(SH)Elijah

(SH)Elijah

By Bill Kelly, CEO, CAIA Association

You don’t really need to be a Talmud scholar to know about the mission and purpose of the prophet Elijah. A fixture of the Passover Seder, he is always accorded an empty seat at the table, replete with an extra cup and a remaining piece of matzah. It is hoped that he will eventually come, heralding an advent of biblical proportions. As we celebrate the 45th coming of International Women’s Day it may be time to reflect on expectations and progress here too, and whether we might need a prophetic intervention of our own.

On a positive note, Barron’s profiled their own version of the 100 Most Influential Women in Finance this weekend and it is a very impressive list. Even more encouraging is the editor’s admission that “culling an initial list of hundreds of names was no easy task,” indicating the growing depth of talent and accomplishment. Many of the individual names are known to us and CAIA Association’s Member and immediate past board chair, Jane Buchan, deservedly made the cut. More sobering is a graph that accompanies this same article which charts a decade long trend of female representation in the five highest-paid executive roles in asset management, banks and insurance companies and here the progress is rather anemic. In fact, asset management began this period with about 6% representation amongst women and mostly flat-lined itself to finish the decade no better than where it started.

Insights on this topic are aplenty on social media this weekend and the Observation Deck of a certain CAIA Member succinctly sums up the opportunity and the challenge. In an investment world where we preach the benefits of diversification yielding better risk-adjusted outcomes over time, it is remarkable that a referenced survey of CFA charter holders indicated that fewer than half agreed that mixed gender teams can lead to better results because of more diverse viewpoints; 70% of the women-only subset of these respondents took the other side, affirming this same statement … Think like an allocator, act like a dinosaur!

This year let’s not just celebrate the day but embrace a future replete with conviction and actionable results—which brings us back to Elijah and chairs. At the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit last month over 50% of the industry speakers and panelists were women; an unheard-of milestone and the conference organizers encouraged us to trend #whoisnext. Maybe it should be all of us, and CAIA Association will take a stand. Other than a run-off of any existing commitments, I, as CEO of the CAIA Association, will no longer participate in any public panel discussions that do not have diverse representation; not because it is fashionable, but because I truly believe in the benefits of diversification yielding better outcomes in any important decision making process. Are you next?

Anyone involved in conference programming should make this a priority too. Excuses will reign and it will be hard. When all else fails, maybe just put that empty chair on stage next to the three or four occupied by the white male panelists. We will all know that it belongs to (SH)Elijah and even that simple statement could be very powerful unto itself. Ultimately it is SHE that we await, heralding that necessary outcome that might just have to be of biblical proportions to bring our industry to a better place.

Seek diversification, education and know your risk tolerance. Investing is for the long term.

Bill Kelly is CEO of CAIA Association. Follow Bill on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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