I recently received a complimentary book from the financial publisher Harriman House. Harriman’s New Book of Investing Rules: The Dos and Don’ts of the World’s Best Investors is a beautiful hardback doorstopper with a strikingly-designed outer sleeve, promising to distil more than 400 investment rules. Lovely, I thought, here is something to get me through the dark days of January.
As the saying goes, you should never judge a book by its cover.
As I leafed through the pages, spanning 65 chapters of contributions from the “world’s best investors”, I couldn’t help but notice that of the 67 contributors (some chapters feature more than one author) I could only spot one woman. The rest were distinctly male and pale.
How, I wondered, could the book’s editor feature just the one lonely female voice — Kathleen Brooks, an FX specialist and research director for City Index — and yet dub this a “fresh selection of the most interesting and eloquent exponents of a wide range of investing approaches”?
To be fair, many of the book’s contributors are excellent investors. There are well-known fund managers including Nick Train, Gervais Williams, and Ian Heslop, plus Fidelity legend Anthony Bolton, my colleague Tom Stevenson and fellow FT Money columnist John Lee.
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness first-hand how the cogs in these investment brains spin. Anyone going to the effort of capturing these ideas on paper does the world of investment a great service.
I should also say that I have always held Harriman House in high regard. It published my own book on income investing a few years ago, which makes it all the more galling to be told that 50 per cent of the population merits only a 1.5 per cent representation in this book.
Equally telling is the language used by investment writer Jonathan Davis in the book’s foreword: “the intuition you want to tap into is not that of every man, but that of the best in the business.”
Mr Davis, as a writer, you should know that words matter.
To add insult to injury, Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose lacklustre performance as a fund manager could lead many to question his presence on a list of the world’s best investors, is allocated a slot in what Mr Davis calls a “big and bold book”.
Big in format and bold in design, perhaps, but close-minded and certainly not capturing “the open-minded world of investing”, as the book’s compiler concludes.
So let me kick off the new year by filling the gap left by Harriman’s new book. Off the top of my head, let me propose some female fund managers worth adding to your own investment watch lists.
Names such as Sanditon’s Julie Dean, a proponent of business-cycle investing. Stephanie Butcher, European equity income manager at Invesco Perpetual. Sarah Whitley, Japan fund manager at Baillie Gifford. Sue Round, Edentree’s veteran investor. China specialist Jing Ning from Fidelity International. Janus Henderson’s property expert Ainslie McLennan and bond manager Jenna Barnard. Victoria Harling, who runs a number of emerging market debt mandates at Investec Asset Management. Alexandra Jackson of the Rathbone UK Opportunities Fund. Smith & Williamson’s equity income manager Tineke Frikkee. And Audrey Ryan, an ethical investment specialist at Kames Capital.
That wasn’t so difficult. These are just some of the women in asset management I have personally come in contact with and rate highly. If you need more, Investment Week recently hosted the Women in Investment Awards with nominees involved in roles ranging from fund management to wealth management, investment research and financial advice. It was a sell out event.
You might disagree with this type of positive discrimination, and think people should be judged against all of their peers rather than one particular subset of them. But the point of these awards is to provide a platform for women who have been in investment for two or three decades and still struggle to make their voices heard.
Perhaps that is why Harriman couldn’t find more than one woman for its “fresh list” of investors? But I think the truth is that they probably weren’t looking hard enough. The evidence suggests that the men who compiled this book just didn’t give it any thought. And herein lies the problem — as long as women are under-represented or ignored in the asset management industry, future generations will believe, consciously or subconsciously, that investment is just for blokes.
Women make up half of the population, often manage the family purse strings, outlive men, are increasingly the main breadwinner and more than likely will be the ones teaching their children about money. Yet they continue to be chronically under-represented in financial services — an industry accounting for an increasingly large slice of most developed world economies.
It would be great if there was a single female investor or fund manager that was a household name like Benjamin Graham, John Bogle or John Templeton. But there isn’t yet — and Warren Buffett admitting that he invests like a woman doesn’t quite cut it.
These names will only emerge when we have a more equal balance of men and women managing money and talking about how they do it. A more equal mix not only provides role models for those new to investment. It avoids group think, improves risk management and gives the type of big picture thinking required of successful money management.
Whether you’re compiling a book of investment rules, sitting on an investment board or investing for your own retirement, this should matter to you — whatever your gender.
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