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Alpha Females in focus: the male reaction revealed

Alpha Females in focus: the male reaction revealed

Are females being giving a fair crack at fund management? In the wake of Citywire Smart Alpha’s investigation into the role and representation, we canvassed industry experts on the findings.

The selector view

Fund selector Edoardo Girreli of Italian group Gestielle says he is not surprised by the current levels of female participation, although he believes more females are evident in areas such as analysis and selection.

I think that there is a clear general trend of women gaining more space in those business areas where men used to dominate in terms of presence. Therefore developed countries may have already acquired a more equal view, based on actual competencies rather than gender.

We don’t really look at the gender when looking for fund managers, it is more a fund screening with technical requirements which afterwards leads to the evaluation of the fund manager. As a consequence I would say that we are not actively looking for female or different kind of fund managers, we focus on experience and skills.

The manager view

According to James Clunie, fund manager at Jupiter Asset Management, believes the topic of gender in fund management is a complex conundrum but there are some obvious implications for performance.

The role gender might play on what return a client can expect from his investment is a sensitive one that merits further research before any definitive position can be taken; however, a number of studies over the last few years do seem to show that women managers overall outperform their male counterparts on a risk-adjusted basis, but that men inhabit both ‘tails ‘of the returns distribution.

By that I mean, male managers turn in some of the worst performances but also some of the very best; on average, however, they produce returns that were inferior to their female peers.

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.  

The company chairman’s view

Didier Le Menestrel, founder of French boutique La Financière de l'Echiquier, says the market remains male-dominated but asset allocators are increasingly alert to the opportunities and outperformance created by female fund managers.

It is pretty obvious that the investment business is still a men’s world: in order to be 100% convinced, you just need to take a look at the pictures of the management team on the website of any investment company.

But let’s be optimistic: attitudes are changing, slowly but surely, both from the fund management teams’ and – even faster – the investors’ sides, which is a very good thing. This evolution exists since I began to work in this industry 25 years ago.

Our business is based on decision-making and requires no special training, which means that everything is set to reinforce male confidence. In this universe, it is certain that women asset managers are less easily forgiven than men and that women's development is not easy.

CIAM or all-female teams such as Mandarine Unique are exemplary. Personally, I am very proud of how our SRI fund manager, Sonia Fasolo, and small/mid-caps expert Stéphanie Bobtcheff have gained momentum in the team in the last two years.

More generally, a proposal would be to create autonomous channels for the training of women fund managers. This is a very important topic for the industry; this diversity is absolutely necessary and creates long-term value for customers.

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