George Soros and Warren Buffet are most often named as role models for young recruits in financial services. But for young women entering the industry, female role models are few and far between. “76% of investment managers are white men, and most of those are private school educated” says Yolanda Beattie, Diversity and Inclusion Practice Leader at Mercer.
Women managing money – why are they still a rarity?
By Emily Dawson
George Soros and Warren Buffet are most often named as role models for young recruits in financial services. But for young women entering the industry, female role models are few and far between.
“76% of investment managers are white men, and most of those are private school educated” says Yolanda Beattie, Diversity and Inclusion Practice Leader at Mercer.
The latest research by Mercer, released at the FSC Leaders Summit, found there’s a lack of awareness of career pathways for women in financial services.
Kristian Fok, Chief Investment Officer at Cbus Super Fund has taken an active approach to diversity within his team. This came after he found traditional recruitment methods had built a team that was increasingly dominated by white men.
“I think the trap that I fell into was to think about recruiting in a traditional way. A pre-defined position description and a traditional way of advertising,” Mr Fok said.
He was faced with a choice: deal with diversity early on, or continue with the status quo.
The advantages of having a diverse team are well documented and Mr Fok said he considered diversity as a way to deliver better returns to CBus members.
“For us to say we are going to stick our neck out and do something about it is potentially quite a confronting thing to do because there is no easy solution,” Mr Fok said.
As a successful woman in the sector, Fidelity Portfolio Manager Kate Howitt said her employers’ attitude towards maternity leave was the difference between taking and rejecting an offer.
“They (Fidelity) were very clear that when we hire you we are not just hiring you to be an analyst - but we are hiring you with a view that you will go all the way to being a portfolio manager,” said Ms Howitt.
Not just gender diversity
The Mercer research found there’s a perception that the industry only hires from a narrow field of people, with specific education and experience. But Ms Howitt says that is not necessarily true.
“Our preferred candidate is not the 'economics in high school, finance degree, advanced finance degree’. We want someone who thinks more about the world and of the more organic side of how businesses operate,” Ms Howitt said.
The industry also has an advantage that much of what it does is highly measurable and allows for a truly merit based approach to promotion.
Perpetual Deputy Portfolio Manager – Ethical Shares & Analyst Marianne Drewe says results speak for themselves.
“Women tend to downplay their skills… but this is an industry where the outcomes are all clearly in number form, so that’s where we can play to our strengths,” Ms Drewe said.
Diversity to represent the customer
Diversity goes beyond just maximising returns and being seen to be doing the right thing. According to Marianne Perkovic, Executive General Manager of Private Banking at CBA, it goes to the core of being a customer focused organisation.
“If you don’t have gender diversity in your team, then you really aren’t customer centric because if we are here to serve our clients,” Ms Perkovic said.
“You need to look at the client base and our clients are Australians and we are a nation that is 50/50… so if you really want to be able to stand in your client’s shoes you really need to understand both genders.”
While introducing quotas may not be the answer to gender diversity within the industry, the imperative to build diverse teams has never been more important for both competitiveness and innovation.
According to Mercer’s Yolanda Beattie, industry leaders recognise diverse teams make better decisions and are in for the long haul when it comes to driving change.