When she was chief investment officer for the New York City Retirement Systems, Seema Hingorani always had the same question for the many asset management companies she met with: “Where are all the women on your investment team?”
The male executives all seemed to have the same response: “We never get any resumes from women.”
Instead of waiting for the problem to correct itself, Hingorani, the founder of SevenStep Capital who has held numerous senior positions at various hedge funds, set out to be the solution.
She founded in 2015 Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit aimed at getting more female fund managers into asset management and other realms of finance. Hingorani aims to have 30 percent of the world’s investable capital managed by women by 2030.
“I don’t take no for an answer easily,” Hingorani told an audience at BNY Mellon Wealth Management’s “Game Changers” speaker series in Boston last week. “The industry is ready for this.”
The daughter of Indian immigrants who came to America with $50 to their name and went on to start successful businesses, Hingorani took the entrepreneurial route to solve the imbalance she first noticed while interning on Wall Street.
Before she even had a program, Hingorani began promising private equity firms that she would find them qualified female interns. But she soon discovered that awareness was not a one-way street.
“Girls did not know they could make a positive impact in this industry,” she said, adding that the financial crisis had painted a tough image.
But once women saw the positive impacts investing has and can make, they flocked to the program.
What started as a 10-page business plan quickly turned into a program that has raised $3 million in two years, and now receives 450 applications from 80 different colleges, awarding 60 internships. Ninety percent of program participants lock down full time offers when they graduate.
The program starts with a four-week, all expenses paid crash course at the University of Pennsylvania, where the women learn core investment and finance concepts from highly regarded business school professors and industry leading practitioners in the asset management business.
The courses are capped off with a final presentation, where the women are split into teams and make recommendations – after weeks of research – on whether to buy or sell certain stocks. Participants are then placed into six-week paid summer internships at leading asset management firms around the world.
The program is preparing to add additional college locations for the course, and would like to spin off a high school program long-term.
Hingorani says there is still much to do. Today, diversity in asset management worldwide is at a surprising low, with women and minorities running just 1.1 percent of the industry’s $71.4 trillion of assets.
She said the program is always in need of more capital, would like to create an endowment and would like to see more venture capital firms, who already have image problems, partner with Girls Who Invest.
“Women are a big part of the consumer economy,” said Hingorani. “Companies are missing out on a lot by not having women at the table telling you where to invest your money.”