Women’s share of the $13 trillion (£8.9 trillion) retail asset management industry rose slightly in terms of the number of investment funds with female input. Of the 23,810 funds we track, nearly 14% were managed by teams that included a woman.
However, only 7% of funds were run by a female manager on her own. On average women run smaller funds than men, so these ‘women-only’ funds accounted for just 4% of the worldwide assets in our survey.
The figures, revealed in Smart Alpha, a new Citywire fund manager publication, underline the lack of progress women have made in asset management compared to other professions.
Previous surveys have shown that in the UK women represent 48% of GPs, 44% of accountants and 24% of solicitors at partner level. In the US nearly two thirds (63%) of auditors and accountants are women, while the female share of lawyers and doctors stands at 33% and 37% respectively.
The report, entitled ‘Alpha Female’, reveals wide geographical variation with the first ever country-by-country analysis of fund management.
Both the US and the UK lag below the global average, with 7% and 9% female shares respectively, according to our figures. Germany does worse with just 6%.
Among big nations, Spain leads the way with 27% women fund managers, followed by France on 18% and Italy with 15%.
The figures appalled fund managers who told Citywire they wanted their industry to redouble efforts to recruit more women. This was not just to reflect wider society but to ensure they could attract the maximum number of talented individuals at a time when traditional ‘male’ approaches to investing had been found wanting.
Christine Johnson, head of fixed income at Old Mutual Global Investors, was frustrated initiatives to attract more women had not yielded better results.
‘The intentions have been mouthed for years but sadly the results have been rather disappointing: not quite hellish, but – just like the last eight years of monetary policy – surprisingly feeble,’ she said.
Johnson, manager of the Old Mutual Global Bond and Global Strategic Bond funds, said regulation and demographics were forcing change, however. ‘Recent regulatory changes have moved the asset management industry’s focus away from “star” managers with flair and charisma, but who can have an Icarus-like trajectory and, often, questionable customer outcomes.
‘Today, steadiness of returns, transparency and a less gun-slinging approach is taking centre stage and an ageing population is less tolerant of violent swings in the value of their savings,’ Johnson said.
James Clunie of Jupiter Asset Management said several studies had suggested women fund managers did better than men on a ‘risk adjusted’ basis, with men putting in some of the best and the worst performances.
Clunie, manager of the Jupiter Absolute Return fund, said: ‘It could lead to the observation that men perhaps rather unfairly dominate the industry because it is the very top-performing funds that seem to gather the largest numbers of assets, and this is a segment of the market where they are most numerous.’
In a video interview recorded for Smart Alpha, Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management, said fund management had an image problem but in fact it was women friendly.
'I think we have an image problem. We've ended up with there being a perception we're a bit like the banks, that it's already very male dominated, that its hard to progress if you're a woman,' she said.
'I think that's quite tragic actually, because it's a fantastic career for women, for anybody actually, who wants to have a thoughtful approach.
'What we do is long term, we do have a social purpose to what we do, and I think we just haven't done a great job of explaining the difference between us and other parts of the financial system, and I think it's easily addressable, really, if we could just set out mind to it.'
The pipeline for future female fund manager recruitment is improving. The proportion of women seeking the chartered financial analyst (CFA) qualification rose to 37% last year from 29% in 2008, said Will Goodhart, chief executive of CFA Society of the UK.
‘A more diverse investment profession will deliver better client outcomes. There are many good reasons why we should build a more diverse profession, but acting in our clients’ best interests is reason enough alone for us to make faster and more significant progress,’ said Goodhart.
Jason Hollands, a managing director at Tilney Bestinvest, the wealth manager and fund supermarket, called for the investment industry to investigate the problem.
‘Gross gender imbalance in the fund management industry is now an irrefutable fact but the unanswered question is why is this the case when women represent a large ratio of university graduates? I would like to see the industry recognise this is a problem and commission some research to identify the root causes,’ Hollands said.
The Smart Alpha / 'Alpha Female' report is free but only accessible to readers who have registered with Citywire.
To access the Smart Alpha / 'Alpha Female' report click here.
If you have any problems please use this PDF version instead.