How has gender diversity in the investment industry improved in recent years? Two statistics can sum it up succinctly. According to Morningstar, at the end of 2000, just 14% of fund managers were women. And at the end of 2019? Still 14%.
While a number of issues contribute to this stark gender imbalance – from the structural barriers that prevent skilled women from climbing to the top of the talent funnel, to the industry’s “boys club” reputation – it’s also true that a lack of female representation among financial industry role models is also a contributing factor. So, who are the women to watch in this notoriously male-dominated industry?
of fund managers are women - the same as in 2000
To commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, Opto selects five investment managers that are not only generating returns but paving the way for a future generation of female fund leaders.
Angela Aldrich – Founder and managing partner, Bayberry Capital Partners
Last year, The FT called the hedge fund industry “the most lopsided in all of finance” when it came to gender representation. Now, instead of waiting for promotions at established firms, some women are striking out on their own and starting brand new hedge funds.
Angela Aldrich’s Bayberry Capital Partners is one such firm. Launched in 2018, her long-short equities fund has an estimated value of $216m, according to Insider Monkey. As an investment manager, Aldrich isn’t afraid to take a bold position.
In May 2019, she revealed that her fund had a short position on Treasury Wine Estates, Australia’s biggest winemaker, saying shares were overvalued by at least 50% and that the company was inflating sales using a tactic called “channel stuffing”; claims the business strongly denied.
Prior to launching Bayberry, Aldrich worked at Blue Ridge Capital, where she earned the nickname ‘Tiger Grandcub’, a nod to the firm’s leader and her mentor, Tiger Cub John Griffin.
Liz Ann Sonders – Chief investment strategist, Charles Schwab
A regular face not only on TV, but also on star investor lists such as these. Liz Ann Sonders has previously been named on SmartMoney’s Power 30 and Wealth Manager’s 50 Top Women in Wealth as well as appeared on the Investment Adviser 25 alongside Warren Buffett.
She has said the secret to her success has been to keep things as simple as possible, particularly when explaining investment decisions to clients or encouraging them to commit to a long-term strategy. “Too often with people who are pundits, it seems their number on goal is to sound like the smartest girl or guy in the room,” she told Fordham News in January 2018. “More often than not, they’re going to turn people off.”
“Too often with people who are pundits, it seems their number on goal is to sound like the smartest girl or guy in the room. More often than not, they’re going to turn people off” - Liz Ann Sonders
Sonders’ career in finance began in 1986, when she made her industry debut at Avatar Associates in New York. In 1999, she joined US Trust as a managing director; the firm was later acquired by Charles Schwab before being sold to the Bank of America in 2006.
Catherine Wood – CEO, ARK Investment Management
Since the 1990s, Catherine Wood has taken a thematic approach to her investment strategy, often focusing on technology disruptors across multiple sectors. In 2014, after 12 years working for Alliance Bernstein, she launched ARK Investment Management.
As of April 2019, the fund had $7.4bn in assets and offers a range of active ETFs, mutual funds and SMAs that invest in innovative and world-changing technologies. While she is known for her bombastic calls (she once claimed Tesla could reach $4,000 per share by 2024), the firm’s flagship Ark Innovation ETF is an extremely strong performer, having returned 146% in the three years to January 2019. By comparison, the S&P 500 made a gain of 44% over the same period.
Valuation of ARK Investment Management's assets
Lauren Taylor Wolfe – Co-founder and managing partner, Impactive Capital
Women on Wall Street are rare – and female activist hedge fund managers like Lauren Taylor Wolfe even more so. In 2019, she launched Impactive Capital with Christian Asmar, with a war chest of $250m, committed for a six-year term by California State Teachers’ Retirement System, to invest.
As activist investors, Impactive’s MO is to encourage the companies it backs to make changes that will bolster their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials, such as reducing their own carbon emissions or increasing diversity among board members.
Speaking at the time of the fund’s launch, Wolfe explained the firm’s long-term approach. “The pendulum has swung too far toward a hyper-focus on short term results. We take a longer-term view of our investments and improve capital allocation and ESG where it drives real value,” she said. “We do this using a range of tools that we believe positively impact multiple stakeholders – shareholders, customers, employees – to create superior, sustainable returns.”
“The pendulum has swung too far toward a hyper-focus on short term results. We take a longer-term view of our investments and improve capital allocation and ESG where it drives real value” - Lauren Taylor Wolfe
Christina Qi – Founding partner, Domeyard LP
Christina Qi didn’t have a typical college career. While studying at MIT, she would spend her days in class but in the evenings, she would be busy working on her nascent hedge fund, Domeyard. At 20 years old (and right after Qi’s graduation), the firm officially launched with a thesis around high-frequency trading, utilising overnight data in order to make trading predictions for the next day.
On 6 March 2020, the firm traded a record $7bn in one day, according to a tweet by Qi. Alongside running her quant hedge fund, in 2019 Qi launched Databento, a platform to help investment funds manage their data products in one place. Qi is also a co-chair on the board of Invest in Girls, an organisation which provides financial education to high school girls, that aims to increase the number of women working in the financial sector.