Gender diversity progress on investment managers’ exec committees flagging

Listed investment groups have improved women's representation on boards but fall short for other leadership positions

The number of women on FTSE 350 boards and executive committees has climbed steadily over the past year, but a number of listed investment managers are still falling short of the achieving 33% representation on boards and executive committees.

In the latest annual FTSE Women Leaders Review, a follow-up to the Hampton-Alexander Review, companies such as Liontrust, AJ Bell, Quilter, Jupiter, Rathbones, Ninety One, St. James’s Place (SJP) and Schroders were all flagged as having less than a third of their executive committees and direct reports represented by women.

Investment managers: Women on boards, executive committees and direct reports

CompanyFTSE ListWomen on BoardsIncrease/Decrease on last year +/-Combined Executive Committees and Direct ReportsIncrease/Decrease on last year +/-
Brewin Dolphin25030%44.7%+
abrdn10050%+34.9%
M&G10050%=34.6%+
Liontrust Asset Management25028.6%=21.1%+
Ninety One25050%=31.4%+
Schroders10050%+31%+
Rathbones25033.3%30.2%+
Hargreaves Lansdown10040%+28.6%+
Jupiter25033.3%+28.6%+
Man Group25050%=25.7%
Quilter25036.4%+25.4%+
AJ Bell25040%+25%+
St. James’s Place10030%23.6%
Financial services sector average 38.4% 29.5% 
Source: 30% Club, FTSE Women Leaders Review. As at 10 January 2022.

As the table shows, many of the asset managers have above the 33% target for women on boards with only Brewin Dolphin, Liontrust and SJP falling short. However, a spokesperson for Liontrust highlighted it has since appointmented women to the board after the report data was collated in January bringing its level up to 37.5%.

On the combined executive committees and direct reports, it’s a different story with a significant number of investment firms not having high representation of women – only Brewin Dolphin, abrdn and M&G are above 33%. The report said financial services had fallen back as a whole in this area, despite progress at the board level, and a few have even reported a decline in the number of females in leadership.

Responses

ESG Clarity has contacted Brewin Dolphin, AJ Bell, Quilter, Jupiter, Rathbones, Ninety One, SJP, Brewin Dolphin and Schroders for comment. SJP declined to comment but Ninety One provided this statement: “We know diversity and inclusion makes great business sense, but it is also about doing the right thing to ensure the best outcomes. Our board of directors for Ninety One is comprised of 50% women, and our executive leadership is comprised of 33% women [on page 26]. Additionally, the direct reports to the executive directors are in excess of 33% female. We acknowledge this is a process and there is still more work to do across our organisation and society as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Quilter said it had seen a number of reporting line changes in early 2020, this population at Quilter halved in size. As a result, it changed the target population for its Senior Leadership Community (‘SLC’), a broader group of senior leaders that more accurately reflects our senior management across Quilter than executive committee and direct reports, which is solely dictated by reporting lines.

A statement said: “We achieved our target of increasing female representation in senior management to 35% by the end of 2020, a public pledge we made as a signatory to the HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter. As of 31 December 2021, female representation in senior management at Quilter stands at 36%, and we have set a new target of 38-40% female representation by the end of 2023.

“Our inclusion and diversity strategy focuses on five key pillars, including inclusive leadership, so it is a priority for us to build on our progress and meet this target by increasing female representation in our senior leadership community. An action plan will be launched in April to support the strategy.

“Since listing in 2018, our board has consistently met or exceeded the minimum requirements for female representation on the board. The majority of our board committee chairs are women, and we have also met the recommendations of the Parker Review. We intend to report on a broader range of diverse characteristics for our board in our 2021 annual report this year.”

Liontrust responded to say its regularly reviews the gender split across the company and has asked management to address the issue of underrepresentation of women in senior management. A statement said: “”As part of the executive directors’ strategic objectives, there is a commitment to gender-balanced shortlists of candidates at the beginning of a recruitment process. Liontrust’s current gender balance is broadly 67:33 male/female with men dominating in more senior positions. This reflects the history of the asset management industry and is typical of the financial industry as a whole.

The board and senior management are actively seeking to address this, and we have seen a 5% swing towards women in the last year.

It also highlighted the formation of the Liontrust Diversity and Inclusion Committee, chaired by the CIO/CFO, which provides feedback and recommendations to the Management Committee, Nomination Committee and the Liontrust Asset Management board.

Rathbones stated: “Rathbones has increased female representation on our executive committee from 10% to 30% over the past six years through initiatives including mentoring, leadership training and becoming a member of inclusive companies. We are committed to driving progress on gender balance at Rathbones and it will continue to be an area of focus for both succession planning as well as leadership development at both board and executive committee level.”

Representing Brewin Dolphin, Richard Buxton, group people & sustainability director, said:  “Due to recent board changes, we have unfortunately dipped below the 33% board threshold but we expect to address this soon. Meanwhile, the review highlights our progress with 44% female representation within our combined executive committee and their direct reports.

“Diversity and inclusion continue to be a strategic focus for the leadership team and we are committed to working hard to achieve better gender balance at board level and across our organisation.” 

Meanwhile, abrdn was also named as one of the top 10 best performers in terms of women’s representation on boards, and a number of investment companies were flagged for their representation: Aberforth Smaller Companies Trust (60%), Finsbury Growth & Income Trust (60%), Impax Environmental Markets (60%), Schroder Oriental Income (60%) and Scottish American Investment Company (60%).

Wider progress

Overall, the report praised the progress for FTSE companies in general and the UK has climbed the country table to rank second behind France in terms of senior women’s representation.

The report stated FTSE 100 women’s board representation now stands at 39.1%, up from 36.2% at the beginning of 2021.

“On an individual company basis 85 FTSE 100 boards have met, or exceeded the prior 33% target, and almost half of all FTSE 100 companies now have 40% or more women on their board,” the report said.

The FTSE 250 has made similar progress with women’s representation now standing at 36.8%, up from 33.2% at the beginning of 2021.

See last year’s findings: Number of women on FTSE boards jumps but ‘more to be done’ at executive level

In terms of executive committees and direct reports, the FTSE 100 has made “steady progress again this year”, with the number of women represented increasing to 32.5%, up from 30.6% last year. For the FTSE 250, its 30.7%, an increase on 28.5% the previous year.

“The total number of roles in the population has increased in the year, with good growth in both the number of women on the executive committee and in the direct reports population. The key drivers of progress are turnover and the appointment rate of women over men. Across the FTSE 350 leadership population the turnover has dropped to around 22%, reducing the available opportunities in the year. The appointment rate of women remains low in a continuing theme, at just 38% and almost two out of every three roles going to men.”

However, the number of women in CEO positions remains “flat and stubbornly low” with the report saying there is “much more to do on executive committees, and in some key functional roles, in particular the finance director and the chief information officer” – echoing a sentiment it shared in last year’s review.

New recommendations

The report also set out new targets and recommendations for FTSE firms to consider for the coming year:

  • Increased voluntary target for FTSE 350 boards, and for FTSE 350 leadership teams to a minimum of 40% women, by the end of 2025.
  • FTSE 350 companies to have at least one woman in the chair or senior independent director role on the board, and/or one woman in the chief executive or finance director role in the company, by the end of 2025.
  • Key stakeholders to set best-practice guidance, or have mechanisms in place to encourage FTSE 350 boards that have not achieved the prior 33% target, to do so.

It also said the scope of the review will be extended to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.

30% Club global chair Ann Cairns, commented on the report’s findings: “Strategic collaboration will make all the difference in seeing the progress we’ve seen in the boardroom play out at executive committee level and result in more female CEOs and significantly more leadership opportunities for women of colour. We are a multi-racial society, and it’s high time our boards an executive leadership teams reflect that.

“What this new data from the FTSE Women Leaders Review also reiterates is that we don’t need mandates – aspirational targets change not just the numbers but also the culture inside companies.” 

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...