In SA, female representation at fund manager level has stagnated

Asset managers are increasingly backing diverse teams but gender parity in investment roles could still be a lifetime away.

While the percentage of women in the Citywire fund manager database has risen from 10.3% in 2016 to 11.8% in 2021, at this rate gender parity will only be reached in 127 years.


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That is a key finding of the Citywire Alpha Female 2021 report, now in its sixth year. The report tracks the progress that asset management firms are making in bringing more women into portfolio manager roles.

Fund groups may still be struggling to move the dial on the headline numbers, but the 12-month increase in the overall percentage is the biggest yet and Citywire data suggests asset managers believe diversity works. The number of mixed teams has almost doubled since the first Alpha Female Report in 2016.

Five years ago, just 6.7% of the Citywire fund manager database was made up of mixed teams. That number reached 11.8% in 2021.

The local picture

In South Africa, the rate of change is less encouraging. In 2019, 10.6% of the local fund managers in Citywire’s database were women. That rose marginally to 10.8% last year, before dropping back to 10.7% in 2021.

The percentage of assets under management run by single woman managers or women-only teams has also fallen. It was 4.6% in 2019, 4.1% in 2020 and 3.9% this year.

It is also notable that not a single large South African asset manager has even 25% female representation at fund manager level. Absa Fund Managers leads this group with 24% of its named fund managers being women.

At Ninety One, 21% of fund managers are women, while Allan Gray shows 17% representation and Coronation 11%.

The only local asset manager with more than five named fund managers to have achieved gender parity is Truffle Asset Management. In its team of six, three are women: Nicole Agar, Sophié-Marié van Garderen and Palvi Kala.

Significantly, Agar and Van Garderen are the only South Africans to make Citywire’s list of top female managers. The pair were AAA-rated at the time the research was compiled.

Diversity works

Responding to the global numbers, Dr Nisha Long, head of ESG and cross-border investment research at Citywire, said: ‘It is encouraging to see the percentage is heading in the right direction, but it’s becoming clear to me that I may well not see gender parity in my lifetime if the rate of change doesn’t improve.’

There is however a growing acceptance that diverse investment teams deliver better results, and the report shows that mixed teams have better risk-adjusted returns and lower drawdowns. And the steady decline in single-manager funds, as firms turn their backs on star culture, means that just over half of funds are now run by a single manager.

Some fund groups have made significant progress on gender – 25% of portfolio managers at the leading large firms are women – but turnover among women fund managers is still significantly higher than for men, and CEOs recognise this as a key issue in addressing the gender balance.

‘Getting more women into portfolio management jobs is one thing; keeping them there is another,’ said Dr Long.

‘There are many initiatives encouraging more women to take senior positions, but as we’ve highlighted in previous years, all these policies mean nothing if female managers are not retained.’


One area where there has been significant positive change is in the amount of money run by leading female fund managers.

As recently as 2018, the average assets run by a Citywire AAA-rated manager – the best-performing group in terms of risk-adjusted performance – was $1.3 billion for a woman and $2.2 billion for a man. In 2021, those numbers are $3.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively, almost neck and neck.

Among groups with more than 20 but fewer than 50 managers, Spain’s CaixaBank Asset Management is the only one nudging the 50% mark. Of the firm’s total 31 portfolio managers tracked by Citywire, 16 are male and 15 are female, bringing the firm closer to gender parity than any of its peers – the next best in any of the top three tiers is 35%.

Citywire’s full Alpha Female 2021 report, which reveals the top asset management groups by percentage of female managers and contains exclusive data on mixed teams’ performance, manager retention and turnover, and extensive analysis of the research, can be found here.

Angus Foote is director of Citywire Global and Patrick Cairns is South Africa Editor at Citywire, which provides insights and information for professional investors globally.

This article was first published on Citywire South Africa here, and republished with permission.