Michelle Clayman: Knowledge Is Power—Top Women Extended Profile

Her firm’s research, and her support of research, provide answers for SRI and for women

top women in wealth logoWhile she was an undergraduate at Oxford University, Michelle Clayman was surrounded by the chaos that was England’s financial crisis at the time. Spurred by the desire to understand what was happening, she embarked on a career that now provides answers for the socially responsible investing arena and the area of women’s issues as well.

(Clayman is one of AdvisorOne's 50 Top Women in Wealth for 2011.)

Clayman, the founder, managing partner and CIO of New York-based New Amsterdam Partners, an institutional money management firm, is Oxford-educated, but turned to the U.S. to further her career after a two-year stint at Bank of America in London because there were fewer barriers to advancement.

She received her MBA at Stanford, then followed that with a stint at Salomon Bros. that got her started in quantitative research. When she founded her own firm a few years later, quantitative research would pave the way for socially responsible investing, now termed ESG (for environmental, social and governance issues).

michelle clayman“What’s interesting,” Clayman (left) says, “is that sustainability factors can actually be part of a company’s growth story. We manage unconstrained portfolios and SRI/ESG portfolios, and ESG does as well, if not slightly better, than unconstrained. The conventional wisdom around SRI is the Milton Friedman line, that it could only detract from returns. Now more than a third of our business is ESG and that’s what we find of the most interest.”

Also of interest is research into the resolution of women’s issues. Clayman, who supports Stanford’s now-named-for-her Clayman Institute for Gender Research, says that its studies of women’s issues became one of her causes after she attended a breakfast put on by the institute in 1993.

“What I heard was fairly interesting,” she recalls, “and I went up to the then-director and said I’d like to learn more. She said, ‘Next time you’re on campus, come bang on my door.’ I did, and was invited to join the national advisory panel.”

Clayman has put the Institute firmly on its feet so it can do work she says she believes is necessary to help women. “Issues around women and gender are often interdisciplinary issues, and fall between the cracks because academia tends to go along subject silos,” she says. “... There comes a point where, particularly if you’re successful, you need to help make it happen.”

She has done just that, adding, “As women become successful, we need to step up and support the causes that we are interested in.... The reason I chose research is that it often doesn’t get a lot of funding. People think it’s much more important to feed the hungry and house the homeless, and those are very important, but my view is that you need to do serious research, because without that, you cannot get systemic change that can change [hunger and homelessness].”

See the lead news article on the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the article on the process for choosing the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the 2010 50 Top Women in Wealth.

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