Gender-lens investing 'is coming into its own'

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Financial advisors are finally finding more options for clients who want to invest in funds that support women and girls.

“Gender-lens investing began percolating about nine years ago, and has been really growing and developing,” said Luisamarie Ruiz Carlile, a senior wealth manager with Veris Wealth Partners in New York. “It’s coming into its own, with women’s marches, more women running for office and the #MeToo movement.”

This investment strategy uses capital to support gender equality in a variety of ways. Some funds invest in companies that promote women into leadership roles, or companies that provide products or services for women and girls. Funds might also focus on getting women entrepreneurs more access to capital.

“Our clients come to us not just wanting financial returns but also to generate social and environmental returns — a triple bottom line,” said Ruiz Carlile about Veris, which has $1.06 billion in AUM.

In 2004, Veris found eight mutual fund products with about $100 million under management that would allow the firm to create a gender-based portfolio, said Ruiz Carlile, who was speaking at the Most Powerful Women in Banking LEAD conference in New York. Two years later, there was an almost sixfold increase, she said.

The options have grown dramatically. “Last year we were able to count about $910 million in assets under management as of June, and 23 products we were able to jump on,” Ruiz Carlile told conference attendees. “It’s definitely an accelerating, interesting, innovative field.

Investment products Ruiz Carlile highlighted included the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund (PXWIX), Morgan Stanley’s Parity Portfolio, which has a gender-lens investment strategy, and State Street Global Advisors’ Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE).

“I like to think about us reimagining our portfolios so that they resonate in a way they haven’t before,” said Ruiz Carlile.

Until recently, there haven’t been many investment options, but fortunately for the firm, and other advisors who are seeking gender-lens options, she added, “Acceleration is the keyword.”

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Gender issues Diversity and equality Mutual funds Stocks ESG State Street Global Advisors Morgan Stanley