Women want context and colour to shape their investment choices

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WHEN Phoebe Chamier questioned, during an interview for a wealth management role at Brooks Macdonald, why women were so under-represented in the sector, she did not get quite the answer she might have expected.

Instead, her question triggered a lengthy conversation with the firm’s head of investment management, Mark O’Connor, about the number of both female investment managers and investors.

‘At the end of the conversation, he invited me to join the company and to start asking those questions from within Brooks Macdonald with a view to attracting more female investors and to encouraging young women to consider wealth management as a career option,’ she said.

Indeed, despite loving her role, entering the world of investment manager was not the career which Phoebe had envisaged for herself.

‘Although I’ve been in the industry for ten years now, my degree was in history of art and Italian, which doesn’t directly translate into investments,’ she smiled. ‘When I returned to Jersey after graduating, I wanted to do something creative and something which involved working with people.’

It was a role as an assistant wealth manager at BNP Paribas which first led Phoebe down her somewhat unexpected career path.

‘I soon discovered that the job went far beyond just facilitating payments and managing people’s payments,’ she smiled. ‘The biggest part of the job is building relationships with clients, getting to know them and establishing that trust. It was something of a surprise to discover just how much I enjoyed the work.’

While loving her job, the fact that female investors were in the minority continued to play on Phoebe’s mind.

‘That interview conversation about women in the sector really framed my entry to Brooks Macdonald and, as I started looking at our client base and talking to colleagues, it transpired that a lot of the women – and men – across the group were having similar thoughts,’ explained the senior investment manager.

‘From those conversations, a working group was formed to try to understand why, given that so many women are significantly wealthy in their own right, so few of them are investing. The research that we have done shows that, by 2025, 65% of the world’s wealth will be held by women and yet only one in five females are investing.’

Keen to understand the barriers that were stopping women from making more of their assets, the working group carried out further research.

‘We identified a number of barriers, including the fact that they do not see themselves represented in the industry and that some women do not have the confidence to invest – but the biggest deterrent was a lack of knowledge and understanding of the sector,’ Phoebe explained.

In an effort to overcome these barriers, the team developed Female Folio, a network designed to bring high-net-worth women together and help them to gain the confidence and information they need to ‘make their money work harder for them’.

‘Female Folio gives women access to podcasts, articles and webinars to help them to understand how to invest and the different strategies that are available,’ explained Phoebe. ‘Through its networking events, it will also give them the opportunity to learn directly from other women who have invested and to hear their stories.’

With a focus on lifestyle, Female Folio explains to women what a certain return on their investment will mean for them.

‘Through our research, we found that while a lot of men focused primarily on returns and percentage points, women wanted to know how their investment could enhance their lifestyle,’ said Phoebe. ‘Would, for example, a 5% return per annum pay their child’s school fees? Women wanted that context and colour to shape their understanding.’

And that knowledge, says Phoebe, is something for which women are hungry.

‘While there is a perception that many women are cautious with their money, we have discovered that once they have drilled down into the investment and built up their knowledge, they are prepared to take risks.

‘Women tend to do a lot more reading and due diligence than men. They want that information,’ she added.

While the brand targets women, it is not, says Phoebe, a ‘pink-labelled investment service’.

‘We are not recreating any investment strategies; our research and discretionary management remains the same,’ she said. ‘The difference with Female Folio is the way in which we engage with people and make investing more personalised and relatable, giving women the support of not just our investment managers but also other women whose experiences resonate with theirs.’

For many women who have set up investment portfolios, an ethical focus is, says Phoebe, important.

‘Generally, we have found that female investors can be quite philanthropic and want that ethical focus,’ she said. ‘In common with a lot of men, they are keen to invest in companies that are doing good and in funds which support the environment. These are investments which generally offer good long-term growth prospects but which would be quite risky for short-term investments as the upfront costs are quite high.’

Risk and investment go hand in hand and there is no denying that the markets are going through a particularly volatile time.

‘There are a lot of unknowns at the moment,’ acknowledged Phoebe. ‘No one knows how the war in Ukraine will pan out and there is a lot of talk about a recession in the near future. Even though central banks are doing a diligent job and trying to judge how far, and how quickly, to raise interest rates, there are so many factors at play.

‘While this could deter some first-time investors from entering the market, many experienced investors believe that this is the time to invest.

‘If you look at the way in which the markets perform, you will often see that a lot of the worst days and the best days are grouped close together.

‘When the market goes down, it isn’t a good idea to pull the rip cord and jump out because if you have invested for the long term, you will see your assets recover over time.

‘If, for example, you had pulled out in March 2020 when the markets plummeted because of Covid, you would have missed a huge recovery.’

And it is that long-term message which, for Phoebe, is particularly important.

‘I think there will be more volatility to come but, if you are looking for a long-term investment, there is no better time to start because the focus is on that long-term reward,’ she said.

‘Investing is a bit like eating healthily and going to the gym. You don’t start today and expect fantastic results tomorrow; you have to persevere.’

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