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#IWD2022: AIC’s Annabel Brodie-Smith on the role of women, diversity and their impact on investment companies

Annabel Brodie-Smith, Communications Director, Association of Investment Companies

In this blog for Wealth DFM to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD2022) today, Annabel Brodie-Smith (pictured), Communications Director of the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) takes a look back at her years ‘in the saddle’ and how things have changed with regard to women and investment companies.

Annabel has been a powerful force in the world of UK investment companies for many years. She will be well known to many right across the advice and investment spectrum, respected as an individual of high integrity, knowledge and experience – as well as for her outgoing and positive nature.   We’ll leave the rest to Annabel:

“Since I started my career in investment twenty-four and half years ago, the work environment for women has transformed but there’s still more change that needs to happen.

“I joined the Association of Investment Companies in 1997 and at that time fewer than 5% of investment company directors were female, there were no female directors on the AIC board and I was the only woman to attend board meetings.  Now 35% of investment company directors are female and 42% of the board are female so today there’s lots of women attending board meetings. Elisabeth Scott is currently the AIC’s fourth female chair. However, there’s still more work to do and we need more female directors and fund managers in our industry and more female CEOs across the investment and financial service industry. We are encouraging more women (and men) from outside our industry to think about becoming an investment company director.  See our website Pathway for more information.  I’m also working with the Diversity Project to encourage more women to think about investment as a career.”

“I would encourage young women to seek a career in financial services.  It’s a dynamic industry full of interesting people whose raison d’etre is to help people manage their money so they can live a happy life– what could be more important!  My tips for success are to be confident in your own abilities and to lean in and express your views – you have just as much to contribute as everyone else.  Work hard and take on board helpful feedback – remember not all feedback is actually helpful.  Find a workplace that really embraces diversity and inclusion and offers women lots of opportunities. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and call out any bias towards women.”

“Diversity is so important for business to thrive.  When I joined the investment industry an article described investment company directors as “male pale and stale”. That was harsh but there was some truth as investment company directors at this time were predominantly retired men who had been investment managers, lawyers or accountants. Now 35% of directors are female and there are investment company directors with communication and marketing expertise, experience on small and large companies, ESG knowledge and myriad skills as well as the more familiar backgrounds. We know there’s more work to do but diversity leads to better decisions and most importantly, to better performance for shareholders.”

“We were delighted to see the FTSE Women Leaders report which stated that  ‘investment trusts not only dominate the Top Ten Best Performers list (among the FTSE 250), they also make up around half of the 92 FTSE 250 on boards already at 40%, or more women’.

“We welcome this report and celebrate the progress that investment companies have made in increasing the representation of women. Since the data for this report was compiled, investment companies have made even further progress, and many have reached the new recommended target of 40%. The AIC have been encouraging our boards to increase their diversity of their boards through initiatives such as our new website, Pathway which encourage people who might not have previously considered a board role to put themselves forward.”

 

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