The Diversity Project Pathway Programwhich aims to increase the number of women in fund management roles, has reported that 16 participants from last year’s cohort have been promoted to deputy portfolio managers or portfolio manager positions.
As a result, the Diversity Project is expanding the program from 60 to 80 participants across 43 investment firms by 2024 – an increase of 30.
The Chair of the Diversity Project, Baroness Helena Morrissey (pictured), said at a recent event to launch the second phase that the figures detail the programme’s impact: “We have sufficient scale in this program to start moving the needle . We aim to double the share of female fund managers within the next five years. It is not beyond the capabilities of any of us.”
With 88% of money management roles held by men, the programs aim to give women greater representation in the largely male-dominated sector.
Last year, 16 of the 60 participants were promoted after completing Pathway, which teaches modules on technical skills, leadership, behavior and brand, how to be a good investor, career activism, paying it forward and networking and role models, offered through networking breakfasts, personal sessions and boot camps.
As part of the program launch for its second year, four female portfolio managers shared their stories of how they have navigated their careers to date.
Lan Wu, European loan portfolio manager at Legal and General Investment Management, is the mother of a child aged one and three.
After earning a mathematics degree, Wu was accepted into an internship at an investment bank in 2008, but the timing was unfortunate as the financial crisis followed soon after.
Rather than be held back, Wu saw this as an opportunity to explore other parts of the sector and discovered that LGIM wanted to expand their European team with an assistant fund manager. Wu said she jumped at the opportunity and within four years, Wu had been promoted to portfolio manager. Another four years later she was lead manager of the launch of a new fund. For Wu, motherhood has taught her how to handle her demanding role.
“One thing that is constant is the unpredictability of the financial markets – just like that of children! I have learned to adapt to changes and be flexible in your approach,” said Wu.
“It is also important to find the balance between work and private life. And that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”
Amrita Sanyal, senior fund manager at HSBC Asset Management, said she had wanted to be a portfolio manager “ever since I was a little girl”.
Originally from India, Sanyal holds a degree in mathematics and economics, and an MBA specializing in finance. Sanyal was soon offered a job with the only asset manager of that time in India. Despite the tragedy of her sister’s death ten days before the job interview, she persevered, got the job and worked as an analyst for six years.
Sanyal then moved to Britain with her husband and began finding a new job at HSBC, where she studied for the CFA qualification and adjusted to motherhood with her one-year-old.
“I learned very quickly that you cannot do everything alone. Networking is not just professional networking, it is also personal networking. Lean on people, ask them for help,” Sanyal said.
“If you want to leave at 5:30 PM to pick up your child from daycare, that’s fine. You don’t tend to discuss that with your male colleague because he probably doesn’t, but other female colleagues understand and will reassure you that it’s okay.”
Sanyal shared an anecdote about the moment she realized she was being too hard on herself.
“I had just returned from maternity leave after six months. My child was constantly ill in nursery, I got sick, and I came to work and told my line manager I wanted to go on leave… now. I was on the verge of a breakdown because I just felt overwhelmed.
“She helped pack my bag and said, ‘You’re going on two weeks’ leave and then we’ll talk about some flexibility to help you.’ This was in 2008, when there was no flexibility yet. You couldn’t work from home. So again, people will only understand you if you tell them what the problem is. I should not have waited until I was about to have a breakdown to voice my concerns,” Sanyal said.
She added: “I wish I had a program like this back in the day where I could talk to other female fund managers and find my tribe.”
Omotunde Lawal, head of emerging markets corporate bonds at Barings, moved to Britain from Nigeria at the age of 16.
After starting her career as an accountant at Arthur Anderson, she took on a rotational role at Barclays Capital and was introduced to the CFA programme, launching her career on the buy side of European high yield credit at Standard Bank Group.
However, after a few years, the global financial crisis struck and Lawal was fired.
“At that point you would think, just go back to what you’re doing, go back to accounting, go back to product control and performance analyst, which is what I was doing before,” Lawal said. “But it was about being open to the opportunities that present themselves and being very clear that if this is what you really feel is your path, then you should pursue that and not take no for an answer.”
Lawal was able to find her feet again by taking on a role on the emerging markets trading desk in a post-2008 financial market landscape. Years later, when her entire team was laid off, they decided to set up a hedge fund in Mayfair.
Lawal had her second child at the time, but only took three months off because she said she felt pressure to return to her role if she wanted to be successful. To make the transition work, Lawal spent her lunch time on the toilet pumping milk. As the only woman on the team, there were no other facilities for her.
Although the hedge fund ultimately failed, Lawal found another job in 2016 at Barings, the company she still works for, and quickly became aware of the importance of role models.
“The person who actually hired me was a female fund manager, and that was the first female boss I ever had,” says Lawal. “I think that also made a big difference, making me realize that I am where I need to be. And this is what I want to do. If she does it, I can do it too.”
She added: “If you don’t see her, you can’t be her. That was very important to me.”
Jean Roche, British small- and mid-cap portfolio manager at Schroders, spent her childhood playing with her plastic roulette wheel and betting on horses.
Roche also studied mathematics at university and earned a master’s degree in financial and industrial mathematics before starting her career as an equity analyst at Morgan Stanley. She then joined HM Treasury, where she gained experience in the public sector before returning to the private sector.
“I think my best mentors are the people I worked with at Morgan Stanley 25 years ago,” Roche said.
“There were about ten other graduates who I still keep in touch with who have gone on to do other things. And they really understand because we all started in the same place. So you don’t have to explain anything to them, because they know the industry.”
Roche worked at Panmure Gordon as director of equity research and at Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management as a fund manager and analyst before joining Schroders as a fund manager in 2015.
“Stocks don’t know if you’re a man or a woman buying them,” Roche said. “This career is very measurable…your track record speaks for itself, good or bad.”
Roche has raised two children during her career and said a turning point for her was when her mother and mother-in-law came to her and explained, “You have to bring in some people because you can’t do it all yourself. .”
Roche said she still sees many areas where the sector needs to grow, pointing to a marketing trip she took to the Channel Islands in November: “There were no other female financial professionals there,” Roche said. “So I think there’s still a long way to go. So I’m really happy that (the Pathway program) is pushing this forward, because it needs to happen.”