The below text is as appears in ‘Women manage just 2% of UK funds’ article on portfolio-adviser.com, published on 29 March 2022.
You’re going to have to be five times better than the men to succeed in this business,’ was the advice BambuBlack founder Jane Andrews received from a boss early in her career.
The matter-of-fact statement came from someone she describes as being “very pro-female fund managers”.
Andrews spent 23 years working at Smith & Williamson before setting up her own firm in 2019. Having been a partner for “many, many years,” she reached a point “when I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.”
She was introduced to Craig Bingham, CEO of Bennelong Funds Management, known as Bennbridge outside of Australia, which partners with boutique asset managers around the world. “They provide the infrastructure, along with the compliance, operations, sales and marketing functions. Everything we need to run and help grow our business.”
It has been “very hard work, but very rewarding”, she smiles. “It has stretched me, personally, and I’m very pleased that I have done it.”
When BambuBlack was founded, Andrews brought her two Asia-focused funds along with her. “Smith & Williamson were keen that clients come first and, in their view, when a manager leaves, funds tend to lose quite a lot of support. They felt it was in the clients’ best interests to have that continuity.”
It was difficult to leave the business after so many years, but she says that Smith & Williamson “have been very supportive”.
She credits her former employer with “always being keen to promote women and find new graduates to join the industry”.
More than a tick-box exercise
Andrews got into financial services “by accident”, adding “it has been an amazing journey and I wouldn’t have wanted to have done anything else”.
When it comes to women in the industry, Andrews says, when she started on her career path, “my perception was that there were potentially more women in the Asian space”. She has seen the evolution of China, which Andrews first visited in the early 1990s, and the “wonderful” transformation of the region, where “you get quite a few women, within senior positions, running companies”.
The exception, she notes, is Japan, where women still have a tendency to leave the workforce after having children. “When I talk to companies there, they want to have more female representation on their boards but it’s hard to find that experience because many women have taken time out to look after children, which leaves a big career gap.”
Being a female entrepreneur in this industry comes with some additional attention, but “you also potentially stand out because of that”. One thing that is important to Andrews is for the team to be judged on their merits and not be selected to fulfil a diversity tick-box exercise. “I wouldn’t want someone to invest in our funds just because we’ve got female representation.”
When building her team, Andrews’ goal was to focus on complementary skillsets and ensure “we don’t all think alike”.
Portfolio manager Linda Wang Saitowitz is from mainland China. Given BambuBlack’s Asia focus, it was important for Andrews “to have someone who couldn’t just speak Mandarin but who also understood both mainland Chinese and western culture”.
They are joined by analyst James Measures. “We are all different ages, so we bring different perspectives.”
She adds: “When you’ve got people who think differently or come at something from a different mindset, that challenges your way of thinking. Change is important otherwise we just stagnate.”
Andrews identifies confidence as one of the barriers discouraging women from pursuing careers in fund management. “In some ways, men find it easier to communicate their story,” she says.
“Women maybe tend to overthink things and second-guess ourselves. But one thing I’ve always tried to be is true to myself and not compromise who I am as a female and as a fund manager.” She says it is important for men to also play a role in championing women. Where the industry could better attract more female applicants is with people like Andrews talking to school and university students “about our experiences of being a fund manager and being in the industry”.
“Also, by telling our stories and mentoring younger female analysts and managers, explaining that it has been a great, great career.”
Andrews references “an intuition” as one of the qualities many women possess. “That’s a strength. We can pick up on things when we meet companies and investors,” she explains. “You absolutely have to put in all the hard work, but women also tend to have an ‘intuitiveness’ – and when you combine the two, I think that can be very compelling.”
Her route to entrepreneurship is something she says should be more widely available and accessible to women.
When it comes to encouraging greater female participation in fund management, “it is not about setting the bar lower”, Andrews says. “It’s more about helping people to reach their potential.”