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Gender-lens’ Investors Direct Their Money To Women-led Companies

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Gender-lens' Investors Direct Their Money To Women-led Companies

Gender-lens investors are looking to direct their money to companies with more women on their boards and in management.

Greater gender diversity is related to higher stock performance, improved risk management and lower incidences of fraud, research shows.

It’s a small but growing focus in the environmental, social and governance investing movement: gender equity.
So-called gender-lens investing prioritizes companies with higher representation of women on their boards and in management positions, as well as those that score well on pay equity and other workplace policies that especially help women, such as generous paid leave plans.

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“We’re seeing more investors, primarily women … looking to bring a gender lens to their portfolio,” said Kathleen McQuiggan, a financial advisor at Artemis in Boston.

Roughly $3.6 billion is invested in the more than two dozen mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other equity products that zero in on this strategy, according to Parallelle Finance, a gender-lens research and advisory firm. That amount is just a sliver of the $330 billion invested in the broader category of ESG investing in the U.S., according to Morningstar.

Yet the amount flowing into these funds has grown steadily over the past five or so years due to an increased appetite from investors. The #MeToo movement and high-profile sexual harassment cases have contributed to the rising interest in supporting companies with greater representation of women or with policies that support gender equity.

Some gender-lens funds have performed well this year, while others have lagged. For example, the S&P 500 Index posted a 24% return through October, compared with 17.6% for the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund, according to Morningstar Direct.

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Saying something is gender-lens-focused doesn’t mean it won’t use investment criteria.
Nevertheless, “there is no reason to think you’ll underperform,” said Jon Hale, director of ESG strategy at Morningstar. “Saying something is gender-lens-focused doesn’t mean it won’t use investment criteria.”

What’s more, greater gender diversity at a company is related to higher share price performance, improved risk management and lower incidences of fraud, said Angela Atherton, principal of operations and strategy at Parallelle Finance.

“I personally believe the funds will outperform in the long run,” said McQuiggan, describing more women across firms’ workforce as “the secret ingredient for why you might want to own this fund instead of that fund.”

Eleven new gender-lens funds have popped up since 2018, including four in just the past year, according to Parallelle Finance.

In another sign of the strategy’s growth, the assets under management in the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund — which is a forerunner in the space, dating back to 1993 — have doubled over the last 20 months, to nearly $1 billion from $500 million.

The fund, which requires a minimum investment of $1,000 and has an expense ratio of 0.78%, tracks some 400 companies by their representation of women on their board of directors and their transparency with gender diversity data, among other factors. More than a third of the fund’s firms have female CEOs, for example, compared with 17% of those in the MSCI World Index.

Beyond the bottom line, there may also be an element of advocacy to these gender-lens strategies.

“The impact we’re looking to address are cultural challenges that make it hard for underrepresented populations to thrive in their organizations,” said Nicole Connolly, portfolio manager of the Fidelity Women’s Leadership Fund, which looks for companies with at least one-third of their board seats held by women.

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Women hold just a third of S&P 500 board seats today, and only 6% of the firms in the index are headed by women.
At investment manager Nia Impact Capital, pushing for gender equity is an ongoing endeavor.

The firm’s $470 million Global Solutions Equity Portfolio consists of 50 companies that not only have women in leadership positions but also offer products and services that are beneficial to women and girls (such as breast cancer research).

Nia votes all proxies, as well as talks to companies specifically about diversity, inclusion and gender issues, and shares best practices related to fair pay, diversity and recruiting techniques.

“We’re engaging actively with every company, bringing our investor voice as a right and responsibility as far as what the world needs,” said Kristin Hull, CEO and founder of Nia.

The portfolio comes with an investment minimum of $100,000 and is available as a separately managed account through trading platforms like Fidelity Investments or Charles Schwab, Hull said. The cost ranges from 0.7% to 1.5% of assets managed, depending on where the account is held and how much money you have invested.

In the end, investors can only do so much to improve the representation of women across corporate America, experts caution. They say legislation and regulation are also needed.

There’s been recent movement on those fronts too.

In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved Nasdaq’s rule for newly listed companies, which will require most of the firms to have at least two diverse board directors, or to explain why they don’t. The stock exchange operator found that more than three-quarters of its currently listed companies don’t meet that standard.
Meanwhile, a dozen states have passed legislation to improve diversity on boards, or are on their way to doing so.

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CBN Gives Fresh Detail About Opay, Palmpay, Moniepoint, Others

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Cardoso through the CNB in April placed an embargo on Opay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, Moniepoint and other fintech companies from onboarding new customers,

By John Michael Ojo

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Cardoso, during the MPC meeting on Tuesday revealed that mobile money operators who are currently being restricted from enrolling new customers would soon be allowed to carry our their operations without any form of restrictions in the next few months.

Cardoso who stated this in Abuja, denied revolking the licences of these fintech companies.

The CBN Governor, claimed that the Central Bank was working round the clock by engaging with stakeholders in order to strengthen the activities of Fintech companies in the country.

He added that the CBN is also working to mitigate against every loophole used by criminal elements to facilitate money laundering within the financial system while maintaining the integrity of the industry.

“I am confident that as time goes on, and hopefully in another couple of months, all these will be something of the past and then you will see that sector going back into what they’ve been known to do before, but certainly with a very stronger regulatory framework,” he said.

Cardoso through the CNB in April placed an embargo on Opay, Palmpay, Kuda Bank, Moniepoint and other fintech companies from onboarding new customers, a move which was heavily criticized and seen as a gag on the financial sub-sector.

However, the CBN Governor who has now provided the public with more details about the action of the apex bank on the fintech companies said: “The fintechs have not been singled out for any exceptional kind of treatment. The CBN remains proud of the exploits of fintech firms in the last number of years and the apex bank will continue to support and strengthen them.

“However, regulation is very critical in a sector that seems to have grown so incredibly rapidly.

“More recently, we had the cause to take a deep dive look at the whole issue of illicit flows and money laundering particularly within the non-heavily regulated banking system and we all know some of the issues that came out with cryptos and some of the messages we put out after that, which of course gave us some cause to know that there is the need for heightened surveillance,” Cardoso stated.

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Access Holdings Gets New CEO To Replace Wigwe 

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Bolaji Agbede

By John Michael OJo

Following the death of its Co-founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr Herbert Wigwe in a helicopter crash on Friday night in the United States, Access Holdings Plc on Monday appointed Ms. Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings.

This was made known in a statement by the company’s Board of Directors dated February 12, 2024.

The statement which added that the appointment was subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria, reads: “Further to its announcement dated February 11, 2024, the Board of Directors of Access Holdings Plc (‘the Company’) has today announced the appointment of Ms Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of the Company following the unfortunate demise of its former Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr Herbert Wigwe, on February 9, 2024.

“The appointment is subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria,” the statement read in part.

Agbede  who joined Access Bank in 2003 as an Assistant General has nearly three decades of professional experience cutting across banking and business consultancy services.

She has also served in different roles at the bank including, Head, Group Human Resources between 2010 and 2022 before she was appointed the company’s founding Executive Director, Business Support in 2022, a role she held until her new appointment

Agbede who commenced her professional career in Guaranty Trust Bank, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Lagos and a Masters of Business Administration Degree from Cranfield University UK in 2002.

She is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Management UK and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria.

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Ogun Constitutes Ambassadors To Intensify Efforts On Investment Drive

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L-R: Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (Ogun State), Mr. George Onafowokan; Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo; Special Adviser, OgunInvest, Ms. Sola Arobieke; Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adebola Sofela; Zonal Director, Nigeria Investment Promotion Council, Mr. Hassan Lawal, at the OgunInvest Ambassadors Network Inauguration and Orientation Course held at OgunInvest Office, Isheri, Ogun State.

Ogun State Governor Prince Dapo Abiodun has inaugurated a 12-man committee of Ogun Invest Ambassador Network to create a robust and seamless working relationship between government and investors, for businesses to thrive.

Governor Abiodun, during the inauguration and orientation course for the ambassadors, at Ogun Invest Office, Isheri, in Ifo Local Government Area of the state, said the initiative was a landmark in the history of the state, as it would make a huge difference to the growth of current and potential investors willing to do business in the state.

He explained that the ambassadors would be responsible for enlightening investors on how to harness the opportunities that abound and what they stand to gain by doing business with the state, adding that their role is pivotal in building bridges, fostering collaboration and attracting investors that would propel the state to new heights.

Governor Abiodun, represented by the Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo tasked the ambassadors to sharpen their communication skills, charging them to make accountability and transparency their watchword.

The state’s helmsman disclosed that the government would, on a regular basis, carry out an evaluation performance on them through private organisations transacting business with the state, promising that those who performed well would be compensated accordingly.

Speaking, Commissioner for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adebola Sofela, who admonished them to be diligent, in making Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency a success, described them as a link between government and investors, saying a proper regulatory framework would be established to earn investors trust and respect.

Identifying the calibre of people in the network chain, Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr. Olaolu Olabimtan, noted that a new lease of life would soon commence in the state investment journey, expressing the hope that their selection would ensure a critical turning point in the investment atmosphere of the state and charged them to bring to bear their professionalism in the course of enhancing the industrial sector

Earlier, the Special Adviser on Ogun State Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency (Ogun Invest), Ms. Sola Arobieke, said the initiative was part of the drive to attract investments, enhance ease of doing business and carry out the service of a one-stop shop, to ensure access to relevant information and streamline processes for investors in the state, pointing out that the Ambassadors Network is a team of dedicated individuals from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), saddled with investment-related functions, to ease the settling of investors and investments into the state.

On his part, the Managing Director, Coleman Technical Industries Ltd., Mr. George Onafowokan, who spoke on, “Promoting Investment Through Service Excellence”, said the selected ambassadors should see their nomination as an opportunity to serve and see themselves as representatives of the state front liners at giving investors excellent service and be ready to drive both existing and potential investors through excellent service delivery

The 12 ambassadors inaugurated include Consultant, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mr. Fatai Adeboyejo; Deputy Surveyor-General, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mrs. Halimat Yusuf; Director, Physical Planning, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mrs. Felicia Aleburu; Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Physical Planning and Urban Development Mr. Jolaoluwa Olugbemisola; Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Suraj Fashola; Director, Land Acquisition, Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mr. Anifowose Olatunji and Director of Commercial Services, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Olumuyiwa Ogunsanwo.

Others are Director of Environmental Quality Control, Ministry of Environment, Mrs. Mary Adeosun; Director of Geological Services, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Lekan Eniolawun; Director, Estate and Facility Management, Ogun State Property Investment Corporation, Mr. Olusola Abijo; Director, Estate, Housing Corporation, Mr. Nafiu Olaleye and Deputy Director, Local Government Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mrs. Olapemiju Quadri.

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