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Women in Alts Still Face Hurdles, but Optimism Abounds

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KPMG’s 2016 report on women in alternative investments finds that a majority of respondents still believe it is harder for women to succeed in the industry and to obtain capital than it is for their male peers.

But that sentiment belies a significant increase in the percentage of mandates and programs owned and managed by women, up from 2% in 2013 to 10% this year.

Many participants in the study expressed optimism, with nearly a third planning to launch or manage a new fund in the next five years, and, of women-owned and -managed funds, a quarter planning to grow their fund to more than $1 billion in assets under management.

KPMG said new efforts were afoot to increase the pipeline of women going into alternatives. Novel initiatives are designed to better retain and advance women. And more investors are considering diversity when making allocations.

The report incorporated insights from an online survey of 791 alternative investment professionals globally conducted in the second quarter, followed by interviews with industry leaders in the third quarter.

Professionals at hedge fund firms represented 29% of the survey population, 24% at private equity and venture capital firms and 7% at private real estate non-REIT funds. Investors comprised 10% of survey respondents. Other respondents, including service providers, represented 30% of the survey population.

Macro and Sector Outlooks

Nearly half of fund and investor respondents believe the global economy was in late cycle. Before the Brexit vote, 25% said they expected Europe’s five-year growth rate to decrease. After the vote, 51% of respondents expected a declining growth rate.

Forty-seven percent respondents expected China’s growth rate will decrease in the next five years.

The outlook for hedge funds over the next 18 months was mixed, according to survey respondents. On the one hand, 40% expected performance and investment opportunities for hedge funds to improve most among all sectors surveyed (private equity, venture capital and real estate).

Yet hedge funds can expect to take the hardest hit in allocations, with 18% of investor respondents planning to decrease allocations to the sector over the same time frame.

Thirty percent of respondents said private equity performance would improve over the next 18 months, with investment opportunities looking stronger to 41% of respondents.

Among all sectors surveyed, private equity promised to fare best in investor allocations, with 30% of respondents planning to increase investments in the sector.

Venture capital’s outlook was not as strong. Only 26% of respondents expected improved investment opportunities, and just 20% anticipated improved performance over the next 18 months. Nevertheless, only 5% of investor respondents planned to cut back allocations to the sector.

Private real estate funds will face a challenging investment horizon and performance outlook, as less than one-fifth of respondents looked for conditions to improve over the next 18 months. However, 22% of investors planned to increase their real estate allocations during that period.

Fund Management and Allocation Trends

KPMG said that as in prior years, women most often occupied C-level positions in compliance, marketing and financial roles at the funds represented in the survey. This year, women comprised 13% of CEOs and 19% of chief investment officer/portfolio managers, slightly down from last year.

Twenty-six percent of the women-owned/-managed funds in the study planned to grow their fund to $1 billion or more in assets under management. Forty percent said they had pursued emerging manager mandates, up from 23% last year, and nearly half won them.

Fifteen percent of female fund respondents planned to manage their own fund in the next five years, and 13% expected to launch a new fund.

The study found that emerging manager programs were on the rise among investor respondents. Forty-one percent said they had an emerging manager program or fund, compared with only 33% of last year’s respondents who had one.

This year, 10% of investors said they had specific mandates for women-owned/-managed funds — a significant improvement since the 2013 survey in which only 2% had women-owned/-managed mandates.

Although 32% of investor respondents expected an increase in their allocations to emerging managers over the next 18 months, only 16% said allocations to women-owned/-managed funds would increase over the same time frame, way down from 26% of investors in last year’s survey.

At 60% of investor respondents, women-owned/-managed funds represented less than 5% of their total portfolio. A majority of investors said lack of supply of such funds was the greatest barrier to investing in women-owned/-managed funds.

Gender Diversity

Forty-two percent of survey participants supported government-mandated quotas or guidelines that seek gender diversity on corporate boards, with 36% believing such quotas would improve gender diversity in alternatives.

Thirty-seven percent said emerging manager mandates would increase demand for women-owned/-managed funds, whereas 26% said they would not increase demand. The remainder were uncertain.

Forty percent of respondents believed investors should seek out investments in women-owned/-managed funds.

Respondents said North America offered the greatest opportunities to women in alternatives, with the U.K. and Europe (excluding the U.K.) ranking second and third.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents believed it was harder for female fund managers to succeed in the industry than for their male peers. The overwhelming majority also believe that it was more difficult for women-owned/-managed funds to attract capital.

North America was the least optimistic of all regions surveyed about the potential for women’s advancement in alternatives.


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