile women, into his cabinet, I think that’s a very important sign.

“I definitely think we need both governments and business leaders working in tandem to address this and business leaders need to do much more to bring on the next generation.”

Garrett-Cox hopes her own seniority has value in this way. “If, in a very small way, some of the things that I’ve done, some of the things that I stand for, attract and encourage other young women to come into this industry, then I think that would be a really good thing,” she says.

However, there is a “huge degree of unconscious bias” in business which means that women are sometimes treated unfairly.  

“The fact of the matter is that if you look at society as a whole, half of our society is female – so why is it that we get so much scrutiny? There are so many unsung heroes, particularly in the financial services.”

She says that communication is important for improving female representation in the industry and that individuals should be targeted at an early age. 

“I’m a fundamental believer that you’ve got to start young. By the time people have left university, it’s almost too late.”

One way she feels the profile of women could be raised is to encourage young people to seek out work in the investment management industry and stress that young women have just as many opportunities to achieve as young men.  

Based in Dundee, Garrett-Cox has four children and is keenly aware that young people are having to make career choices much earlier than they might have done in the past. This makes it all the more important to get into schools and encourage young women to consider roles in finance. 

“I think it’s about opening people’s minds… The last couple of years, we’ve been going into some of the most underprivileged schools in Dundee, working with hundreds of school leavers, trying to show them that careers in financial services, whether you’re a young man or a young woman, there’s no difference. 

“I think you have to lead by example, just talking about it isn’t enough, you’ve got to do it as well.”


Chief investment officer, executive director, head of Europe the Middle East, Africa, Aberdeen Asset Management

Other roles: chairperson, non-executive director, Cern & Society Foundation, non-executive director and member of audit, risk and investment committees, esure Vice convener (chair), University of Edinburgh
Previous position: chief investment officer and joint managing director, Edinburgh Fund Managers (acquired by Aberdeen in 2003)

Aberdeen ASSET Management’s chief investment officer Anne Richards is used to working in traditionally masculine environments. 

She began her career in engineering and has worked as a research fellow at Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Later on, she moved into asset management and has held a vice president role at JP Morgan Investment Management.

Richards is convinced that diversity in the workforce carries a great deal of value.

“I think it’s important that you have a mixture of people round the table at every level in a business,” she says.  “The evidence is really overwhelming that mixed teams make better decisions.”

Richards believes passionately in social justice and equal opportunities. But a fact that should not be overlooked, she says, is that equal representation for women is not just fair but better for business.

“If you look at a problem from multiple different angles, you are more likely to  come up with a better solution than if you are limiting yourself to a narrower point of view. It’s not rocket science, its actually common sense. We know that in our daily lives,” she adds. 

Richards believes that having well-mixed teams, in terms of gender and other factors, can give an organisation an extra edge. “If you’re not doing it and your competitors are, you will fall behind.”

Some behavioural finance theories suggest that women’s behaviour is distinctly different from men’s, asserting, for instance, that women are more careful than men when taking risks. Richards disputes such ideas. 

“I’m not of the view that women are very different to men,” she says. “I know some women who are more alpha than the most alpha male investment banker stereotype, and I’ve worked with men in the financial industry who are empathetic, sympathetic, fabulous communicators, wonderful managers – and by stereotype, you would say those were feminine skills.”

Richards says progress will come through analysing company evaluation processes, which need to be unambiguous and free from the kind of unconscious biases on the part of evaluators that can hold women back. 

“Looking at internal processes, especially performance evaluation and appraisal and how you judge whether somebody is appropriate for promotion on a fair and objective basis, those are the things which we need to tackle.”

 However, Richards stresses that she is not advocating a witch-hunt of career gatekeepers with the aim of purging the system of unintentional prejudice. 

“When we do our training internally, we very much put the narrative in that just because you’ve got unconscious biases, it doesn’t make you a bad person. 

“We all have them. What we’re just trying to do is to design processes to ensure that these biases none of us are aware of can be trapped and adjusted for. Ultimately, I think we all want that.”

Richards says one of the developments she would like to see aimed at improving female representation is an accreditation scheme that focuses on diversity. 

She references the Athena Swan Charter, established by the Equality Challenge Unit, which recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine in higher education and research. 

Organisations can receive awards for their progress and are also rewarded with research funding for achievements such as the progression of students, staff diversity, working environment and action on narrowing pay gaps.

“There’s not a direct equivalent in the corporate world,” Richards says. “I would love to see something akin to that ‘kitemark’ type of idea… an award for industry that says here’s an organisation that really thinks hard about the diversity of the workforce and has been able to evidence and demonstrate that. 

“It’s something like that that I think would really take us to the next level.”


Managing director, Women on Boards UK

Other role: trustee, Fight for Sight
Previous positions: associate member, Incito Ventures; head of global equities, Old Mutual Asset Management; head of Far East equities, Hill Samuel Asset Management

Fiona Hathorn is managing director of Women on Boards UK (WOB), an organisation for women seeking to build their professional skills and experience into board and leadership roles. 

Based on the business model of an Australian organisation with the same aims, WOB helps to provide services for not only the women themselves, but also corporations and organisations seeking to train more women for senior roles. 

Together with her colleagues, former fund manager Hathorn’s job is to remove barriers to entry and construct a pipeline of board-ready women. A key focus is lobbying influential directors to push for greater transparency. Hathorn says: “Currently, few asset managers are listed on the London Stock Exchange, which means that asset management gender employment data is not widely available.” 

She adds: “Transparency is vital if we are going to solve the inequality issue within this sector for the benefit of the performance and survival of this industry. Fund managers love transparency, yet they are less keen on it for their own businesses.”

Many women may not want to join fund management as they may feel the industry is not welcoming, says Hathorn. Men are part of the solution to this, rather than the problem.

“Men need to understand that they tend to get more support from their peers – after all, there are more of them within the City of London. They get more advocacy,” says Hathorn. “Merit in the city remains firmly in the eye of the beholder.

“Too many fund management companies hide behind the merit-based recruitment argument without anyone questioning how merit can be happening if their companies are so dominated by one type.”

Hathorn adds that to improve the gender balance, a central factor is confidence. “To be successful, you need to know what you are good at and how to articulate your skills within your industry,” she says.  

Hathorn cites research from 2011 by Catalyst, an organisation working to expand opportunities for women in business. This showed that making their achievements known was the one factor that impacted career advancement and pay growth for women. It also helped women secure sponsorship from senior leaders. 

“Sponsors often put their reputation on the line to advocate on behalf of someone, so they need you to clearly communicate your prior achievements and your aspirations,” she says. “Women in general are not good at championing themselves.”

Hathorn points out that she has benefited from the support of a number of mentors, sponsors and role models over the years. These include her first boss, Phillipa Gould, who was head of Japanese equities when she worked at Hill Samuel Asset Management, and John Ainsworth, previous chief executive of Old Mutual Asset Management.  

“[Ainsworth] recruited me, ran a graduate training programme and ensured his door was always open. He encouraged us to come to him if we had issues and/or just wanted reassurance.

“He worked hard to support women and minorities… He supported and encouraging me all the way and even promoted me to head of desk whilst I was pregnant.”

Despite the challenges, there are many reasons for women to seek out a role in the industry, Hathorn says. 

“The fund management industry is brilliant for women. If you perform well, it is very visible because fund performance data is collected and measured daily. Technology means that the job can also be very flexible. The pay is good and the intellectual challenge is never-ending.”

(end of part 2)

©2015 funds europe 



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