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Top Women in Asset Management shift strategies amid pandemic

Every year, Money Management Executive recognizes women who are making meaningful contributions to asset management. This year, that recognition comes at a time of serious crisis, as the global economy weathers the deep impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

We asked this year's Top Women in Asset Management honorees to discuss how their firms are coping with the crisis, and how this period may reshape the industry.

Several executives note the sudden shift to a fully virtual business model, and the challenges and opportunities that come with the forced adaptation.

"We have effectively gone all digital in many aspects of our work lives at an unprecedented pace," says Ankur Crawford, portfolio manager at Alger. "I believe this change ... could lead to more efficient and productive organizations over the long term."

Lisa Jones, head of Americas and CEO at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management, says, "Our industry has been built on face-to-face meetings, traveling afar to conferences, and meeting with company management and clients." This, she says, will have to be re-examined.

Eileen Storz-Salino, vice president and director of mutual fund services reporting at Eaton Vance, says technology teams supporting asset managers face added pressures: "There has been stress in finding tools that keep the lights on, but — even more important — allow employees to be productive, creative and engaged.

“Keeping the more critical upgrades to systems and projects going will continue, while looking for areas to reduce cost because of the pressure on margins,” she adds.

Melissa Kurtz-Anderson, VP and head of business innovation and strategy at AllianceBernstein, says, "I think we're going to see continued reliance on our ability to digitally connect with clients [and] a greater focus on leveraging data to create impact."

Sheri Hawkins, head of product management at Northern Trust Asset Management, says the industry is embracing technology in ways other industries may be ahead on. "That is certain to drive new ways of interacting with clients and business partners," she says.

Anita Baldwin, head of sustainable investing at Hartford Funds, says, “We are in the sixth week of working remotely … and it seems to me that we were very well prepared for this new world. Specifically for me and my team, it has been very much business as usual.”

Firms that were well-prepared will have a clear advantage in crisis circumstances, says Kelly Young, EVP and CMO at Acadian: “Asset management firms that have invested not just in strong investment teams … but also in technology, communications and thought leadership to better meet client needs will ultimately come out of this crisis stronger.”

The executives also foresee changes to investment strategies.

Marty Willis, CMO at Nuveen, says, "Brands that are purpose-driven and stand for something other than profits will be more desirable to investors."

Jennifer Abate, managing director at Lazard Asset Management, concurs. The crisis, she says, "is going to force investors and allocators of capital to lead with investment solutions that go beyond the traditional style boxes."

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Jessica Elengical, head of ESG strategy, alternatives at DWS, says the pandemic has increased a focus on investments with a social focus, "which, within our business, includes health and wellness, community engagement and resilience planning."

Nina Deka, senior research analyst at ROBO Global, anticipates benefits to tech investment as well. "The pandemic cast a spotlight on ... virtual health care, accelerated therapeutic discovery, factory and warehouse automation, and artificial intelligence," she says.

Perhaps most important is the human element during this extraordinary time. "I imagine a more human-centric future which will, in varying degree, allow for greater flexibility and work-life integration," says Tiffani Potesta, chief administrative officer at Schroders.

“We have seen the importance of personal connections, caring and support that define who we are, as colleagues have shared more than 500 tips on working from home, approaching home schooling and staying healthy,” notes Heather Zuckerman of Neuberger Berman. “This, plus having a robust set of benefit offerings focused on anxiety and mental health, have been critical to helping us come together and manage through in this situation.”

Monali Vora, head of customized beta strategies at Goldman Sachs, says the crisis has helped bring her team closer together. How will the crisis change asset management? “I hope that the social factors, or more specifically, employee safety, benefits and security that have been part of our stewardship and engagement focus at GSAM will increasingly become important considerations in the security selection across the industry,” she says.

The crisis, says Northern Trust Asset Management's managing director, digital investment advice, Sabrina Bailey, "highlights the need for leaders that demonstrate empathy and understanding of the feelings, emotions and needs of employees."

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Jennifer Abate
Managing director, Lazard Asset Management
When Jennifer Abate joined Lazard in 1995, the financial institutions group she now leads was called "the wrap group," in reference to a type of fee structure. The group had seven employees and simply managed ADR portfolios for two broker-dealers. There was no national account effort, as the role had not yet been recognized as a key business strength.

Abate, a pioneer of this role at Lazard, was one of the few to hold the title in the industry at the time. Today the team has 48 people.

Lazard was a founding member of the 30 Percent Club in the U.S., and Abate was part of the first class of mentors to provide guidance, advice and practical help to a group of women across industries.
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Sabrina Bailey
Managing director, digital investment advice, Northern Trust Asset Management
As head of Northern Trust Asset Management's digital investment advice and CEO of Emotomy, the firm's wealth management platform for advisors, Sabrina Bailey leads advancements in tech as well business strategy for digital investment offerings at the firm.

Since joining in 2015, she has led the global expansion of its retirement business, the launch of its client-focused research platform and the development of its target-date offerings.

Bailey focuses on financial education and literacy as a member of the Chicago Finance Exchange, Savings Re-Imagined, Save our Savings Coalition and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association.
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Anita Baldwin
Head of sustainable investing, Hartford Funds
Anita Baldwin has been a leader in moving Hartford Funds into the ESG/sustainable investing space.

In 2015 she advocated for the firm to become a signatory to the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Investment, and she continues to be actively involved with the group. She also played an integral role in launching and promoting the firm's sustainability themed funds.

Baldwin also works with the Women in Investing Network, and is on the Executive Steering Committee for NICSA's Diversity Project North America, which aims to promote a diverse and inclusive global asset management industry.
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Ankur Crawford
Portfolio manager, Alger
In addition to founding the Alger 25 strategies in 2018, which she leads, Ankur Crawford co-manages the Alger Capital Appreciation, Alger Spectra and Alger Focus Equity funds. In all, Crawford co-manages more than $20 billion.

To better assist women's futures, Crawford founded a group focused on networking, career development and support for working mothers employed at the firm. Today, she is a mentor for new employees.

In 2019, Crawford organized an off-the-record event for her female peers in the finance investment industry in an effort to help build a more expansive network for herself and other women, as well as to support and empower the next generation.
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Nina Deka
Senior research analyst, ROBO Global
Throughout her career, Nina Deka has aimed to develop a deep understanding of health care - from its vast unmet global needs to how buyers of new technology make decisions.

Prior to joining ROBO Global, Deka spent six years on the sell side at Piper Jaffray, covering health care IT and the emerging digital health landscape.

Now, at ROBO Global, she utilizes her past experience to offer insights to investors seeking exposure to the rapidly evolving health care landscape.

Outside of the firm, Deka gives back by volunteering with the Covenant House New York, a youth homeless shelter.
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Jessica Elengical
Head of ESG Strategy, Alternatives
An overseer of ESG strategy at DWS' global alts business, Jessica Elengical is more than just a manager. She has led the firm's initiative to embed ESG across its investment processes, oversees sustainability efforts for its private real estate business and regularly speaks at conferences on sustainability.

Elengical is a member of the GRESB North America Benchmark Committee and the Springboard Advisory Committee for the Institute for Real Estate Investment, which aims to help future leaders in the real estate industry. She is an advisor to the International Well Building Institute, an organization aimed at promoting health and wellness in buildings and communities around the world.
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Sheri Hawkins
Head of product management, Northern Trust Asset Management
After joining Northern Trust Asset Management in 1992 in its management development program, Sheri Hawkins soon rose through the ranks to CFO and chief administrative officer of investments.

Most recently Hawkins was named lead of global product strategy, where she and her team are now responsible for implementing product strategy across various product plans.

Hawkins is a mentor in the Chicago metro community through the Children's Home and Aid Society program, which focuses its efforts on low-income families and children. She also serves on the organization's board of trustees and chairs its finance committee.
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Lisa Jones
Head of Americas, CEO, Amundi Pioneer Asset Management
At Amundi Pioneer, Lisa Jones leads the Americas business of a global top 10 asset manager with a leadership position in ESG and responsible investing, and a powerful distribution network. Jones runs a team of over 500 employees across the U.S., Canada and Latin America, and is a member of Amundi's executive committee.

Recognizing the critical importance of a diverse team, Jones has also named herself chief diversity officer. Under this title, she has built a strong coalition of women in the senior management ranks: 50% of the U.S. management committee she heads is made up of women, and 44% of the board of trustees for the Pioneer funds are women.
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Melissa Kurtz-Anderson
Head of business innovation and strategy, AllianceBernstein
Throughout her career, Kurtz-Anderson has worked in traditionally male-dominated areas of the finance industry, including trading firms. She uses wisdom from her own experience to help promote women in her industry and beyond.

In her role at AllianceBernstein, Kurtz-Anderson is responsible for department-wide strategic planning and finance, as well as project management, business analysis, program governance, quality assurance and user design.

She is an active member of Women in Technology of Tennessee, a non-profit that seeks to empower girls and women at every stage of their development and career path.
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Tiffani Potesta
Chief administrative officer, Schroders North America
Managing a team of more than 40 employees, Tiffani Potesta partners with Schroders' CEO to drive the firm's business management and strategy, as well as produce regional plans and procedures tied to growth in North America. On top of implementing strategic process improvements with the firm's senior executive team, Potesta also heads the firm's product and marketing strategy for the Americas out of its New York office.

Today, Potesta is involved in various resource group events at the firm, including its gender equality network, where she focuses on developing sustainability initiatives. She is also a mentor for the Money Management Institute's leadership pathway mentor program.
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Eileen Storz-Salino
Vice president, director of mutual fund services reporting, Eaton Vance Asset Management
Aside from overseeing regulation and compliance for Eaton Vance Asset Management's mutual fund services department, Eileen Storz-Salino has spent the past three decades helping women advance and succeed in their careers. In that time she has been a mentor for the firm's Women's Leadership Exchange, where she co-chairs the recruiting committee in an effort to retain and educate women in the company. She is also a member of Eaton Vance's operating committee for its diversity and inclusion program.

Outside of the firm, she volunteers with Year Up, an organization focused on closing the gender gap through mentoring, as well as the Expected Miracles Foundation.
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Monali Vora
Managing director of customized beta strategies, Goldman Sachs Asset Management
A leader in portfolio management, product development, product strategy and tech-related efforts for Goldman Sachs' customized beta strategies, Monali Vora serves as a portfolio manager for high-net-worth, retail and institutional clients in both mutual funds and separate accounts at the firm.

Vora has served as co-head of the Consumer and Investment Management Division Women's Network since 2018 and has been on the Goldman Sachs Women's Network Operating Committee since 2013. Outside of the firm, she has been an active sponsor and mentor since 2013 at Student Sponsors Partners, a program focusing on bettering the lives of New York City's youth in poverty.
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Marty Willis
CMO and head of client engagement, Nuveen
Marty Willis began her career on the sales desk at MFS Investment Management, where she later became one of the firm's first female wholesalers.

Now at Nuveen, Willis is responsible for creating and developing a unified brand strategy, deploying client and product marketing, corporate communications, digital strategy and marketing communications.

Wills has long been an advocate for women and minorities in asset management. She mentors young women entering the field, along with emerging leaders at the firm.

In 2017, she was recognized for her efforts by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, with its prestigious Gold Award.
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Kelly Young
EVP and chief marketing officer, Acadian Asset Management
Kelly Young was the first person in her family to go to college, where she studied economics and finance. Her interest in the field was piqued by watching the October 1987 market crash unfold.

Now, Young leads the Global Client Group at Acadian, overseeing all business development, client and consultant-facing teams across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Young also serves as co-chair of the firm's Diversity & Inclusion Forum, where she helps to spearhead its commitment to a range of issues around diversity and representation in the workplace. She has also been an active volunteer with charity Challenge Africa.
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Heather Zuckerman
Chief of staff, Neuberger Berman
From her early days in the finance industry, where she specialized in M&A at Shearman & Sterling, to later taking the role of chief administrative officer for financial institutions and consumer/retail at Lehman Brothers, Heather Zuckerman has always been an advocate of improvement.

Today she works closely with Neuberger Berman CEO George Walker to invest in both financial and human capital. As a sponsor for the firm’s diversity initiatives, including its Advocacy Walk — a collection of works on the executive leadership floor to challenge its thinking and provoke discussion — Zuckerman often spends time implementing ways to demonstrate its commitment.