Following InvestmentEurope's inaugural Women In Investment Awards Italy in October, we have been speaking with the winners recently on their views on diversity and the challenges they have faced over their career.
Francesca Bellini, quantitative portfolio manager at Pramerica SGR and winner of InvestmentEurope's Most Inspiring Returner Award 2019, has been the latest to share her thoughts with Eugenia Jiménez.
My advice for women is to aim with determination and passion for high goals by strengthening those characteristics that differentiate us from men such as our increased attention to detail, our greater listening capacity, the greater sensitivity to social, environmental issues and a strong attention to fundamental values."
What drove you to join the asset management industry?
During my university studies I showed a great interest in applied econometrics and time series analysis courses. The course professor advised me to continue my studies by enrolling in a doctoral course in quantitative finance and, in those years, after a teaching experience, I realised that my way was not academic career but the asset management industry.
Top three challenges you have faced in your role and how you have overcome them
I joined the industry in 2005 and faced years that were not easy, from the 2008 crisis. In the following years, the quantitative investment sector went into crisis and the masses of products declined. Fortunately, the opportunity came to launch protected structured products which for me was an opportunity to get closer to another area of the business. Now new themes such as ESG and Artificial Intelligence are spreading more and more. My attitude to these changes has always been positive to change. For me, new things are a new stimulus rather than the end of something.
Who has been your role model and why?
In these years I have never had a particular model to follow. In reality, I looked at every person I worked with as a model, trying to take inspiration from each of them from their own peculiarities and potential.
Why aren't we seeing more women in senior asset servicing roles?
I do not agree with this statement because I believe that women, over the years, have gained more and more importance and space until they reach high-level roles and positions. Just look at the female assignment made in 2019 at the European Central Bank and European Community. Finance in general, and financial promotion in particular, are a prime example of markets where the percentage of women is growing significantly.
There is an evolution going on and many companies are committed to promoting gender equality by aiming to enhance the skills of their employees and creating inclusive and supportive work environments for women and especially for new mothers.
How can we empower next generations of women in the AM industry to strive for senior roles?
With this award I want to be an example of encouragement for the new generation of women who are about to pursue a career in the investment sector. My advice for women who wish to pursue this career is to aim with determination and passion for high goals by strengthening those characteristics that differentiate us from men such as our increased attention to detail, our greater listening capacity, the greater sensitivity to social, environmental issues and a strong attention to fundamental values. I believe that the profession of the consultant is well suited to women because of their interpersonal skills.
How can we help organisations to make the appropriate changes to recruit, nurture and promote regardless of gender?
Recognition of female talent within the industry such as this event in Italy for the first time plays a key role in promoting gender diversity, as it helps show women skills and potential. Organizations can help create formal network of professional women in finance-related sectors, with the aim of exchanging experiences and creating future collaboration.
Do you believe the AM industry has still a lot to work on in order to become truly diverse?
I think a lot has been done in recent years within the AM industry in order to become truly diverse, just think for example of the smart working formulas that help us achieve a better reconciliation between work and family needs. I believe there is still a way to go in order to become more diverse by aiming to overcome cultural prejudices, in a world where gender equality is the fifth Sustainable Development Goal of the UN 2030 Agenda. In my opinion, involvement of many different media on such topics is a key factor for effectively reaching a broad audience. Precisely for this reason, I believe that awards such as the "Women In Investment Awards Italy" are very important events to raise awareness on the issue of gender equality at the industry level.