Money making women-focused funds raises eyebrows

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It has been backed by research that companies with a relatively high percentage of women in power perform better than those dominated by men. It is a proven theory as most of the women-focused funds and investment strategies - a tiny slice of the $6.6 trillion-socially responsible investing world - have been standout performers over the years.

Baron's Women & Girls Equality Strategy, offered to private banking clients, outperformed its benchmark in 2013 and 2014, though it's slightly under so far this year.

Several global mutual funds with a similar emphasis were bringing in double-digit returns until the recent market swoon.

Managers including Baron and Eve Ellis, who runs Morgan Stanley's Parity Portfolio, say they're winning converts with their approaches. They point to a decade's worth of studies, notably McKinsey & Co's first Women Matter report in 2007 that suggest there's money to be made in stocks of companies with a lot of women in top jobs. When gender-lens stock picking is done the right way, Ellis told Bloomberg, "You don't need to sacrifice financial returns for social returns."

70% millennials are saying they'd be likely to make investments based on social issues, such as gender equality, according to a 2013 study by Calvert Investments Inc. And US Trust data show 71% of high net-worth women consider socially-responsible criteria when deciding where to put their money.

Most of the funds try to capture the types of returns the McKinsey report says women in leadership roles can bring. But in South Korea, UBS Hana's She&Style concentrates on companies that make "products appealing to female consumers", including cell phones and makeup.

That approach is "really kind of a stretch" to include in the gender-lens investing world, said Barbara Krumsiek, senior industry fellow of Georgetown University's Women's Leadership Institute and a former chief executive officer (CEO) of Calvert.. That might not matter to every one: She&Style has earned an 18%return this year, with holdings in cluding Amorepacific Corp, a maker of skin-care products, and Hanssem Co, which makes kitchen furniture.

Among major holdings at the end of June were advertiser Publicis Groupe, whose chairman and six of 15 other directors are women, and insurer Axa, where the COO and five of 14 board members are female. But Hostache and CPG fund manager Caroline Grinda also buy stakes in firms like Etam Developpement, a lingerie retailer whose shares are up about 25% this year.

(Image credits: Indiatimes)
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