According to Citywire’s database, there are 659 active funds registered in South Africa. Just 23 of those, or 3.5%, are run by a woman portfolio manager, or a women-only team.

This number shifts marginally higher when considering assets under management (AUM). By AUM, single woman portfolio managers or women-only teams manage 4.1% of the value in local unit trusts.

These numbers may appear dismal, but according to the latest Citywire Alpha Female report, which collects data on women in portfolio management around the world, South Africa is not an outlier. While it is in the bottom half of the 25 countries analysed in the report on these two measures, it is near the median in others.

How South Africa compares

In total, 10.3% of the portfolio managers listed on funds in South Africa are women. That compares to a global average of 11%.

However, South Africa fares better than the US, where only 9% of portfolio managers are women. The least diverse industry in the survey is Poland, where women account for just 3% of named portfolio managers.

Even the most gender diverse industry, which is found in Hong Kong, is nowhere near parity. In that jurisdiction, 27% of named portfolio managers are women. Single woman managers or women-only teams run 17% of Hong Kong’s registered active funds.

Source: Citywire (click to enlarge)

Across the world, the representation of women in portfolio management has hardly shifted in the five years that Citywire has been conducting this analysis.

In 2016, the first Alpha Female report found that 10.3% of portfolio managers in countries covered by Citywire were women. An increase to 11% in five years is therefore negligible.

As Nisha Long, head of cross-border investment research at Citywire, notes: ‘Women won’t achieve gender parity in portfolio management until the year 2215 if the current rate of progress is maintained’.

Another telling statistic is that the turnover of women portfolio managers globally is far higher than for men. In the period covered by the 2020 Alpha Female study, the turnover of women portfolio managers was 42%. This was up from 40% in 2019.

The turnover of men portfolio managers, on the other hand, declined from 28% to 27%.

The reality

‘As an industry, we cannot ignore that we are still not doing enough,’ said Jeanette Marais, CEO of Momentum Investments. ‘But I would be very surprised if anyone doesn’t care about this or doesn’t see it as an issue.’

Asset managers certainly talk as if they are taking gender representation seriously. The results of whatever action they are taking, however, are yet to be apparent.

‘You would have to be from a different planet to not be aware of it,’ said Delphine Govender, the CIO at Perpetua Investment Managers. ‘But there has been little urgency or pressure to change. If your AUM is growing, your performance is okay, and clients are not threatening to leave you because of the way your investment team is constituted, there is an inertia.

‘But I would say that’s starting to change,’ Govender added. ‘Five years ago, we were just trying to raise awareness. This report is so necessary because the thing we really need is to show the data. We are numbers people in this industry. The market needs to see numbers, otherwise it feels like we are just bemoaning our state.

‘The data is essential because it tells you exactly what the reality is. You can’t shy away from it, and it is quite revealing.’

Key Alpha Female findings for South Africa

% of women named portfolio managers:10.3%% of funds run by lone woman/women-only teams:3.5%% of AUM managed by lone woman/women-only teams:4.1%% of funds run by mixed teams:9.3%% of AUM manged by mixed teams:14.3%% of funds run by lone man/men-only teams:87.3%% of AUM managed by lone man/men-only teams:81.7%

Source: Citywire


The full Citywire Alpha Female report 2020 can be downloaded here.