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In an industry still largely dominated by men, there are certain women in asset management who stand out for their unique leadership positions and styles - and their propensity to help others rise in the field. This list - the inaugural Top Women in Asset Management Awards, identifies 10 women influencing the industry and making a substantial impact on their organization and the fund industry. Whether they influence by product development, growing assets or creating more efficiencies, they all have one thing in common: They are pushing the industry forward while at the same time pursuing other passions and in many cases also raising a family.
How did we decide upon these 10 women? Money Management Executive's editorial team sat down earlier this year to discuss some of the biggest industry trends - one of them being a noticeable lack of women at many industry conferences and cited in our publication. At the same time, women are roughly 39% of MME's print and online readers, according to data compiled by Lodestar Research. We discussed an opportunity and a need for stronger female representation within our issues, building on insights and lessons learned from our sister publications' Women Advisors Forum (events tailored to address the professional needs and interests of women in the financial advisory industry). We created a detailed nomination form, sent it out to all our readers, and sifted through lengthy responses with help from our advisory board.
After streamlining the list again and again through countless discussions with industry peers and our own judgment, we whittled the list down to the top 10.
Chief administrative officer
NORTHERN TRUST ASSET MANAGEMENT
The sport of tennis has helped guide the success of this honoree. Ali Bleecker, who helps lead Northern Trust's fixed income team, played tennis competitively in high school and continues to hit the courts when time allows. The passion Bleecker has with a racket has translated to Northern Trust, where she has worked since 2000 and was promoted to her current leadership role in October 2013. "If I had to pick one thing that has helped me grow as a person it would be playing a sport," says Bleecker, who also lists reading and travel as other big passions of hers. "It was definitely a rewarding experience for me." Bleecker says a key part of her position involves bringing together portfolio management with other aspects of the investment organization including product development, operational infrastructure, risk management, audit, compliance and marketing to identify and develop "flagship products." Prior to her current role, Bleecker was director of short duration and global fixed income as well as portfolio manager for various money market mutual funds. She worked with Northern Trusts' Global Fund Services unit to integrate middle office services like confirmations and trade routing in what was described as "a major overhaul" to increase efficiency. Bleecker says she is very "candid" with her management team and likes to explore analytics as much as possible before making key decisions. "It's important as an asset manager to have a strategy and sense of who you are, which is why I have enjoyed participating in our flagship framework process and the development of key products, such as Northern Ultra Short Income and FlexShares Ready Access Variable Income Fund," says Bleecker. "I want to be authentic, charismatic and dynamic enough so that people are compelled to internalize the firm's strategic vision."
Executive vice president and COO of asset management
Carol Deckbar says that her foray into the industry of asset management was "by complete accident." After graduating from Elon University with a degree in business administration she was on the M&A communications side of the business, doing proxy and M&A work while she had children. Her original plan was to leave traditional corporate life and eventually teach math and accounting. Deckbar's third son, however, had health issues, preventing her from leaving her career for financial reasons. "I had to go with a company with insurance that could take him on with these issues. I now love the industry. And now I do teach, just not in the traditional sense. Now I teach leadership and patience," she says, laughing.
Deckbar, 51, is proud of how far TIAA-CREF has come since it first began concentrating on building its mutual fund family - the most striking reflection of that being the firm's recently announced acquisition with Nuveen Investments for $6.25 billion. In March, TIAA-CREF was designated Best Overall Large Fund Group by Lipper for the second consecutive year.
The award recognized TIAA-CREF for having the best overall risk-adjusted three-year performance versus other large fund families. TIAA-CREF Asset Management oversees $569 billion of assets today. After the Nuveen acquisition closes, the combined entities will manage approximately $800 billion. In terms of advice to other women entering the space, Deckbar says "Go for it. Love it. Seek support. Many of the barriers are in our head. When you love it, people seek you out."
Head of investment strategy
Joanne Hill, who has been head of investment strategy at ProShare Advisors since February 2009, is motivated to boost education of ETFs and see more women thrive in asset management. Hill combined these two passions as one of five founding members for Women in ETFs, a new group that launched on Jan. 27. The organization, whose goal is to create increased opportunities for women in the ETF industry, held a launch breakfast attended by 150 women and launched chapters already in seven cities. "I see this as an opportunity for women in the industry to learn more about the ETF industry," says Hill. "I am very excited to be involved with this going forward." Hill has made ETF education with RIAs and investors a major focus since taking on her leadership post at ProShares. She has helped transform ProShares into the leader for alternative ETFs and introduced the industry's first long-short strategy following a 17-year career as a managing director at Goldman Sachs concentrating on the sell-side of money management. "I thought ETFs were going to be a good survivor and winner after the financial crisis," says Hill reflecting back on when she left Goldman Sachs for ProShare five years ago. "There really was a big need for education with ETFs." Prior to starting on Wall Street, Hill was a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts -Amherst and was a research analyst at the Federal Reserve Board. She was influenced early in her career by the late Patricia C. Dunn, who worked her way up the ladder to become CEO of Barclays Global Investors and chairwoman at Hewlett-Packard. "Early in my career I considered her a mentor," says Hill of Dunn, who died in 2011 of ovarian cancer at age 58. "She was a leader in the industry as a woman early on."
Chief investment officer of fixed income
VOYA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT
Christine Hurtsellers balances her role as chief investment officer of fixed income at Voya Investment Management (formerly ING U.S. Investment Management) with raising six boys and an enjoyment of running that includes taking part in marathons. Hurtsellers, who arrived at ING in 2004, uses her passions for family and running in the world of asset management. She leads a team of more than 100 investment professionals with over $125 billion in fixed-income assets under management. In addition, she is a member of the Voya Global Investment Leadership Team and of the U.S. Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee. One of Hurtsellers big missions a decade ago when first entering ING was to launch a hedge fund. This was accomplished in 2011 with the launching of a mortgage hedge fund. "We are seeing more and more demand in alternatives so it has been a great door opener for us," says Hurtsellers of the hedge fund initiative she helped lead. Hurtsellers previously was head of structured finance at ING. Prior to joining ING a decade ago, Hurtsellers received extensive mortgage portfolio management experience at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). In 2012 she was appointed to the Board of Councilors for the Carter Center, an Atlanta-based non-profit organization that aims to advance peace and health initiatives worldwide. When it comes to her management style, Hurtsellers is constantly seeking input from colleagues. "A core philosophy I have is listen more and ask questions," she says. "I have learned to be a great listener."
Executive vice president and chief operating officer
Since assuming the role of Franklin Resources' executive vice president and chief operating officer in March 2010, Jennifer Johnson has worked hard to create enhanced synergy on her team. "My main goal was to increase collaboration across the group," says Johnson, who previously served as executive vice president of operations at technology at San Mateo, Calif.-based Franklin from December 2005 to March 2010. "It is very important that our management teams are collaborating."
An important factor helping to achieve Johnson's goal has been leveraging technology with all employees by having digital video conferencing and social media capabilities. She says more than 200,000 now take part in video conferences each month.
In addition to boosting communication in the firm, assets under management have also risen under Johnson's watch from $556.3 billion in early 2010 to $886.9 billion as of March 31. Johnson describes herself as very "transparent and "data driven," but is also constantly seeking feedback. "I am very transparent," she says. "It's important that people understand when I say something I mean it and don't take it any other way." While Johnson is busy making key strategy decisions at an asset management giant, she also likes to find time for more peaceful moments. When time allows, Johnson travels to Montana for horseback riding. She also describes herself as a huge San Francisco Giants fan but says her biggest passion is being the mother of five children.
Managing director and head of U.S. funds
J.P. MORGAN ASSET MANAGEMENT
Andrea Lisher began her career at JPMorgan Asset Management just after graduating from Boston College in 1996 and in this time has overseen a sea change in momentum with the firm's fund business. In the late 90s, JPMorgan was near the bottom in assets under management. Now the company is ranked eighth among mutual fund managers with $228 billion in assets making up a 2.41% market share and eyeing further moves up the ladder, according to Lisher. Since 2008, JPMorgan is ranked number one in fastest growing AUM share and aggregate net flows, Lisher says. "I was part of our U.S. funds business in its infancy," says Lisher, who attributes growth largely to an advisor education program called Market Insights that has helped fuel distribution. "I have been part of this business through tremendous growth." When it comes to managing her staff, Lisher works hard to emphasize strong expectations for both a positive culture and ethics. She prefers an "open door policy" and will often take junior staffers to lunch as a way of receiving feedback in a more casual environment. While JPMorgan has reached large heights under Lisher, she has eyes on reaching bigger thresholds. "For us to get from number eight to number one it's going to take a different style of thinking," she says. "Being the best is my goal and I know we are building the best client organization in the U.S. mutual fund industry."
Deputy chief investment officer and global head of equities
As head of equities and deputy chief investment officer at Pimco, Virginie Maisonneuve, 49, says two main things set her apart. One is her global expertise. She was born in France and had a passion for China since age 5. (Fun fact: her two girls, aged 11 and 14, were both adopted from China.) She first worked in China for the French Ministry of Foreign affairs and then in asset management in Scotland before moving to Boston, San Francisco and New York. She says her global outlook has helped fuel her understanding of the markets. Maisonneuve also attributes her ability to combine secular and cyclical views to her success in picking stocks. "I really like to combine building businesses, being an investor and being a team leader," she says. "Many of my colleagues move to the management side when they move up the ladder, but I still want to continue to invest." While at Schroders where she was for the past decade and was head of global and internal equities, Maisonneuve built various growth strategies involving fundamental stock picking. She is in the midst of planning a first batch of new hires that could see her investment team grow by 50% as Pimco boosts its stock offering. Maisonneuve says she plans to hire up to 16 people to help increase her investment staff of around 30. Maisonneuve's equity expansion strategy has been implemented during the roughly four months since being hired by Pimco. When asked what advice she would give to other women in the fund servicing industry, Maisonneuve emphasizes curiosity. "Whether you've been working for three years or 30, you have to be curious. You always have to start everyday thinking 'what do I not know?'" Maisonneuve has another strong passion besides investment and travel. She credits her devout practice of yoga to building resiliency. "It keeps me anchored," she says.
President and general counsel
U.S. GLOBAL INVESTORS
Susan McGee wears two hats at U.S. Global Investors.
In addition to serving as the fund company's president since 1998, she also is its general counsel. She used her legal expertise to help spearhead U.S. Global through challenging regulatory waters toward becoming one of the first fund companies to utilize social media for marketing, "It helps having that legal framework," says McGee, who received magna cum laude honors with a degree in accounting from the University of Houston before earning the same distinction upon graduating from St. Mary's Law School. "You aren't as intimidated by all the regulation out there." McGee in conjunction with U.S. Global CEO Frank E. Holmes directs the company's overall policy, planning, administrative, budgetary and operations functions. She also provides general legal services to the firm and its subsidiaries. Under McGee's leadership, U.S. Global has expanded its distribution strategies from registered investment advisors to independent and regional broker-dealers. "We really wanted to grow our distribution channels," says McGee of her chief goal when taking over as president 16 years ago. "We've been able to make some inroads in other channels." McGee's commitment to U.S. Global also extends to the San Antonio community. She recently joined the board of the Family Services Association of San Antonio, which provides assistance to needy families and has concentrated heavily on reducing gang violence. As a self-described "sports fanatic," she also serves as director of San Antonio Sports, which has brought many NCAA athletic events to the city resulting in increased marketing opportunities for U.S. Global in the process. "It is important to give back," says McGee, who also serves on the advisory council for the University of Texas-San Antonio. "I get a lot of enjoyment out of it."
WELLS FARGO ADVANTAGE FUNDS
When Karla Rabusch first entered Wells Fargo in 1997 as chief financial officer, she recalls a vision that was in place to move its fund business to the next level.
Rabusch, who is now president of Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, has seen assets under management rise from $22 billion to $250 billion in her nearly two decade run at the San Francisco-based company.
"Our goal was to grow the mutual fund company into a much bigger company," says Rabusch, who took over as Wells Fargo Advantage Funds president in 2003. "We've had amazing growth the last 17 years."
Rabusch, who also heads Wells Fargo Funds Management, LLC, attributes much of the AUM growth to acquisitions of the Northwest Advantage, Strong and Evergreen fund families. The merger with Strong came together 10 years ago within months of Rabusch taking the reigns as president. Rabusch, who twice was named one of the 100 most influential business women in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times, says keys to her success include "surrounding myself around very talented people" and focusing on the right culture." She encourages her team members to speak up when they have a differing opinion and sets aside time during monthly meetings for all staff to give input. While much has already been accomplished under Rabusch's watch, goals remain ambitious going forward. "Our goal is to get to $700 billion [AUM] in 10 years," she says. "It's a very aggressive goal."
Head of Asset Manager and RIA Channels
As ETFs continue to gain traction in the financial advisor community, Sue Thompson (an accountant turned lawyer turned asset management influencer) should continue climbing the ladder, advisors and consultants say. Thompson, who has been at BlackRock for the past seven years and previously worked at Vanguard for eight years, was one of the founding members of the Women in ETFs group, launched earlier this year. It is aimed to help educate new members about the industry, support rising talent and provide a way for women working in ETFs to network. Commenting on the launch of the group in January, Thompson said in statement: "The ETF industry has seen such tremendous growth across the world from a variety of client segments. ... By leveraging our collective skill and aspiration, we can further the careers of women today and inspire those in the future." The rise in ETF traction in the U.S. shows no sign of slowing down. ETFs have evolved into a standard instrument in the toolboxes of institutional investors according to a new study from Greenwich Associates. In fact 41% percent of RIAs within the survey invest more than a quarter of total assets in ETFs. As of the time of publication, Blackrock declined to provide an interview with Thompson.