Wells Fargo fund managers are bridging the gender gap
Three fund managers for Wells Fargo Asset Management talk about their careers and the unique insights they bring to a field with few female portfolio managers.
Ann Miletti originally planned to become a teacher. When faced with her child’s serious illness, however, she quickly changed plans and took a job as a representative at a call center talking to mutual fund investors, which offered more flexible hours.
She worked her way up through various jobs in the industry and today, Miletti, a Wells Fargo portfolio manager in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is the lead portfolio manager for an equity team that manages the $1.7 billion Wells Fargo Opportunity Fund and other investments.
In an industry dominated by men, Miletti, Margie Patel, and Henrietta Pacquement — also portfolio managers for Wells Fargo Asset Management — stand out.
Collectively, they have 82 years of investment experience and manage investments worth $7.6 billion.
An ironic gender gap
In the world of finance — whose credo is ‘buy quality and diversify’ — there isn’t much diversity when it comes to who actually manages the assets.
In fact, of the 15,000 portfolio managers Citywire tracks worldwide, just 10 percent are women. Wells Fargo is slightly ahead of the industry trend, said Kristi Mitchem, head of Wells Fargo Asset Management, with women representing 12.5 percent of the company’s portfolio managers.
“As women, I think we have got a lot to offer as portfolio managers,” Pacquement, a member of the ECM Asset Management team of Wells Capital Management in London, said. “Our appetite for risk-taking is different than that of men. Ideally, you want more of a balance between men and women on a team to exchange ideas and have different viewpoints.”
A growing body of research shows that women tend to hold investments longer, stick to their plans more, and react less reflexively to volatility — making them skilled money managers whose investments usually outperform those of their male counterparts over time.
Despite this research, Miletti said she has “been to conferences where you could count 12 women in a room of over 300 people … As an industry, we’re having a hard time recruiting women, and finance professors at colleges and universities will tell you they have very few women tracked to go into portfolio management.”
‘I think it's a shame there aren't more of us’
Miletti, Patel, and Pacquement agree that there are a host of reasons for the lack of women in the portfolio management ranks, including education and interests, work-life balance concerns, perceptions of the financial services industry, and more.
Patel, who was named a top 20 female portfolio manager in the U.S. in December 2016 by Citywire, credits her initial success to “a quantitative and economic background — I majored in economics and minored in math — which gives me a broader perspective when I look at the markets and the economy.” She said she continues to succeed because of her ongoing fascination with the industry, a proven track record, and strong relationships with suppliers and customers.
Mitchem discussed the gender disparity in asset management on a Bloomberg Markets television segment, explaining that there is an underrepresentation of women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics academic fields, and a pool of too few successful women portfolio managers to emulate.
“Women are self-selecting out of the financial services industry,” said Mitchem. “I think it’s imperative, if we want to be successful, for us to reach out and try to re-recruit those women into finance.”
Pacquement, who was named by Citywire as a top 20 female portfolio manager in the world, adds work-life balance concerns to the list of reasons so few women are in the field. Describing the move from analyst to portfolio manager as a second-stage career decision that often coincides with starting a family, she said that workdays are sometimes long due to travel, client meetings, and research to stay current on the companies she’s following.
“I think it’s a shame there aren’t more of us,” said Pacquement, who attributes her career success to her curiosity, and the ‘don’t understand it, don’t buy it’ method she uses to judge investment options.
‘Finance is about helping people’
Scholarship support will help encourage more women to join the field of portfolio management, Miletti said, but she believes something else is needed: helping women see portfolio management and finance itself differently.
“Women want to be in positions where they help somebody, and the world of finance … is often portrayed negatively and consumed by greed and self-interest. The way I look at it, finance is about helping people. Money managers are helping people manage and grow assets so they can send their kids to college, retire, and achieve other life goals.”
Pacquement said better employee and government policies would also help attract more women to the field. Women need the kind of child care benefits and policies, she said, that allow them to pursue a career and have children if they choose to.
“Here at Wells Fargo, I think I am given an equal chance as other colleagues, and have never felt that I was treated differently,” Pacquement said. “I love the excitement of getting up each day to follow what is going on in the world. Having the luxury of being able to interpret it and act on it for our clients is something I thoroughly enjoy,” she said.
Paying it forward
In an effort to provide guidance to other women in the field, Miletti serves as a mentor in a Wells Fargo program that pairs fund managers with female analysts. She loves the time she spends with her mentee, equity portfolio analyst Krista Hughes, who works in Boston.
“I would definitely recommend portfolio management as a career and think the biggest problem for us is visibility about what this career really is,” Miletti said. “The more we can reach down to the high school level so girls will think about finance and asset management as a career, the better.”
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