Columbia Threadneedle reveals fund manager gender divide

Columbia Threadneedle Investments has revealed the gender diversity at the firm in a bid to address the low numbers of women in asset management.

The latest figures to end of June on fund managers at the EMEA operations of the asset manager shows 28 per cent of investment professionals are women, down from 29 per cent in December 2014. 

It also reveals just 19 per cent of senior management are women, although this is up from 11 per cent in December 2013 and 16 per cent in December 2014. At board level 22 per cent are women, which is unchanged from the end of 2014 but up from 13 per cent at the end of 2013.

Columbia Threadneedle will include gender diversity data in its annual reports. Chris Wagstaff, head of pensions and investment education, says the number of women in asset management does not reflect the percentage of women employed in the UK, which is at its highest having reached 62 per cent in February 2014. 

Columbia Threadneedle CIO for EMEA Mark Burgess says it is “an obvious step” to publish the data on the number of female senior leaders and investment managers as it is part of the group’s investment process to analysis company boards in this way. The firm is including the data in the key performance indicators listed in its annual corporate responsibility report.

“We believe that diverse companies are better governed and as a result deliver better business performance and outcomes for clients,” Burgess says.

“While our figures are in line with the average gender balance in European asset management firms, we fall behind other professions at a time when the percentage of women employed in the UK is at the highest it has ever been – where are all the female fund managers?

“We believe disclosure is an important step towards improvement and we recognise that we can do even more to attract women to our business and the industry.”

Columbia gender diversity

Source: Columbia Threadneedle. 2 = Threadneedle Asset Management Holdings Sarl.

Columbia Threadneedle says it has taken steps to ensure both men and women are represented on candidate lists, such as issuing guidelines to its recruitment partners to put more women forward for interviews.

“I am pleased to see that our diversity numbers have been improving and am keen to ensure this trend continues,” Burgess adds.

“Indeed, of all the jobs in the City, that of a fund manager is arguably most suited to women and working parents more generally. The hours are defined, helping the work-life balance and the strong focus on teamwork and collaboration allows for maternity and parental leave more broadly. In addition, women tend to be thoughtful, reflective and long-term in their perspectives, key skills and attributes needed for a successful career in fund management.”

The issue of gender diversity in asset management is becoming more talked about, but progress is slow.

Hermes Investment Management has published data from its annual Responsible Capitalism survey, which shows less than a quarter of the institutional investors surveyed thought female representation at board level was important.

“The results are disappointing and show there is some way before the glass ceiling is cracked in the board room and on issues of pay,” says Harriet Steel, Hermes head of business development.

“There have been a number of high-profile campaigns to improve diversity on boards, notably from groups such as the 30% Club. However, while these campaigns have achieved some progress, it is clear UK plc is still poorly diversified at senior management level.”

She adds: “The main goal of board independence and diversity of experience is not simply to tick a corporate governance box. It is to avoid the pernicious and value-destroying practice of ‘group think’.

“The perils of this type of culture have been seen in corporate scandal after corporate scandal – Enron, Barings, sub-prime loans, the banking crisis, to name just a handful. It may be convenient for the members of a board to think in the same way, but it is rarely good for business.”