Lifting the Lid on Asset Management’s Gender Problem

Columbia Threadneedle has included diversity statistics among its key corporate performance indicators for the first time.

One of the biggest asset management groups in Europe has published internal gender diversity data in its annual corporate responsibility report for the first time.

Columbia Threadneedle’s European operation made the move in an effort to “improve gender balance in the asset management industry”.

Its report shows women make up 37% of all employees in Europe. They account for 24% of the group’s business management committee, up from just 8% in December 2013.

“The asset management industry has a real opportunity to be the driving force for gender diversity.”

Columbia Threadneedle identified a “lack of diversity disclosure” among European asset managers, adding that “disclosure is a first step towards improvement”.

“We believe that diverse companies are better governed and as a result deliver better business performance and outcomes for clients,” said Mark Burgess, CIO for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Columbia Threadneedle. “The analysis of company boards in this regard is part of our investment process, so providing an insight into the number of women among our senior leaders, investment managers and other employees is an obvious step.”

Burgess acknowledged that the company’s gender balance lagged other professions, and emphasized that disclosure was only “an important step towards improvement”.

“Recruitment is a critical factor and over the past two years we have introduced practices to ensure that we have both male and female representation on candidate lists, including guidelines for our recruitment partners to advance more women to the interview phase,” Burgess said. “I am pleased to see that our diversity numbers have been improving and am keen to ensure this trend continues.”

Columbia Threadneedle diversity dataSource: Columbia Threadneedle InvestmentsIn a white paper on the subject of gender diversity, Chris Wagstaff, Columbia Threadneedle’s head of pensions and investment education, wrote that no asset managers rank among Europe’s top 20 financial companies for diversity disclosure. “There is clearly much to be done,” he said.

“We believe that the asset management industry has a real opportunity to be the driving force for gender diversity in financial services and should be known as an industry in which women can have a long, flexible, and prosperous career,” Wagstaff wrote. “If the perception can be made to reflect the reality, there is no reason why the current gender imbalance cannot be addressed with all of the positives associated with such a shift working to the ultimate benefit of the end investor.”

Related: The Missing Women of Asset Management