Share page with AddThis

Magazine Issues » June 2015


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.


Global head of business development, Hermes Investment Management

Other roles: member of Hermes executive committee, board director
Prior position: managing director, Portico Advisors

It is half term and Harriet Steel is interrupted by three phone calls from her children while we talk. “You have to be present for them, you’ve really got to carve out that mental bandwidth for your children,” she says.

Steel took five years out to have her three children after moving to Monaco for her husband’s work and leaving behind a job at Morgan Stanley. She says building a family is still one of the major challenges for women working in the industry.

“At the end of the day, we have to carry the children, we have to bear the children and we are basically the primary care-givers at the early stage in the child’s life. I don’t think you can deny those biological differences. To deny or to underestimate the role that plays is to trivialise it.”

She says she was lucky in being able to take time out when her children were young, but stresses that being away from work can be as tough for women as coming back. “You crave the intellectual engagement that you don’t get when you’re not working every day.”

Steele says it is important for women to be open about the challenge of balancing work and family life. She was encouraged in her own career by the way female role models managed tough situations.

“I think when they were at their most inspiring to me was when they showed their frailty... I had a moment where one woman broke down in tears with me in the back of a taxi and was finding it hard to cope with some of the challenges. 

“To me, showing that yes, it was hard, and you weren’t some sort of bulletproof, ruthless machine, but actually you were human and these were really valid challenges, was important. The next day they had always found a way of coping.”

Her advice to women returning to work is to reflect on success. “Think back to all that you’ve done, all that you’ve achieved, where you got to before you took time out. There’s no reason why you can’t do that again.”


Managing director, head of index, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, MSCI

Other roles: co-head events and education, Women in ETFs
Prior position: head of Asia ex Japan client coverage

Deborah Yang joined MSCI in 2001, when her instincts told her that the firm’s index offering had considerable potential for the future. During her job interview, chief executive officer Henry Fernandez described her thinking as “visionary” and he hired her on the spot. 

Three years later, Yang was appointed head of Asia ex-Japan client coverage for MSCI, based out of Hong Kong. 

She says that she found a noticeably stronger female presence working in Asia, which benefited her career development. China in particular stood out as having many women in senior roles.

“When I was in Asia, I met a lot of very senior women who were both clients and who worked at the firm – for example, the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley in Asia, Ali Albers, was a mentor of mine. 

“There were many other women; they were willing to spend precious time giving advice and talking about their personal challenges.”

Yang says the stories she heard highlighted how difficult it had been for the previous generation of women. 

“They have broken the glass ceiling for many women like me, although my generation have a lot of different challenges and there’s still a lot of things that we need to accomplish.”

Sponsorship and an open approach to recruiting are two factors Yang thinks will improve the representation of women in the industry. 

At Harvard Business School, she worked to find more female applicants from non-traditional backgrounds, gaining a leadership award.

“It’s very important that we continue to find the future leaders by making training programmes available,” she says. 

“Once you’re into a company, looking for mentorship, seeking out opportunities, proving yourself and being able to find the appropriate senior sponsor – I think all of those things are crucial for success.”


Global head of stewardship, Schroders

Other roles: fund manager, analyst 

Jessica Ground has been with asset manager Schroders since she began her fund management career in 1997.

A history graduate, she discovered fund management after university when helping a family friend set up a financial services head-hunting business in Hong Kong. 

Attracted by the research and analysis work, Ground secured a place on the Schroders graduate scheme and was one of two women in a 15-strong group. By contrast, the scheme this year is an even split - ten girls and ten boys. 

While at Schroders, Ground has returned to her old school to offer careers advice. “I want to talk to young women to encourage them to realise you can have a really interesting career and combine it with family life. I think we need to continue promoting diversity in the industry.”

Ground, who has three children, highlights the benefits of finding a firm you like and building a profile there. “Having strong relationships across the company and internal support networks has been great. I’ve been able to call another woman to ask, ‘How did you manage this?’ I’ve always appreciated being able to have a really open dialogue with the people I report to.”

The opportunity to build up credibility and a track record is also important, she adds.

The confidence Ground has gained at Schroders has helped her to take on more responsibility. She began engaging with regulators and gave evidence at the parliamentary commission on banking standards, which helped to secure her new role as head of stewardship. 

She feels supported by the firm, which offered coaching for responsibilities such as team management. Now, she says, she is learning how to tackle new challenges. 

“You can’t just stand up and shout, you’ve got to get everybody on board. Sometimes a woman has to work hard to develop that authoritative voice. I’ve learned it is better to be more collaborative, but you still have to be very firm.”


Managing director, JP Morgan Asset Management

Other roles: stock selection, portfolio manager for JP Morgan Global Healthcare Fund; Non-executive director, CFA UK; board of directors, Vermillion Gold

Despite a background in economics at Princeton University, training at business school and a successful career with JP Morgan, investment management is not Anne Marden’s first love.

She began rowing at an early age and describes it as her “first career”. Competing in the 1984 Olympics in a team boat and securing a silver medal, she went on to compete alone in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, winning another silver despite being at an early stage of her career with JP Morgan. 

“I was very self-sufficient, very motivated, and very focused on this goal of being in the Olympics,” she says. “JP Morgan didn’t really know that much about it – my boss thought I trained on weekends.”

Her experience of the sport was an induction into working in traditionally masculine environments. Marden attended a private school that was only in its second year of accepting girls, and her later education at Princeton involved a similar set-up – the bathrooms designated for female students still had urinals in them. 

“I became used to an environment that was mostly men, but that’s not to say I didn’t get along,” she says.

In her current role, Marden believes that to encourage more women into investment management, firms need to be open to inviting young people to experience the industry first-hand. 

She previously took on a pharmacology student as a summer intern. “She’s now a healthcare portfolio manager and she’s very successful and I’m very proud of her. I would love to take another one.

“I think being willing to work with younger people from any background, whether male or female, is a really helpful way of getting them involved.”

Marden adds that the work experience must be worthwhile. “She got to meet chief executive officers and she saw how I would make investment decisions using the information that she had helped to prepare – I think we need more of the same.”


Portfolio manager, Skagen Funds

Previous position: partner, portfolio manager, SkyView Investment Advisors 

A portfolio manager for Skagen Funds, working out of Stavanger in Norway, Hilde Jennssen is passionate about her job and says that fund management is a highly attractive industry for women. 

“There has to be a genuine interest because this is not a nine-to-five job,” she adds. “I do think it is very much a choice of lifestyle.”

For Jenssen, investing is always on her mind – even at home with the family.  

“I look at my kids, I have a ten-year-old and an 11-year-old, and I think I have a perfect laboratory to watch what our next-generation consumer is buying, what they’re interested in, what they’re eating or drinking, their habits, their use of social media. You always think as an investor, ‘What is the next opportunity?’”

Jenssen acknowledges this non-stop working day is not for everyone, but emphasises that for those who thrive on a constantly changing environment where no two days are the same, investing is an exhilarating career. 

“You have absolutely fantastic times travelling to fascinating places, meeting companies, meeting organisations, exchanging ideas – intellectually, its extremely stimulating. All that, for the right person, makes them better at home too.” 


Head of Japanese equity investment, BNY Mellon Asset Management, Japan

Previous position: head of Japanese equity team, ING Mutual Funds

A Japanese national – and perhaps that country’s first female fund manager – Miyuki Kashima took her first job in investment management as a way to make extra money during a gap year. 

She intended to study law, but found she loved the job and has now been in Japanese equities for 30 years.

“I’ve been told by quite a number of people - although I can’t prove it - that I’m probably the first ever female Japanese equity fund manager in Japan,” she says. 

In Japan, investing was an all-male environment three decades ago.

“I never felt that I was blatantly discriminated against,” she says. “Maybe my promotion was slower than it would have been if I was a man, but I had no one to compare it to.”

In April this year, Kashima took part in a panel discussion at Womenomics, a conference hosted by BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management to explore the impact of increased female participation in the economy.

She says the event changed some of  her views, particularly on the use of  quotas to level the gender balance across senior roles. 

“Before I participated in the panel at the conference, I think my initial answer would have been no, quotas won’t work.

“But having heard somebody [Karin Forseke, chair of Alliance Trust] from a successful country saying that it really has contributed to Sweden having got where they have, that made me change my mind.”

filling in the gaps

She cites the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, which looks at gaps between men and women in health, education, economy and politics. The research ranked Sweden fourth and Japan 104th out of 142 countries.  

Kashima says perhaps it is time to look to countries that are succeeding and consider their methods, at least in the short term. 

“How you implement it is probably the important part. Done in the right way, I’m starting to lean towards the idea that quotas might work.” 


Portfolio manager, Paamco Pacific Corporate Opportunities commingled fund and other institutional accounts

Other roles: partner, member of the portfolio construction group and risk management committee

At Paamco (Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company), an institutional investment firm focused on hedge fund solutions, strong female representation is an important focus.

Despite the traditional view of the hedge fund space as highly masculine, Paamco has two female founders, one of whom – Jane Buchan – is chief executive officer. The firm also has six female partners out of 18, based across the US, the UK and Asia. 

Anne-Gaelle Pouille, a partner of Paamco, says is it not only hedge funds that are more male-dominated than other areas of investment. “This imbalance probably holds true for all alternative asset firms,” she says.

She sees various reasons for this, including the ‘tight-knit’ nature of the hedge fund community and the fact that hiring is often by referral. She adds: “Work/life balance remains a challenge.” 

Pouille compares her work in investing to her pastime of piloting small planes: “You need the high-level view of how everything fits together, but you also need a really good early-warning system to avoid mishaps.”

This approach to planning and risk is a selling point for women. She says: “Surveys indicate that the main drivers of outperformance are that women tend to be less ego-driven and better risk managers.”

Pouille believes the future looks “brighter than ever” for women graduates, noting that organisations such as 100 Women in Hedge Funds are providing networking opportunities and support. 

“Large investment firms appear to be aware of these opportunities and issues and some have created internships and other on-ramping programs targeted to top female students,” she adds.

She concludes that allocators of capital have a key role to play. “Ideally, a much bigger proportion of them would actively seek out not just women-run funds but, more broadly speaking, non-mainstream talent ... It’s about seeking diversification and not leaving talent on the table.”


Investment manager, UK equities, Kames Capital; managing Kames Ethical Equity Fund and Kames UK Opportunities Fund 

Previous position: UK small companies portfolio manager, General Accident

One of four daughters growing up in Scotland, Audrey Ryan was the only sibling to inherit her father’s interest in finance. She first qualified as a chartered accountant, and her growing knowledge of financial markets and hands-on experience (gained though a job with a small accountancy firm) sparked an interest in investment management.

In 1995, she entered the industry with a role at General Accident, focusing on UK small companies. When the business moved its fund management activities from Scotland to London, she chose to join Aegon Group, of which Kames Capital is an asset management branch. 

Ryan currently works in a team of 11, where she is one of three women. The average tenure is 20 years, and she says this continuity and cohesiveness is important in creating a supportive working environment. 

“We have a really good balance – my strengths and weaknesses are different to my colleagues. In a team-based approach, there has to be support and respect, and I think we do have that.”

Ryan says another important advantage of the team atmosphere relates to the way challenges are handled. 

“When you do get something wrong, from an investment perspective, the most important thing to take from that is dealing with it on a timely and constructive basis. 

“It’s never nice to experience that sort of situation, but in our professional or our personal lives we don’t always get everything right as human beings. It’s learning from it, acting on it and moving on from it that counts.”

The newest member to join Ryan’s team was a woman, but she stresses that gender is not a part of the recruitment process and that the focus is solely on merit. 

However, she adds that while a gradual evolution may be taking place in fund management firms, a drive to continue encouraging women into the profession is needed. “There’s still a greater degree of male applicants,” she says.

(end of part 3)

©2015 funds europe