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IWD 2022: In conversation with our women

March 7, 2022

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to celebrate our team, empower others and share some of the stories that make our women successful. As this year’s theme is ‘break the bias’, we asked a group of Channel Capital and affiliated investment manager partner colleagues about what IWD means to them – with a look at past and present experiences in the professional world, to viewpoints on the path to achieving equality and change, as well as one key business or investment theme for the year ahead.

Magda Dantas

Head of Client Services, Channel Capital

International Women’s Day (IWD) means recognising the efforts of many women that fought and raised their voices to create a better world with equal opportunities for all. But we must not forget to show solidarity for women in other parts of the globe that still don’t enjoy the same rights we see in the western world.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had several strong and inspiring female figures during my work career and life in general. I’ve worked alongside brilliant women that supported and guided me along the way. Putting gender aside, I always felt supported by colleagues and organisations. I’ve always worked hard and took great pride in what I do, I think that enjoying what you do is the key to success in your career journey.

On change, we must continue to encourage and promote healthy conversations; we can definitely bridge the gender gap. Stopping the biases most women face at work is critical to moving forward and securing a more prosperous landscape for woman in finance.

One theme that is set for growth is gender equality and climate change. There is greater understanding of the link between gender equality and the response to climate change, and it is vital to ensure equal space and resources for women and men to participate in climate change decision making and action at all levels.

Kristen Fontaine

Director, Head of Consultant Relations, Eolas Capital

IWD is a celebration of how far we have come, and an acknowledgement of how far we still have to go. I have been fortunate to have had great mentors over the years who have encouraged me in personal growth, as well as career development. These mentors have inspired me through their leadership and their humbleness. They have supported my ambitions, celebrated my successes, and guided me to learn from my failures. It is through their example that I strive to mentor others in my field, hoping to share the wisdom that has been passed on to me.  

Working in a historically male-dominated industry, the unconscious bias to treat women differently in the workplace is an ongoing challenge, but one I believe we can overcome.  Awareness and acknowledgement of any bias is on each of us and, through personal reflection, and open dialogue with each other, we can create the building blocks for driving positive change.

“Looking to the year ahead, my firm has put an emphasis on investing time and resources into women-led small and emerging investment managers. We believe there is great opportunity in this space, and it is an area that is historically underrepresented.”

Rebecca Gibson

Head of Compliance and Governance, Channel Capital

IWD means taking time out to specifically recognise the contribution of women to our society, especially those who would ordinarily be overlooked. Throughout my career, I’ve always been encouraged, by both men and women, to strive to be the best I can be.  I have been blessed in that my contribution has (almost) always been requested and also valued.  That did make my road a bit easier.  But it has also been necessary to put in a lot of hard work along the way, to build trust and good working relationships, so that gender is not even a factor.  

I genuinely hope we get to the point where we, as women, no longer have to strive for equality – I guess that would be utopia!  Throughout my career I have encountered a number of people (both men and women) who are stuck in the past, and struggle to adapt to a world where women have a voice, have an opinion and can positively contribute to any conversation.  Unfortunately, some people will likely never change.  

“I appreciate diversity – there is benefit in allowing the contributions from people from all walks of life, age groups, cultural differences and certainly genders.  I believe that we should be the example that we want the world to be.”

My advice is never give up!  We continue to face so much adversity; we’ve had bushfires, cyclones, COVID and now floods (again!).  In the workplace, many people strive to make a difference and be heard.  This year we should choose not to be defeated.  Continue to be passionate about what you believe in and work hard towards achieving your goals – both in and out of the workplace!

Angela Dovitsas

Chief Marketing Officer, Channel Capital

I have been fortunate to have worked with many supportive and driven men and women throughout my career and today I’m surrounded by some of the most authentic and people focused leaders. Sadly however, I also saw the gender bias play out in my earlier years and unfortunately it is still prevalent in some sectors. In our industry, we have made enormous headway on this front, and I am extremely pleased to see board diversity evolve with some of our top ASX listed companies now led by females. The most current Australian Institute of Company Directors stats show that today, there are no boards on the ASX 200 without women. With more brands focused on transparency, diversity and sustainability, I’m hoping this trend will continue to accelerate.

One of the big themes we're seeing is the growth of private markets, that is private equity, private debt, infrastructure and real estate investments. Once only thought of as an institutional investment offering, wholesale investors now have wider access to solutions in private capital markets to help diversify risk and access strong returns. However, what many people may not realise is that they may already be exposed to private markets through their super fund, as Australian super funds make up almost 50% of the assets invested in private markets. Private capital is important in stimulating the economy by making long term investments in innovation and technology as well as climate impact, and we believe this will continue to grow in the years ahead.

Kate Samranvedhya

Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Jamieson Coote Bonds

This year’s theme for IWD is #BreakTheBias. I am still shocked to hear news of court cases where women in equivalent roles to men are paid much less. This bias has to stop. From the employer’s perspective, the legal risk from unjustifiable unequal gender-bias compensation has risen remarkably. Hopefully, these legal examples will set the course towards more equal pay for women. Another bias I see often is in the family home. In Asia, I’ve interviewed many women who are looking for a less time consuming job and are willing to accept slightly lower pay, in order to have time to look after their children, with very few male candidates responding the same way. The expectation of gender role at home is still tilted towards women for household and child-rearing responsibilities, at least in Asia. In a way, modern fathers can help shape the future of their daughters by helping their wives at home.

In many shapes and forms, various people motivate me, mentor me, hand me opportunities to shine, give me challenges to test my grit. In hindsight, the ebbs and flows of my journey have all been a lesson. This year, my lesson is learning to lean on other people for help, even when I don’t think I need it. I feel grateful when help materialises from all directions, sometimes from the most unexpected people and places.

The social construct on women’s equality has evolved to the point where the strive towards gender equality is the current cultural goal. What women can do as a collective is to raise our standards to the opportunities that are being handed to us. In core values, this means showing up with gratitude, preparation and passion. At the early stage of my career, my boss taught me to prepare like an understudy. In theatre, an understudy is a performer who learns the role of the leading actor/actress in a play, to be as good as the lead and be able to perform in a short notice in their absence. That’s the level of preparation and passion I’d like to see in the younger generations. One can never know when the opportunity will present itself. This mentality will carry through to whatever change or opportunity we pursue.

“The social construct on women’s equality has evolved to the point where the strive towards gender equality is the current cultural goal. What women can do as a collective is to raise our standards to the opportunities that are being handed to us.”

Our key theme for 2022 for all asset classes is to move up to the highest quality and liquidity strata in each asset class. Two key developments shape this conviction. The first one is that central banks around the world stop expanding their balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve is also considering Quantitative Tightening. Central banks are going to fight inflation by reversing the stimulus they put in place during the pandemic. They are taking back the easy-flowing excess liquidity in the system, in global synchronisation. The unwinding of liquidity flow can lead to higher volatility and will expose vulnerabilities in lower quality assets. The second development is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We are thinking beyond a simple direct exposure to Russia. By the sheer fact of higher geopolitical risk and higher volatility, emerging market assets should require a higher premium. The implication of cutting Russia out of SWIFT also heightens liquidity risk and the risk of oil supply disruption remains to be seen.

Joanne Evdokimov

Manager, People and Culture, Channel Capital

IWD is a day dedicated to celebrating all women from all backgrounds and recognising their achievements and contribution to their workplace, their families and their communities. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the issues that women face in their lives and to consider what we can do to create a more equal and inclusive environment in supporting women to achieve and grow.

After having children and returning to the workforce, I have found balancing motherhood with a career to be challenging at times.  Although not openly discussed, I think this can be a common challenge women face during their careers. With that in mind, it’s important that companies be aware of these challenges and work together to support women during these times.  I appreciate the way in which Channel has always shown understanding, flexibility and encouraged career development following my return to work.

On the topic of change, we need to be encouraging conversation and awareness around these matters, to highlight the importance of equality and build an environment where women feel valued and supported.  Providing a flexible and inclusive workplace where women are given opportunities for growth and development allows for greater gender equality in leadership roles.

At a people level, diversity and inclusion is one of our key business themes for 2022.  It is important for us to have a diverse and inclusive workplace where staff feel a sense of belonging and are valued for the unique contribution they make to the business.  It’s an exciting phase for the business and I’m proud to be a part of the group working toward this.

Lucie Bielczykova, CFA

Associate Portfolio Manager, Revolution Asset Management

IWD provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of all the incredible women around us. Our society has made significant progress towards gender equality across education, workplaces and boardrooms over the past few decades. IWD gives us a platform to celebrate this and to encourage more young rising women to follow and thrive! But it also reminds us that there is still some way to go, and that equity and inclusion aren’t the norm in many parts of the world.

I have been very fortunate to have been supported by strong female and male role models in every step of my career journey. My mum and grandma have been my biggest supporters and role models. Mum raised me and my two sisters on her own, juggling family and small business to provide for us while overcoming all the challenges life threw at her. We didn’t have much but she did whatever she could to support my education and junior athlete career (I was once a competitive dancer!). She taught me the value of dedication and persistence (and accounting basics), while my grandma - having grown up in the Czechoslovakian post-war era − brought perspective and taught me modesty and kindness. These lessons have been pivotal for my career. If it wasn’t for their support, I wouldn’t be who I am today and almost certainly wouldn’t have gone across the world to pursue higher education and a career.

Today, I am surrounded by strong male and female role models at Revolution and Channel who empower me every day. I have had amazing mentors in my professional life who have been willing to guide me and pass on their valuable experience. They have taught me to always speak up, never be afraid to ask questions and have encouraged me to make decisions, which allowed me to grow.

On changing the equality mindset − it starts with awareness. Everyone can do their part by raising conversations about gender equality. While we have come a long way, there is still a lot of progress to be made even here in Australia, particularly in the areas of economic participation and opportunity. Women spend almost three times as much time taking care of children each day compared to men, account for two thirds of carers for the older and disabled and on average retire with just over half of financial resources available to men*. So, talk to the people around you, empower women in your organisations and remember that achievements can take many forms – career related or personal – to ‘break the bias’!

“I have had amazing mentors who have been willing to guide me and pass on their valuable experience. Today, I am surrounded by strong male and female role models at Revolution and Channel who empower me every day.”

This year, with the prospect of higher inflation and rising interest rates around the world making investors nervous, investors should be looking to shift into floating rate investments to protect their capital. Most traditional investments are set to struggle over the year ahead as rates rise and traditional bonds, equities (particularly growth stocks), infrastructure and property which enjoyed the ride down (falling interest rates) will face headwinds as rates increase. Investors should be looking to alternatives that can shield them from the adverse impact of inflation and rising rates, such as private debt. Defensive private debt actually benefits from rising rates, as the rising base rate adds to the yield while protecting investor capital.

Katherine Youhanna

Executive Director, Channel Capital

In observing this special day across the world, women can be appreciated for their remarkable contribution to every aspect of our human existence. Not simply with respect to a basic biological capacity to bring other human beings into the world, but rather in celebration of their individual selves and vast array of talents and skills spanning the arts, design, childcare/homemaking, science, medicine, caring professions, engineering, construction, finance – the list goes on. Such incredible diversity, yet I hope that as a sisterhood we share a common aspiration to nurture, protect, sustain and evolve and that this serves as an effective counterweight to some of the more negative forces currently at play. We are certainly ‘in numbers too big to ignore’!

With the utmost candour, I must say that when I started my career 30 years ago, professional life was very different to how things are now. At that time, men appeared to always hold the seat of power and it was generally thought the best way to succeed was to dutifully perform in line with their expectations or to even mimic their behaviour. And in their defence, they were most probably imitating the men that had gone before them! So, there wasn’t a lot of dedicated support on offer – it was mainly ‘sink or swim’ and swimming meant adding perceivable value despite lacking both the currency and fraternity of my male counterparts.

Today, I realise the great importance of different voices and ways of expression, to not merely replicate that which has been done before, as there is no advantage in creating a female workforce of pseudo men! By appreciating what they intrinsically have to offer, women can provide a differentiated energy/perspective, creating a more varied approach when it comes to everyday project execution, setting company culture and helping lead a business to sustainable success. Hats off to the many men in the business world who I know appreciate this, although there is still a fair way to go to revolutionise entrenched behaviour and business practices. I’m looking forward to the day when the concept of a ‘boys club’ is looked upon as utterly archaic and considered extremely ‘uncool’ by the new generation of professionals – perhaps that day has already arrived.

From as far back as the Suffragettes (and indeed way before that) to the present day, women have firmly taken a foothold in many societies because of the efforts of those who have insisted their equality be recognised and enforced. This effort can be sustained by more women occupying leadership positions and additionally fire-powered by those who understand that recognising diversity/equality in all its forms is an evolutionary imperative which produces better outcomes for all. There is a slow, quiet transformation occurring, bringing with it a spirit of fairness, sharing and collective good. As women have had to struggle to achieve equality, they are readily equipped to take up the fight for equality across the board, for minorities and anyone considered different to the prevailing dominant power. In this way, the goal to achieve women’s equality is further elevated by bringing other marginalised groups with it – and I’d like to think this work will be supported and carried out by all enlightened women and men regardless of any personal differentiators.

The world is facing many challenges at present, so from a business standpoint, I believe now more than ever it is important to focus on quality, resilience and consolidation. For example, closely reviewing business performance in the face of ongoing volatility, identifying/analysing strengths and weaknesses and especially looking out for any new developments which may require additional vigilance from a controls perspective. Applying a high level of scrutiny paints a clear, authentic picture of how the business is currently comprised and where it’s heading. No one has access to that elusive crystal ball, however, conscientious attention to what you currently have within your control or influence can provide the best possible position from which to navigate the unknown.

And may the ESG star continue to rise! The responsible, effective deployment of capital via ESG-related investment management remains a key, transformative opportunity for all investors to put into action worldwide.

Nicole Mardell

Senior Global Equities Analyst, Bell Asset Management

IWD is a wonderful way to acknowledge the contribution of women in society and the progress that has been made towards equality. However also a reminder, while we have come a long way, there is still much work to do to ensure work cultures are truly inclusive and allow women the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Regarding my career journey, I have had a wonderful mentor who is a senior figure in the superannuation and investment industry.  He is currently Chair of the Investment Committee for a large Industry Super Fund. We first crossed paths when I started on the Graduate Program at Colonial Ltd back in the late 1990s.  He was particularly supportive in creating an opportunity for me in London, where I started my investment career, and through various career moves in that market whilst we were both working over there.   His mentorship has continued since moving back to Melbourne, over ten years ago now.  He has continued to be a valued influence, where in turn, he has reached out to me for my thoughts especially as it relates to women in the workforce, what it means to be a female working in the global investment management industry in particular, and how the industry could move forward.

“I have had a wonderful and supportive mentor who is a senior figure in the superannuation and investment industry, with his mentorship continuing for over 20 years now.”

I believe one step towards achieving equality can be through flexible working conditions as a standard, for both women and men.  It also goes without saying, equal pay is also paramount to ensure equality.  We need to continue to strive for work to be more accessible for women, and now is the time for change.  Given the last two years of lockdowns, we’ve proven flexible working conditions can improve productivity and be a positive benefit for both men’s and women’s wellbeing.  We now need to ensure we keep moving this forward.

One key investment theme that is top of mind for fund managers right now is inflation and interest rates.  Inflation is coming in every direction, creating a spike that hasn’t been seen for a very long time and as a result, is bringing the investment discussion back to style where we could see a significant divergence between value and growth.  Interest rate expectations are keeping valuations front of mind for investors.  These two are not mutually exclusive though, nor is their consideration when it comes to investing.

At Bell Asset Management, our investment style is ‘Quality’ at a reasonable price, and we feel this will do incredibly well in the current environment.  Our focus on quality and company fundamentals, together with our discipline on valuations to ensure we don’t overpay for that quality, means we are well placed to navigate through a high-inflationary environment.  We continue to find lots of opportunities and are optimistic about our strategies continuing to provide robust risk adjusted returns for investors.

* Australian Human Rights Commission, Face the facts: Gender Equality 2018

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