Gender diversity for performance

By Li Xiang | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-15 07:27

For Gillian Kwek, a portfolio manager with Fidelity International in Singapore, the job of managing assets is more like a marathon than a sprint. It often takes patience and the ability to thrive under pressure.

Being a female fund manager in the industry for 15 years, Kwek, who has a husband traveling as much she does and three energetic school-age children, said it could be daunting initially for working moms to juggle family matters and work responsibilities.

Nonetheless, Kwek is a strong believer that gender diversity will lead to better investment performance because formulating investment strategies requires a team of "people with different life experiences, temperament, risk appetites and even energy levels," to generate new ideas and insights.

Kwek shared with China Daily her views on gender diversity in the industry. The following are edited excerpts from the interview:

What do you think are reasons for women being underrepresented in the investment management industry?

Besides the smaller talent pool of women in finance and the persistent social expectation for women to give priority to their family roles, the underrepresentation could also come from the nature of the industry, where promotion does not follow a set path.

Gender diversity for performance

This non-linear career path, coupled with the fear - whether real or perceived - of being disadvantaged whenever one goes on maternity leave, may have dissuaded many talented women from joining the industry or caused them to switch to another profession with a more assured path toward senior roles.

Do you think that it requires more effort (such as effort to take care of family issues) for female fund managers than their male counterparts to deliver the same performance and stay competitive?

It is true that new working moms may find it daunting to juggle looking after young children and managing their work responsibilities. But from my personal experience and observations of my peers, they learn to adapt very quickly.

Do you think that gender diversity leads to better investment performance? And why?

I strongly believe that greater diversity will lead to better investment performance, and gender diversity is just one aspect. In today's volatile and unpredictable market, you need a solid team of people with different life experiences, temperament, risk appetites and even energy levels in order to constantly look for new ideas, debate conflicting views and provide different insights to help formulate investment strategies.

Do you think female investment professionals tend to be less traditional and conformity-oriented, and more achievement-oriented than both their male counterparts and women in the general population?

I would say that if you want to be successful in the investment world, you should be someone who has an inbuilt competitive streak and who is not afraid to challenge widely-accepted views.

This industry is definitely not for people happy with being status quo, whether male or female.

What is your view on encouraging more women to enter this profession? How can companies make progress in terms of attracting and retaining female investment professionals?

My advice to a young female aspiring portfolio manager is to have a long-term plan to develop yourself to be a successful investment professional. Establish your style, build your reputation and have a personal brand that distinguishes yourself from others.

Most investment management firms have come a long way in recognizing the invaluable contribution of their female employees but there is always room for improvement.

They can improve gender diversity by casting a wider recruitment net, providing more job flexibility for employees and rewarding good performance rather than face time in the office.

(China Daily 11/15/2016 page15)

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