Manuela Cedarmas, senior portfolio manager, fund selector, and head of Emerging Strategies and Markets at the Italian fund house Tages Capital, speaks to Eugenia Jiménez about diversity in the asset management industry, where she sees some progress made but still battles ahead.
Manuela Cedarmas has been working in the financial industry for almost two decades. She currently works at Milan-based manager Tages Capital, where she joined in 2013 and carries out tasks related both to fund selection and fund management.
Her valuable and broad professional experience gained at companies like Duemme SGR, Unifortune SGR, Citibank Milan or the Italian stock exchange, has been recently recognised by her peers through the double nomination she has received for the Women In Investment Awards Italy 2019, hosted by InvestmentEurope and set to take place on the 2nd of October in Milan.
Cedarmas has been shortlisted in the Analyst of the Year and Fund Selector of the Year categories of these Awards, whose aim is to recognise the achievements of women working for the Italian financial sector but also some of the specific challenges faced by women in returning to the workforce, and those seeking to provide mentorship to others.
Although Cedarmas sees gender diversity as the most immediate - and statistically important -form of diversity to address, she believes that the focus on ESG by institutional and professional investors spans across all strands of diversity.
Do you feel the fund management industry is under pressure to achieve diversity objectives more quickly than it has thus far, and if so, is there a risk of additional regulations in this area?
Yes, we believe that in the last few years institutional investors have been more and more effective in driving the progress on a variety of ESG issues, including diversity. It is difficult though to assess whether this will lead to additional regulations for diversity and furthermore there has been a wide debate on the effectiveness of gender diversity regulation applied in some countries (e.g. Italy) for women representation on corporate boards. We believe that global professional organizations could be instrumental in setting good professional practices around diversity.
Have you being implementing any specific diversity programme, if so, can you briefly outline the objectives it has?
We have not yet implemented a specific diversity programme, but have had a code of conduct since inception of the firm which includes flexible work schedules and parental and/or adoption leaves. With respect to gender diversity, there are women in senior positions on the both the investment and non-investment side of our business.A diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, career experiences, and ways of thinking are key factors considered when recruiting new resources.
How do you feel the fund management industry compares to other industries or sectors of the economy when it comes to diversity?
We have seen a large uptick in the inclusion of the topic of diversity topic at many fund management conferences and events. Our assessment is that this is becoming more and more topical in the industry. We are not in a position to comment on other industries.
Beyond gender diversity, what are your thoughts as to the way the industry is currently attempting to attract people from minority groups, eg, first generation immigrants, or people with disabilities?
Although gender diversity is, in our opinion, the most immediate and statistically important form of diversity to address, we believe that the focus on ESG by institutional investors and professional organizations spans across all forms of diversity including disabilities and ethnic diversity.
To what extent do you consider ‘diversity' a factor in the G part of ESG?
We consider diversity to be an important component of a manager's overall governance practice. As part of our thorough and detailed onsite visit of managers we aim to understand the dynamics of the manager's working environment. In addition, reference checks are conducted among former employees to understand the presence of any discriminatory or irregular employment practice.
If the impact of diversity is measurable, to what extent are you currently building it into either your quants or qual processes when considering which funds to select?
We do not apply any kind of quantitative measure on diversity as we believe it is difficult to define a standardized diversity framework across a portfolio.
We value positively a diverse team as we believe it is less likely to succumb to group-think and is better able to identify new opportunities and better assess risks.
Are you buying into strategies that are positioning themselves as ‘diversity funds'?
We do not, as we find more value in assessing fund characteristics directly rather than relying on "branded" categories.