International Women's Day: The UK's Top Women Fund Managers

These three managers haven't just delivered good performance, but have done so with High or Above Average Morningstar People Pillar Ratings

Lena Tsymbaluk 5 March, 2024 | 11:53AM Evangelia Gkeka
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International Women's Day

For international women's day 2024, Morningstar's Lena Tsymbaluk, associate director, manager research and Evangelia Gkeka, senior manager research analyst, have produced this report on top-performing female fund managers in the UK.

Women have been making their mark in portfolio management for some time despite their relatively low representation in the space.

In honour of International Women's Day, Morningstar analysts have identified several lead female portfolio managers who manage funds available for sale in the UK and earn the High or Above Average People Pillar ratings.

Notable portfolio managers like Clare Hart, Catherine Stanley, and Paola Binns are just a few of the women who have successfully managed their respective funds and have produced strong results for investors. Below we present those three outstanding women:

• Clare Hart, lead portfolio manager, JPM US Equity Income
• Catherine Stanley, MD, UK responsible equity and income, Columbia Threadneedle
• Paola Binns, head of sterling credit, Royal London Asset Management

Clare Hart, JPMorgan

Clare Hart is one of the industry's most impressive managers.

She has been the lead portfolio manager on the Gold-rated JPM US Equity Income strategy for almost 20 years, having managed the US mutual fund since August 2004, and its UK-domiciled mirror since 2008. Hart is an industry veteran, with 29 and 22 industry and firm experience, respectively. Her contribution to the US value franchise at JPMorgan is marked: she has brought stable leadership to the strategy and skillfully led its execution.

Hart's equity-income approach has earned strong results over her tenure, delivering high total and risk-adjusted returns. From August 2004 through January 31, 2024, the strategy (via the US mutual fund), has delivered an annualised return of 11.1% (in GBP terms), versus 10% for the Russell 1000 Value Index and 8.5% for the US large-value Morningstar Category peers. Solid defense in bear markets along with the avoidance of value traps have been features of the strategy under Hart.

The strong and consistent return profile has attracted praise, and the strategy's assets under management peaked at $83 billion £65.4 billion as of December 2021, making it the largest US equity strategy managed by a woman.

Although Hart announced her impending retirement in the fall of 2024, we believe the strategy will continue benefiting from the deep and experienced value team she has built and the investment approach she has honed across her career.

JPM US Equity Income's Cumulative Return over Hart's Tenure

Exhibit 1

Catherine Stanley, Columbia Threadneedle

Catherine Stanley is one of the longer-tenured and experienced managers in the UK sustainable equities space. She has three decades of investment experience and has been managing the Silver-rated CT Responsible UK Equity and Bronze-rated CT Responsible UK Income strategies since June 2009.

She has built an impressive career in the industry, having been with BMO since June 2000, prior to its acquisition by Columbia Threadneedle in 2021. Before that, she spent nine years at Framlington where she managed both retail and institutional UK smaller-company portfolios. Stanley's prior experience in smaller companies is beneficial, as many companies at the larger end of the UK market are excluded from the investable universe on sustainability grounds.

Stanley has achieved strong and consistent returns for investors. Over her tenure, from June 2009 through Jan. 31, 2024, the CT Responsible UK Equity fund has delivered an annualised return of 9.1%, outperforming both the FTSE All-Share Index and the UK flex-cap equity Morningstar category average by 1.1 and 0.7 percentage points per year, respectively. The fund has outperformed the index in every calendar year except three over the past 14 years.

Stanley's strong analytical and leadership skills have allowed her to become an influential stakeholder at Columbia Threadneedle, where she also holds the roles of head of global small cap and co-head of UK equity, as well as the lead portfolio manager on CT Global Small Cap Equity strategy.

CT Responsible UK Equity's Cumulative Return Over Stanley's Tenure

Exhibit 2

Paola Binns, Royal London

Paola Binns is one of the most experienced portfolio managers in the Sterling Corporate Credit space. She brings over 35 years' experience in bond markets. Binns joined Royal London Asset Management, or RLAM, in 2007 as fund manager.

After building out the firm's Sterling Credit capabilities, she was appointed head of Sterling Credit in 2021. Prior to joining RLAM, Paola worked at Credit Suisse Asset Management where she was responsible for managing Sterling Credit assets.

Throughout her career, Binns has gained experience across European corporate bonds, government bonds, and emerging markets debt. Through her strong analytical capabilities, she has been able to add value and successfully manage research-intensive bottom-up-driven corporate bond strategies. Her strategies have a bias toward secured bonds within sectors such as covered bonds, real estate, social housing, and structured bonds. There is also emphasis on strong covenants and securitised structures.

Binns has been lead manager for Bronze-rated Royal London Short Duration Credit Fund since its inception in November 2013. The absolute and risk-adjusted return profile of the fund compares very favourably against its benchmark and peers with strong security selection being the main driver of outperformance. Outperformance has also been remarkably consistent. It outperformed its GBP Corporate Bond – Short Term peers in nine out of 10 full calendar years and finished within the top decile of the peer group in eight out of 10 years.

In addition to the above strategy, Binns is also lead manager for Royal London Sterling Credit Fund and Royal London Investment Grade Short Dated Credit Fund. In total, these three funds account for £6 billion in AUM.

RLAM Short Duration Credit Cumulative Return Over Binns' Tenure

Exhibit 3

Morningstar's Top Female Managers of 2024

These are just a few of the excellent female portfolio managers under our coverage.

Below we list the sole lead female or team of women managers across the UK that earn Above Average or High People Pillar ratings (as of November 2023), indicating Morningstar analysts' confidence in the portfolio management team and the strategy. We believe that each of these Morningstar Medalist funds deserves to be included on investors' watchlists.

Note on Methodology: Our method excludes strategies where there is a female portfolio manager; decisions are team-based or where a multicounsellor approach applies, with individuals each managing a sleeve of a portfolio and one or more managers may be female. Female managers were included as such whenever reference to the manager is made as her/she in official fund documents.

Of the 616 actively managed UK and European domiciled funds with a People Pillar rating of Above Average or High (as of November 2023), 28% have a female manager present on the roster. Only 19% of those strategies are female-led, with the majority (roughly 55%) following a team-based approached. The remaining 26% are led by a male manager.

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The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Lena Tsymbaluk  is a fund analyst at Morningstar.

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