Why firms must give women portfolio managers an opportunity

Women PMs comprise 11% of the industry: we can do better than that, says CEO

Why firms must give women portfolio managers an opportunity

When Lisa Langley speaks at the Women in Wealth Summit on December 6, she’ll be encouraging the wealth industry to do more to ensure there are more women portfolio managers.

This is Women in Wealth’s fifth year, and you can still register for the online summit, “Connect, Interact, and Succeed – Be Part of the Conversation today”. It is free for advisors.

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Langley, who is chief executive officer and founder of Emerge Canada and Emerge Capital Management Inc., told Wealth Professional that less than 11% of all portfolio managers are women – and that’s barely changed in a decade – and less than 5% of all assets under management are managed by women … and she wants to change that.

“We're not really going to move the needle, but at least we stand as a symbol of what's possible,” she said of what Emerge is doing. “Firms have a responsibility to try to give women portfolio managers an opportunity.”

Emerge has launched an EMPWR platform, which it bills as the first of its kind to offer sustainable investment strategies featuring accomplished, but emerging, women portfolio managers. These sub-advisors provide actively managed investment solutions, maximizing returns while minimizing downside risks, while Emerge provides the back-office and platform support and ESG monitoring.

“Our aim is to grow women’s representation in the asset  management industry while also promoting sustainability standards,” said Langley.

Emerge’s initial offering features four women portfolio managers each offering a sustainable exchange-traded fund (ETF) while Langley offers all four in a fifth fund.

“The pension plans and institutions asked us to do that because they wanted one ETF where they could get coverage of all of the women manages,” she said, noting Emerge is the first company to launch women-run ETFs, but it hopes its moves will encourage others to follow suit since “most Canadian investors don't even know if they have a woman running any of their strategies or funds”.  

Read More: 'You can't wait for opportunities; you have to make them' | Wealth Professional

Langley is pleased that the industry has taken note of what Emerge is doing, but hopes by speaking out in forums like the Women and Wealth conference that she can encourage others to do it, too.

“I’m just trying to send a message to the industry,” she said. “We've really put a lot of eggs in this particular basket. We’re risking a lot, but we believe that we're doing the right thing for exceptional money managers who happen to be women.

“We believe there shouldn't just be two token women directors at every public company. There should also be women in senior management and executive positions. So, we’re taking a deep dive into gender diversity, and we believe that social and corporate governance is a huge part of what we're doing and certainly should be expected of any firm that we invest in. So, we hope we're making a dent.”