The fifth annual survey of gender lens investing (GLI) by Veris Wealth Partners shows that investment that aims to support gender balance and equity has increased from US$100 million to US$2.4bn globally in just four years. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are helping to increase access to finance, and product availability is mushrooming – particular as the institutional market gets on board.
City Hive view
The expansion of products and interest from the institutional market is a signal that you can find value in investing in women and girls. Veris have run this survey since 2014, and the tone of the report clearly shows delight in the jump in attributed assets under management and the increasing diversity of investment options. The democratising aspect of this is important too – the increase in ETFs and other liquid but low cost vehicles is key.
And in contrast to what is often the case, these are not all too small to be a realistic institutional option. The 2016 seeding of State Street Global Advisors SHE fund by the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) accounts for US$250m, showing the importance of such institutional partnerships in driving change. Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) in 2018 seeded RBC’s RLDR ETF with US$100m.
This is accompanied by a groundswell in interest and provision for women as investors, with the number of platforms growing, and helping interested investors to be matched with products that fall outside of traditional labelling.
However, once again a call comes for better, more consistent data from companies on gender and diversity. The existence of explicitly GLI strategies helps to create demand for more data – and the development of the ESG listing requirements by, for example, the UN’s Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative can amplify that impact. But there is a way to go.
- Explicitly gender-lens strategies that hold publicly traded securities have increased from eight in 2014 to 35 in 2018. They run across asset classes and structures, and have expanded from the US to Canada, Europe, Australia, Nigeria and Singapore.
- The market is moving from individual products to portfolios, which can be targeted towards a specific outcome such as increasing the representation of women in leadership, or to social goals such as reduction of gender-based violence or improvements to healthcare.
- Veris notes it designed a US$9m fully diversified GLI portfolio, the Women’s Inclusion Portfolio, for Aperio Group. This has led to a public equity investment account, as well related projects on shareholder engagement to increase gender diversity and push for equal pay in companies.
- Success has come from collaborative support from policy makers, advocacy and NGOs, alongside investors.