Impax blog

Diversity: a helpful factor in stock selection

19 Mar 2018 - by Meg Brown

International Women’s Day was celebrated on 8 March. For people in Britain it held particular significance this year, falling a century after specific groups of women won the right to vote in the UK general election. This started the process for all adults to have the same voting rights as each other – men and women.

For many people, the fight for equality continues. In particular, the issue of gender diversity on boards and in senior management has come under focus in Britain recently. Furthermore, by April 2018, companies with more than 250 employees will have to publish details of any “gender pay gap”.

Research demonstrates that greater diversity throughout organisations increases the likelihood of financial out-performance1. A 2016 MSCI paper notes that companies scoring well on indicators such as increasing the number of women on a board, consistently had correlations with stronger financial metrics over the sample period (2011-2016). The report suggests two reasons: 1) more diverse groups make better decisions, and 2) gender-diverse companies are demonstrating effective retention and utilisation of available talent2.

Our history of identifying long-term performance factors
Impax’s investment philosophy is rooted in considering long-term performance factors that the broader market has failed to notice. Since 1998, we have been investing in companies with material exposure to high growth environmental markets as an indicator of long-term outperformance. In 2016, we published our approach to assessing carbon risk in global equity portfolios (our “SmartCarbon™” approach, as can be seen here).

Our new US investment colleagues3 have been integrating gender diversity factors into their investment process for a number of years. In 2014, they launched a women’s leadership strategy, which invests in the highest-rated companies in the world for advancing women’s leadership through gender diversity on their boards and in executive management. The team are also leaders in advancing pay equity and promoting greater gender diversity on corporate boards through shareholder engagement and advocacy4. Shareholder engagements focus on influencing corporate policies and behaviour so that companies are well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits associated with gender diversity.

Broadening the definition of diversity
Across Impax, as part of our detailed ESG analysis, we examine the diversity of company boards and management teams from a gender, experience, and tenure perspective. Diversity is an important signal of the character of companies, an aspect we seek to understand through our analysis.

For example, we have recently engaged with some companies in Asia to encourage improved corporate diversity, in most cases focusing on gender. We also closely examine companies’ policies and processes to support, train and develop their people, taking into account a diverse set of specific needs and life circumstances of staff. For investors, it is highly informative and a valuable signal of corporate quality, and helps to identify the positive cultures and processes that are likely to enable staff to be motivated and committed and, as a consequence, more productive.

We also believe that diversity has a positive impact on our investment teams' performance. It enhances creativity, problem-solving, the quality of risk management and decision making. Promoting diversity also improves recruitment and retention of the most talented people, strengthens our client understanding and orientation, and increases staff engagement.

The investment case for diversity is well-established, and at Impax we expect the investment opportunities related to diversity to increase in the years ahead.

1The CS Gender 3000: The Reward for Change - credit-suisse.com
2The tipping point: Women on boards and financial performance - msci.com
3Impax Asset Management Group plc acquired Pax World Management LLC, advisor to the Pax World mutual funds in January 2018.
4Proxy voting - paxworld.com