Women man­agers ris­ing through the ranks

Tal­ent short­age in Asia, es­pe­cially in China, cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties in male-led bas­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - DEPTH - By LI XIANG lix­i­ang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For a long time, fe­male fund man­agers were viewed as some­thing of an en­dan­gered species in the in­vest­ment sec­tor. While that may well be case in some coun­tries, things are qui­etly chang­ing in Asia as more women move up the ranks in the male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try.

Re­search by man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm Oliv­erWy­man has found that Asia has by far the high­est rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in as­set man­age­ment, com­pris­ing 32 per­cent of port­fo­lio man­agers as ofDe­cem­ber 2015, more than dou­ble the global av­er­age of 15 per­cent.

The num­ber in China is also en­cour­ag­ing. Fe­male man­agers ran nearly a quar­ter (24.2 per­cent) of mu­tual funds in China as of March this year, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese fi­nan­cial data re­search firm Wind Info. This com­pared with only 2 per­cent of as­sets and open-end funds in the United States be­ing man­aged by women, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by data provider Morn­ingstar.

Rapid eco­nomic devel­op­ment in Asian coun­tries and the rel­a­tively short devel­op­ment his­tory of the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try there has re­sulted in acute skills short­age, which is cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to move for­ward in their ca­reers in fi­nance, in­dus­try ex­perts said.

They said the de­mand for skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced in­vest­ment pro­fes­sion­als may also prompt em­ploy­ers in Asia to over­look con­cerns about a woman’s cur­rent or fu­ture fam­ily com­mit­ments.

“The in­dus­try here re­ally started tak­ing off only in the last 15 to 20 years and this is a pe­riod when the in­dus­try needed lots of new­pro­fes­sion­als quickly and firms were will­ing to search be­yond the tra­di­tional tal­ent pool to re­cruit and pro­mote fe­male in­vest­ment pro­fes­sion­als,” said Gil­lian Kwek, a port­fo­lio man­ager with Fidelity In­ter­na­tional in Sin­ga­pore.

Kwek, who­has more than 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the as­set man­age­ment in­dus­try, said that eas­ier ac­cess to do­mes­tic help — in­clud­ing sup­port from par­ents liv­ing nearby who were happy to help out with fam­ily mat­ters such as baby sit­ting — could also help to ex­plain the higher fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Asia than in the US and Europe.

In ad­di­tion, the larger tal­ent pool of qual­i­fied women in the fi­nance in­dus­try was also seen as one of the rea­sons why there were more fe­male fund man­agers in Asia than else­where.

The lat­est re­search on gen­der di­ver­sity in in­vest­ment man­age­ment by the CFA In­sti­tute found that seven out of the eight coun­tries with the high­est per­cent­ages of women CFA (Char­tered Fi­nan­cial An­a­lyst) mem­bers were in Asia.

Viet­nam has the high­est per­cent­age of 43 per­cent of fe­male CFA mem­bers while the Chi­nese main­land was ranked fourth with 31.3 per­cent of women CFA mem­bers. The num­ber is only 16.4 per­cent in the US.

“In China, we have seen more women mov­ing up the ranks in the in­vest­ment man­age­ment in­dus­try,” said Jia Li­jun, head of the CFA In­sti­tute’s China branch, not­ing that there will be more op­por­tu­ni­ties for women as China’s fi­nan­cial in­dus­try ma­tures and con­tin­ues to develop.

“As a vet­eran with more than 30 years in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try, I am ab­so­lutely pos­i­tive that lead­ing in­vest­ment firms in China are start­ing to ac­tively seek a wide range of per­spec­tives and are grad­u­ally re­al­iz­ing that di­ver­sity in de­ci­sion­mak­ing is good for clients, teams and busi­ness,” he said.

The rise of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and the boom in the fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy (fin­tech) sec­tor in China have also contributed to higher fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the fi­nance in­dus­try.

“The in­ter­net has be­come a main driver of growth and there is a short­age of good tal­ent. This has cre­ated more op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to move for­ward in their ca­reers, not be­cause they are women but be­cause they are good man­agers,” Pan Jing, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of the Chi­nese on­line fi­nanc­ing firm Dian­rong.com, was quoted as say­ing in the sur­vey by Oliver Wyman.

De­spite the en­cour­ag­ing trend in Asia, em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence and in­dus­try re­search still point to the trend that woman are scarce in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try on a global ba­sis and are un­der­rep­re­sented rel­a­tive to other pro­fes­sions.

Glob­ally, only 18 per­cent of CFA mem­bers are women, well be­low the per­cent­age of fe­male work­ers around the world, ac­cord­ing to the re­search by the CFA In­sti­tute.

In the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try, women oc­cu­pied only 16 per­cent of po­si­tions at the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee level, theWy­man re­port showed.

Ex­perts said that the fact that fi­nance is a pro­fes­sion that dis­pro­por­tion­ately re­wards those who work long and in­flex­i­ble hours, could be a fac­tor that dis­cour­ageswomen from en­ter­ing the in­dus­try. Fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and in­suf­fi­cient flex­i­ble work­ing hours of­ten lead to a mid-ca­reer con­flict and a less at­trac­tive “ca­reer trade-off” for women than men, they said.

The image of the in­vest­ment in­dus­try, which is of­ten seen as a com­pet­i­tive, ag­gres­sive and harsh pro­fes­sion, has also af­fected its at­trac­tive­ness as a des­ti­na­tion for fe­male grad­u­ates, some ex­perts said.

Nonethe­less, Fidelity In­ter­na­tional’s Kwek said that it was rea­son­able to ex­pect the in­dus­try to em­brace greater gen­der di­ver­sity as her clients are be­com­ing more di­verse.

“As women con­trol more fi­nan­cial as­sets and make more fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions about their in­vest­ments, the ex­pec­ta­tion is also there for more women port­fo­lio man­agers toman­ageth­eir sav­ings,” she said.

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