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Five insights from women in fund management

On International Women's Day we get five personal accounts on what it is like to be a women in fund management.

Harriet Steel

Head of business development at Hermes Investment Management

'I joined Hermes in 2011 with responsibility for sales, client services, marketing, communications and product strategy. Over the past seven years I have had the pleasure and privilege of building a fast-growing and profitable third-party business comprising many of the world’s leading institutional and wholesale investors.

'Hermes now generates almost 70% of revenues from external clients, compared with 15% five years ago, and has established a reputation as one of the leading integrated ESG investment brands in the world. 

'In 2013, I was appointed to the board, becoming the company’s first female executive director. I have been in the industry for over 25 years, starting at Bankers Trust on the currency options desk and subsequently holding senior derivatives sales roles in Paris, London and New York, before joining Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income group.

'In 2003, I established Portico Advisors, an asset raising and marketing advisory firm for alternative investment managers, which I ran until joining Hermes.

'One of the elements of my role that I most enjoy is acting as a mentor to female executives at Hermes, encouraging them to fulfil their potential and providing practical insight and guidance on how to achieve success in the City. Diversity initiatives, such as the Women in Finance Charter and gender pay gap reporting, show women are still heavily underrepresented in the investment industry at a senior level. 

'I believe that 2018 will be a seminal year and will mark the start of an industry-wide commitment to greater diversity by taking meaningful, measurable and visible steps that deliver long-term change.'

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Harriet Steel

Head of business development at Hermes Investment Management

'I joined Hermes in 2011 with responsibility for sales, client services, marketing, communications and product strategy. Over the past seven years I have had the pleasure and privilege of building a fast-growing and profitable third-party business comprising many of the world’s leading institutional and wholesale investors.

'Hermes now generates almost 70% of revenues from external clients, compared with 15% five years ago, and has established a reputation as one of the leading integrated ESG investment brands in the world. 

'In 2013, I was appointed to the board, becoming the company’s first female executive director. I have been in the industry for over 25 years, starting at Bankers Trust on the currency options desk and subsequently holding senior derivatives sales roles in Paris, London and New York, before joining Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income group.

'In 2003, I established Portico Advisors, an asset raising and marketing advisory firm for alternative investment managers, which I ran until joining Hermes.

'One of the elements of my role that I most enjoy is acting as a mentor to female executives at Hermes, encouraging them to fulfil their potential and providing practical insight and guidance on how to achieve success in the City. Diversity initiatives, such as the Women in Finance Charter and gender pay gap reporting, show women are still heavily underrepresented in the investment industry at a senior level. 

'I believe that 2018 will be a seminal year and will mark the start of an industry-wide commitment to greater diversity by taking meaningful, measurable and visible steps that deliver long-term change.'

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Nadia Manzoor

 Partner, head of business development and general counsel, S W Mitchell Capital  

'My role involves a lot of travelling - I’m in the US every few weeks and somewhere in Europe every couple of months. Whilst I love travelling, being away so much for business can be exhausting and is pretty unconducive to having a young family. It’s inadvertently a way that women can get pushed out, or (at the more cynical end of the spectrum) not selected for roles in the first place.

'At our firm we are hugely supportive of women and flexible working, but that doesn’t appear to be the norm. More firms need to evolve to create an environment to support their employees as they grow.

'In my view, creating more autonomous working environments isn’t just about supporting women, but also about increasing productivity across the board. I often think about what advice I would give to a woman starting a career in finance and this is what I would say:

'1.  To create balance in everything that you do. Having a career as a woman is hugely empowering, but it’s equally empowering to spend time with your family and to do the other things that make you happy. Ultimately if you have your health and a couple of people you love, then you really do have everything. Sometimes when you’re ambitious it’s easy to lose sight of that – but you really can have it all.

'2. Be true to who you are - knowing that it can take can take a lifetime and indeed many different jobs to work out who that is and where your real strengths and passions are. That’s okay! Your career is a journey, not a destination.

'3. Not to worry about what people think. Over my career I have spent far too long reflecting on the negative (and usually unhelpful) remarks. One that really stands out from about six years ago is being told I lacked gravitas. Of course, it’s important to be able to take criticism and learn from mistakes to be the best version of yourself, but it’s also important to be able to let go of things 'that no longer serve you'.'

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Claire Shaw

Manager of the Oyster European Mid & Small Fund at SYZ Asset Management

'Although the fund management industry has come a long way, there are still a number of bumps on the road toward gender equality. This remains a very male-dominated industry, but it is finally taking steps to both ensure and enhance gender diversity, equal pay and board representation. 

'I am devoted to being a mother, but I also love being a fund manager. It’s a career I have built over the years and there have been many hard yards. But there is no miracle formula: being able to 'manage' both requires not just a change in one’s mindset, but a huge amount of support and flexibility from company management, which I have been lucky enough to receive.

'Women are also finally seeing the recognition they deserve. Studies have shown that women outperform men by holding more diverse investments and taking less risky positions. This indicates women possess innate qualities which allow them to extract consistent alpha without taking excessive risk. If the asset management industry can increase the pool of female talent, we may yet see the dawn of the alpha female fund manager.

'I have also heard of women not feeling confident enough to return to work after having a child. It is imperative that this is addressed. Women should not have to choose between fulfilling their careers and having a family, and I think this is a positive message we should be sharing, particularly with more young women joining the fund management industry.'

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Esmé van Herwijnen

Responsible investment analyst at EdenTree Investment Management 

'At EdenTree, we believe the businesses that are actively engaged in encouraging and empowering diversity will be better performers over the long term. Investors are increasingly taking notice, as board diversity has become an important consideration in investment processes over recent years.

'While the number of UK female board directors has increased significantly over the last few years, it has taken a concerted effort. However, more work needs to be done.

'The 30% Club – an organisation lobbying for greater female representation at the top of business, of which we are members – wants women to account for a third of board directors in the UK’s largest listed companies by the end of 2020. The number currently sits at about 28%.

'The UK takes a voluntary approach to improving board diversity, but other countries have implemented a regulatory or quotas-based approach. Norway introduced a mandatory 40% quota in 2003 and non-compliance can result in a fine, while Germany also adopted a 30% quota for women on supervisory boards.

'While steady progress has been made in the UK, there is still further to go. Women represent just a sixth of senior executives at the largest listed British companies. Why is this important? There is considerable academic evidence to suggest boards make better decisions when there are a variety of voices, opinions and expertise present.

'At EdenTree we have integrated board diversity into our UK corporate governance policy, and since 2016 have voted against Nomination Committee directors where companies have made little progress since 2010 to improve board diversity.

'As part of the 30% Club, we continue to engage with companies where gender diversity at board and executive level is low to drive further progress. For the first time this year, we have also integrated gender diversity into our overseas voting policy and will take action where companies in developed markets still have all-male boards.'

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Sue Petrie

Sales director at Trium Capital

'I have worked in financial services for over two decades. I began my career at a large media company marketing to asset managers. Attitudes were very different back then. I didn’t even blink when a head of marketing at a large asset management firm told me that the saleswoman from my competitor had much larger breasts, so he had decided to allocate his marketing budget with her.

'Fortunately, the industry has moved on a lot on since then. However, financial services remains the industry with the largest gender pay gap – 27% among companies that have reported data so far, according to last week’s Sunday Times.

'Although I have not personally ever felt inferior in a male-dominated industry, there is a big problem in the way that women value their skills – which, I believe, tends to be considerably lower than men. A recent presentation by The Pipeline revealed that, if a head-hunter phones 10 men, they will all phone back within 24 hours, whereas none of 10 women called will have phoned back. 

'To encourage more diversity, companies need to do more to instil confidence in their female employees, including providing more transparency on career progression. My current employer Trium has afforded me the flexibility to have both a career and a family. I love my job, particularly when promoting an ESG fund that actively encourages women on the boards of investee companies.

'Writing as someone who has had three children, re-joining the workforce after seven years of changing nappies is one of the bigger challenges I have faced. I would love to see companies building the infrastructure and creating the environment to allow more mothers to return to work after having children. I know many women who want to go back to work, but don’t have the means or encouragement to do so. Flexible working hours and/or retraining is vital to achieving this goal. 

'International Women’s Day is a day to break down barriers and for women like me to remember to value ourselves as highly and fairly as the men sat next to us.'

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