Today’s female trailblazers in business and finance
Men aren’t the only ones who have made names for themselves as investors. One of the earliest American women to blaze a trail in finance was suffragette Victoria Woodhull. In 1870, she and her sister, Tennessee, became the first female stockbrokers and opened the first woman-owned Wall Street brokerage firm. Madam C.J. Walker created a vast business empire a few decades later by selling a line of homemade hair-care products for black women. At the time of her death in 1919, Walker was considered the wealthiest self-made, African-American businesswoman. In 1967, Muriel Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and founded her eponymous brokerage company, Muriel Siebert & Co. The trend of successful women in business and finance continues to this day. Here are six modern all-star women investors.
Krawcheck is the chair of Ellevate Network, a global professional women’s network, and CEO of Ellevest, a mission-driven investment platform for women. She is also chair of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund (PXWEX), a mutual fund that invests in companies highly rated for advancing women. Prior to these roles, Krawcheck worked on Wall Street as the CEO of Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, U.S. Trust and the Citi Private Bank, among other places. She is often recognized as one of the most influential women in business. Jessica Wooke, chief experience officer at RobustWealth, says Krawcheck is widely admired for the work she is doing to “educate, sponsor, mentor and coach, not just women, but everybody in this industry, about the issues around pay disparity, gender issues, equality issues.”
Johnson took over as chairman and CEO of financial giant Fidelity Investments in 2016, which oversees $8.3 trillion in total customer assets. Robby Greengold, a senior manager and research analyst at Morningstar, says one of Johnson’s top decisions was to invest heavily in the firm’s passively managed side for the asset management business, expanding Fidelity’s exchange-traded fund and index vehicles, among other products. Before that move, Fidelity was mostly known for stock-picking mutual funds, and Greengold says these assets have been a growth driver for Fidelity in recent years as investors’ interest shifts to passive investments. “Despite it being a large organization, it has been nimble enough to keep up with the competition,” he says.
As president of Fidelity Personal Investing, part of Fidelity Investments, Murphy oversees the firm’s retail brokerage, mutual fund, individual retirement accounts, insurance and managed accounts. Fidelity’s aggressive foray into passively managed assets includes slashing prices of these types of investment vehicles. Greengold notes Murphy played a major role in helping to create Fidelity’s ZERO Index Funds, which were launched in 2018. These funds have a zero expense ratio and no minimums to invest. Other big moves Fidelity has made under Murphy’s leadership include commission-free trading and automatically putting investors’ cash-sweep money, which is money yet to be invested, into higher-interest-bearing accounts.
Hobson is co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, a $13.2 billion investment manager. She oversees the management, strategic planning and growth for all areas of Ariel Investments, outside of research and portfolio management. Hobson also chairs the board of trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust, a part of the company that runs its publicly traded mutual funds. Hobson sits on many corporate boards, including Starbucks (SBUX) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and she previously sat on the board for DreamWorks Animation and Estee Lauder (EL). She is known for her extensive research on minority investing patterns. Chenae Edwards, senior investment consultant with NEPC, says Hobson is committed to improving the diversity of the investment industry from the inside. “Not only has she used her leadership role at Ariel Investments, but she has also leveraged her voice on corporate boards and her TED Talk to provide practical solutions for celebrating diversity and inclusion,” Edwards says.
The exchange-traded fund industry is known for having a higher-than-average number of women in financial roles, and one of the highest-profile participants is Wood, CEO and chief investment officer of ARK Investment Management. She founded ARK in 2014 as an actively managed ETF firm investing in disruptive innovations with long-term growth in mind. Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF research at CFRA Research, says she and the firm stand out in a crowded ETF field. ARK’s flagship ETF, ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), has put in a strong performance, and not just because of the growth and technology sectors’ popularity in the past several years. Wood is very vocal and confident about the firm’s research, according to Rosenbluth, which has drawn some criticism. “But she has been able to demonstrate strong performance and let the performance and investment thesis speak for itself,” he says.
Tolle founded the ETF firm Life + Liberty Indexes and its flagship ETF, Freedom 100 Emerging Markets Index (FRDM). The socially responsible ETF uses human and economic freedom metrics as primary factors in the investment selection process. Beijing-born Tolle says she created the ETF firm as a way to avoid investing in authoritarian and totalitarian governments in emerging markets. Wesley Gray, CEO of Alpha Architect, which is the ETF’s advisor, calls Tolle “a rising star of the ETF industry” and notes, apart from ARK’s Wood, that Tolle is the only female CEO of an ETF firm. Life + Liberty Indexes has some big-name support in the ETF world, too. Rob Arnott, president of the $193 billion global asset manager Research Affiliates, is a limited partner.
Leading ladies in the investment world:
— Sallie Krawcheck
— Abigail Johnson
— Kathleen Murphy
— Mellody Hobson
— Catherine Wood
— Perth Tolle
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