CFA Society New York hosted the inaugural event of the Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, “Mind the Gap: Survival Guide for Women-Owned Hedge Funds & Emerging Managers” on the evening of July 19, 2016. While diversity & inclusion has always been embedded deeply in CFA Society New York’s DNA, this initiative marks the formalization of the program for members to get together and discuss the topic across the financial services industry.

Diverse teams contribute diverse experiences and lead to improved corporate performances, superior risk-adjusted returns, and better investor outcomes and there is an immense body of knowledge and research that demonstrates this point. Although the business case for diversity is well established, women & minorities are still under-represented in the investment profession globally. According to Preqin, women hold only 10.3% of C-suite positions at single manager hedge funds.

To address this dichotomy, we had two panels that discussed the challenges, lessons and insights for women and minority-owned hedge funds and emerging managers. The event was attended by around 90 industry participants, a majority of whom were CFA charterholders and CFA Society New York members.  The conference was organized by Amy Poster, Contributing Writer, Institutional Investor Magazine and Deepika Sharma, Managing Director of Investments at Astor Investment Management.

The first panel featured Nili Gilbert, CFA, CAIA, Co-founder and Portfolio Manager, Matarin Capital, Anna Nikolayevsky, Founder and Chief Investment Officer, Axel Capital Management and Michelle Kelner, Co-Founder and Senior Partner, Sandglass Capital Management who discussed what led them to launch their own funds, the challenges they have faced over the years and the opportunities that exist in today’s institutional and market environment. The panel was moderated by Seema Hingorani, Founder and Co-Chair of Girls Who Invest and former Chief Investment Officer for the New York City Retirement Systems. All panelists agreed that strong performance, track record and initial size of the fund were key components to the success of the firm, and the issue that most women-owned funds face in attracting institutional capital has to do with smaller fund size. The partners, past employers or mentors they picked along the way during successful career as analysts were also key as running a business requires a much broader skill-set.

Their views were echoed by the institutional panel that followed which started with Meredith Jones, Consultant at Aon Hewitt, who discussed the key findings from her book, “Women of the Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns and How You Can Too”. The panel also featured Jason Lamin, Founder and Managing Partner, Lenox Park LLC, a due diligence advisory firm that advises institutional clients on emerging managers, Kirk Sims, CFA, Investment Officer, Emerging Manager Program, Illinois Teachers Retirement System
and Tracy McHale Stuart, CFA, Managing Partner, Chief Executive Officer, Corbin Capital Partners. The panel was moderated by Amy Poster. The discussion was mainly focused on common problems they see with emerging managers applying for institutional capital and advice for new managers or those looking to launch their own fund.