In an industry that celebrates the accomplishments of alpha males, it is often overlooked how many successful women are working in key roles in hedge funds. But despite estimates that women manage only 3% of the $1.5 trillion invested in hedge funds, a growing number of entrepreneurial, innovative and accomplished women now work in a variety of roles with funds, service providers and investors. This survey of 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers1, shows how women are making an increasing contribution to the industry’s development and success. The rationale for this survey is to document and recognise the valuable contribution of women, but also to use it as an example of the opportunities that are opening for more women to progress in the hedge fund industry.
Women and work
The role of women in business and particularly in the financial services sector has been a hot topic recently. In June 2009, the US-based National Council for Research on Women published a report on gender differences in investment management. It suggested that while male fund managers are likely to adopt a more risky approach, women fund mangers are more risk averse, with more consistent and less extreme investment styles than men. In short, the report concluded that women bring a more holistic and risk-intelligent approach to the investment process. This view is corroborated by data collected by Hedge Fund Research. From 2000 to 2009, HFR tracked the performance of women-owned hedge funds. It found, since inception, that women-owned funds delivered an average annual return of 9.06% compared with only 5.82% for a broader composite of hedge funds. Not only did women-owned funds consistently report stronger returns, they also fared better in the financial crisis. Indeed, HFR found that during the downturn, women-owned funds had an average drawdown of 9.61% compared with an average drawdown for all other funds of 19.03%. In September 2009, the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission published findings from an inquiry into financial services practices. It cited one possible reason for the lagging female presence as “the prevalence of a short-termist ‘reward for risk’ culture in some parts of the sector.” In October 2009, as part of its investigation into the banking crisis, the Treasury Select Committee held an inquiry into women in financial services. It heard evidence that addressing pay and promotion inequality and changing corporate culture (to promote flexible working, for example) would only occur once women became more prevalent in senior management. It was also noted that without equality and flexibility over maternity leave, this would be unlikely to happen.
As the hedge fund industry has grown, so has the number of women working in roles spanning compliance, business development and portfolio management. For hedge fund firms there is an opportunity to be innovative in mixing flexible working arrangements and provisions for leave to assist women in family roles. This will also stem the costs associated with the loss of talent and experience that inflexibility may bring.
It is a truism to say that traditionally hedge fund businesses have been male dominated. Crunching the employment numbers (or a quick look at the FSA database of authorised individuals) shows the breakdown in gender is still heavily skewed in favour of men.
But for women, the hedge fund industry does offer some scope for optimism. Compared with other sectors in the financial services space, the hedge fund industry is more entrepreneurial. Its appetite for innovation and the relative youth of hedge fund employees means change is a constant. What’s more, compared with investment banks or traditional asset managers, hedge funds have flatter hierarchies and responsibilities are more diffuse. In many cases, the desk-bound culture that afflicts so many established financial services operators, doesn’t apply to hedge funds. Such flexibility is attractive to women (and men) and may make it easier for them to have an impact in the variety of roles that exist in a contemporary firm. After all, the hedge fund industry is not all about risk-taking.
Responsibility and leadership
The biggest portion of our survey features a range of business principals and senior portfolio managers in both single manager and funds of funds. Particularly noteworthy are Leda Braga of BlueCrest, who leads a team managing over $9 billion, and Mina Gerowin, who heads Paulson Europe and also overseas substantial portfolio management responsibilities. Among business principals, Elena Ambrosiadou stands out for her two decades of achievement in running IKOS. In addition, the survey features women in senior operational roles within hedge fund firms, along with those making decisive contributions in prime brokerage, fund law and other areas of advice and consultancy. Everyone included is well-established (some of them true pioneers) with a long track record of success, generally with more than one firm. Our key criteria included the level of responsibility, either through managing money or a business (or both). We also sought to recognise women who have led by example and those who have a talent for innovation.
Data and opinions were gathered from interviews with industry experts, both men and women, based in Asia, the US and Europe. In this regard, we spoke with leading portfolio managers, prime brokers, funds of funds managers, investors and various service providers. The survey could easily have stretched to triple the size from the many worthy candidates put forward. Extensive and difficult deliberations led to the selections that are detailed in the following pages.
The 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds survey is by no means a definitive guide. Many of those included will be well-known across the industry but it goes without saying that there are many other well-established and deserving candidates that aren’t featured in our final selection. However, the survey and the extensive research it incorporated proved that there is a broad range of talented women in the hedge fund industry and plenty of opportunities for them to thrive in the years ahead.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is proud to sponsor the 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds survey as it reflects both our commitment to the hedge fund industry and our support for ensuring that women have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Women make up half of the global workforce at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and under the guidance of its gender advisory council, PwC provides practical initiatives and support, ranging from flexible working arrangements to leadership development programmes. Its efforts have not gone unrecognised. PwC has been awarded Top Spot in DiversityInc’s 2009 ‘Top Companies for Global Diversity’ list, and it has received two awards from Opportunity Now, recognising its success in advancing female employees. Although great progress has been made to help women climb the corporate ladder, PwC is continuing to invest more time and resources in initiatives which focus on female talent.
At present 15% of partners are female. However, through the Women’s Network and the women’s leadership programme, PwC aims to increase this proportion year on year. PwC’s mission is to strengthen diversity. Its ‘commitment to diversity’ programme makes business sense as well as building rewarding careers and retaining the diverse set of talents that make up both sexes.