Five awesome things about women investors

It’s Women’s Month, and we’ve been thinking lately about all the ways in which women are wonderful in matters of money.

Women as investors don’t get praised often enough – there’s been an unfortunate stereotype in the past that keeps finances in ‘man territory’. Today, we’d like to honour the ladies in our stock markets and on our shareholders’ boards and count the ways in which they rock and the things male investors can learn from them.

They consistently outperform on returns by being faithful

A Financial Times article cited two studies a couple of months ago. It had this to say:
“Warwick Business School conducted a study of 2,800 UK men and women investing with Barclays’ Smart Investor, tracking their performance over three years. Not only did the women that were examined outperform the FTSE 100 over the time period, they also achieved better returns. The men in Warwick’s study managed an average annual return 0.14 per cent higher than the FTSE 100, but women outperformed the benchmark by 1.94 per cent, beating men by 1.8 percentage points. A separate study by Hargreaves Lansdown also found women investors returning on average 0.81 per cent more than men over a three-year period.”

The reason for this, according to spokesperson for insurer Liberty Daphne Rampersad in an article this month, is that women tend to stick with investments, “getting higher returns over the long term, while many male clients choose to switch when markets go south”.

Those that do go against the grain

Despite these impressive results, the woman investor is certainly the minority. The same FT article cited earlier stated that “55 percent of women said they had never held an investment, compared to 37 percent of men. Just 21 per cent of women said they held a current investment, compared to 35 percent of men” in the UK, famously less sexist than South Africa.

Many reasons have been attributed to this, from a dearth in financial advisers to older generation South African men teaching their sons about investing but not their daughters.

Also, where are the women’s role models? Despite giants of the industry being female – JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King comes to mind – there are no articles on Warren Buffett-type female investors, here or abroad. That makes the women who do invest that much more impressive.

They stick with what they know – and that’s a good thing

“Men tend to favour new, untested shares, whereas women will stick with tried-and-trusted, recognisable names”, says HSBC private bank in an article on its website. Unsurprisingly, this also often results in women getting more tried-and-trusted, recognisable results than male investors, thanks to their tendency to stick with a ‘sure thing’.

… Despite ‘bucketing prejudice’

That being said, women are often stereotyped unfavourably by asset managers and their portfolio managers in general. This is thanks to the notion of ‘risk profiles’ – somewhat outdated now in developed markets yet still used widely in South Africa. Due to women being seen as more ‘risk averse’ than men, they will be given investment options with lower returns because, well, higher risk means higher potential returns.

This is how it often goes. A woman will go in/phone in to set up a new investment. The manager, often male, will give her a risk profile assessment rather than ask her what her goals are and what assets she would prefer. Instead of saying ‘if you want X returns, you can only get that with equities, although you stand to lose more there too’, he will more often ask ‘how much are you comfortable with losing per annum?’ This is called shortfall-based rather than goals-based. Most women, baffled, will reply that obviously they would like to lose as little as possible. Thus, women are consistently given scores of less risk appetite than men, due to both the phrasing of the questions and the way they are automatically bucketed for being female. Research has shown that less women invest in equities is the reason given – but it has been socially acceptable for women to invest for less time than men, and women are given equities by default less often.

It is a tiring, unknown prejudice which shows women’s greater returns and their involvement in equities at all as even more impressive.

And they get impressive financial gains despite more obstacles than men

Apart from all their obstacles from within the financial landscape, there are numerous other things standing in the way of financial success for women. Women are given higher insurance premiums and less life cover than men consistently, despite being labelled ‘more risk averse’ than men, and receive on average 28 percent less for salaries than men doing the same job in South Africa.

More than 60 percent of South Africa’s households are run by single mothers paying for everything, according to Statistics South Africa, while less than four percent are run similarly by single men.

Higher returns and better staying power despite more obstacles and often less money to work with? To paraphrase the 1955 Women’s March anthem, a woman investor is solid as a rock. You go, girls.

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