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Sustainable investing
March 16, 2022
5 mins

Towards a women-led just recovery: How and why we invest in women

March 16, 2022
5 mins
Shoko Sekiguchi
Sustainable Investing, Citi Global Wealth Management
SUMMARY

Over the past year, we have faced a set of intersecting crises, which have shaken the globe to its core. Not surprisingly, these crises have only deepened existing gender inequities. On International Women’s Day, we’re calling for a women-led just recovery to bring systemic changes and show how you can get involved.


Over the past two years, humanity has endured such intersecting crises as the COVID pandemic, intensifying impacts from climate change and heightened racial injustice. These phenomena have deepened existing inequities throughout society. Around the world, women have frequently been among the worst affected.

Investors and legislators have taken note, shifting the focus to a just recovery: one that addresses the stark inequalities around the world to promote innovation and enhance growth, which would benefit everyone.

Seeking a just recovery

There is a growing realization that we need to find better ways of doing things. A just recovery is one that considers the voices of those most affected and prioritizes positive outcomes for people and the planet. A just recovery addresses systemic issues and creates avenues for the public to push for policies that protect and improve. In short, it is a unique opportunity to reimagine our future.1

While first and foremost a health crisis, the economic fallout of COVID has been enormous, disrupting livelihoods everywhere. Because nearly 58% of women worldwide work in the informal economy,2 they have earned less, saved less and have been likelier to fall into poverty.

The good news is that we are now at a tipping-point. Today, women control 32% of global wealth3. 13% of new billionaires were women. What’s more, 75% of millennial women take the lead in financial decision.

In other words, women of wealth have a high stake and determination power in navigating a just recovery.

Gender-lens investing

We believe that a women-focused just recovery offers investors innovative potential investment opportunities. A growing number of sustainability-oriented investors seek to integrate a gender lens to their portfolios.

Typically, gender-lens investing promotes women’s leadership by investing in companies that have diversity at board and executive level. Gender-lens thematic investing is booming.

Project Sage 3.0 in 2020 includes 138 total funds deploying capital with a gender lens, up 58.6% from the 87 funds in 2019’s Project Sage 2.0, and up 138% from the 58 funds in 2017’s initial Project Sage report. Almost 50% of these funds launched in 2019. The rate of launch is increasing.4 (Figure 1)

 
Figure 1. Fund Launch Date: An increasing number of new gender-lens funds launched each year.
 
Reference: Project Sage 3.0, July 2020
 

Challenges in asset management diversity

Another way to support a women-led just recovery is to work with women-owned or women-led asset management companies. The asset management industry is a cornerstone of the economy, channeling capital from investors to growing ventures, and guiding enterprises’ best practices.

However, there are a limited number of opportunities available due to the lack of diversity in the industry, despite its size and importance. A recent study showed that diversely owned firms managed only 1.4% of the total US-based assets under management (AUM) in 2021. Women account for 9.4% of all portfolio managers. And only 2% of mutual funds and assets are run exclusively by women, while 78% of funds and 74% of assets are managed exclusively by men.5

Policymakers have now started focusing upon the issue, and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who sits as the 27th chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters recently released a report called “Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Largest Investment Firms Accountable.” According to the report, only nine of the 28 firms (32%) that responded to the survey request provided information about the minority-owned asset managers with which they are doing business. On average, they devoted 0.50% of total asset management services expenditure to minority asset managers. For women, the 136 firms represent nearly 10% of all asset management firms, but just 0.8% of total industry assets under management (AUM) 6 (Figure 2)

 
Figure 2. Comparison between women-owned asset management firms and percent spent with women-owned asset management firms.
 
Reference: Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Largest Investment Firms Accountable, December 2021.
 
 
Figure 3. Ownership breakdown by asset class.
 
Reference: A Study of Ownership Diversity and Performance in the Asset Management Industry, January 2019.
 
 
Figure 4. Percent (%) of U.S.-based funds owned by minorities and women.
 
Reference: A Study of Ownership Diversity and Performance in the Asset Management Industry, January 2019.
 

Citi’s commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion

Earlier this year, Citi made a variety of commitments relating to diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI). Our aim is to bring about systemic change and contribute to a just recovery by promoting greater inclusion in asset management and beyond.7

First, we consider third-party managers’ diversity and inclusion profile as part of our onboarding process. The Citi Global Wealth Investments team (CGWI) is developing a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens as part of all new manager selections and existing manager monitoring in the US. We will periodically review managers of third-party funds included in our platform and assess their diversity, equity, and inclusion characteristics, in light of whether their firm’s policies and practices are consistent with evolving industry standards that provide more opportunities for women and traditionally underrepresented minorities in asset management.

Secondly, CGWI will engage industry trade associations and database providers to improve the accessibility of data about diverse-owned and managed third-party asset managers to help them gain exposure and scale. We will use our industry leadership to speak out about looking at newer and smaller managers to advance our gender and racial equity objectives.

Finally, we announced last month the establishment of the Diverse Financial Institutions Group – a new team in our Investment Bank – that will be headed by Harold Butler, Managing Director, and serve as a hub to lead and expand firmwide engagement with Minority Depository Institutions (MDI), Diverse Broker Dealers and Diverse Asset Managers. The Diverse Financial Institutions Group builds upon our Action for Racial Equity (ARE) initiative, which aims to help close the racial wealth gap and increase economic mobility in the United States.

At Citi, we’re supporting a women-led just recovery and continue to move the needle forward in our DEI effort.

Learn more about our DEI programs, please visit Women, unstoppable trends and innovation and our approach to embedding racial and gender equity into asset management.

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1 https://c40.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2684_C40_GREEN_RECOVERY_STATEMENT.original.pdf (July 2021)

2 https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_627189/lang--en/index.htm (April 2018)

3 https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/managing-next-decade-women-wealth (April 2020)

4 https://www.wharton.upenn.edu/story/project-sage-3-0-key-insights-from-the-latest-gender-lens-investing-report/ (2020)

5Laura Pavlenko Lutton and Erin Davis, “Morningstar Research Report: Fund Managers by Gender,” online report, June

6 Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Largest Investment Firms Accountable (117th Congress, Second Session, December 2021.)

7https://www.privatebank.citibank.com/insights/our-approach-to-embedding-racial-and-gender-equity-into-asset-management (July 7, 2021)