The 10 most-followed female investors

Ally Selby

Livewire Markets

Today marks International Women's Day, an annual global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year's theme is "break the bias", with the organisation hoping to raise awareness of what a world free of "bias, stereotypes and discrimination" would look like.

So to do our small part, Livewire is highlighting some of the incredible female fund managers and investment experts who write and appear on our platform; women who are valued by investors just like you and are celebrated for their expertise, regardless of gender. 

As it stands, the majority of the world's best-known investors are male. As avid investors, we pore over the words of Peter Lynch, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham and Ray Dalio, to name a few. 

On the local front, it's really not that different. Think Platinum founder Kerr Neilson, Bennelong's Richard Fish, Magellan founder Hamish Douglass and Regal Funds Management's Phil King. 

But research has found that women are often better at investing than men. For example, a Fidelity Investments study from 2021 found that of its 5.2 million customers, female investors outperformed their male counterparts by 0.4% on an annual basis from January 2011 to December 2020.

Meantime, research out of Goldman Sachs in 2020 found that 43% of female-managed funds outperformed their benchmark during the tumultuous year, compared to 41% of those managed by men.

So in this wire, you'll find 10 accomplished female investors you can follow. These include Jun Bei Liu, our most followed female investor, who has doubled the funds under management of the Tribeca Alpha Plus Fund since taking over as the lead on the portfolio. And Kate Howitt, a multi-award winning portfolio manager who has made a name for herself on the global stage. 

We hope you enjoy reading through this list of outstanding women. You can also check out how some of our female readers invest in these "Meet the Investor" profiles below: 

Education
Meet Ann: And the small-cap stocks funding her retirement
Education
Meet Liz: She’s curious, kind and bought Afterpay at 3 bucks

1. Jun Bei Liu, Tribeca Investment Partners

  • Fund: Tribeca Alpha Plus Fund
  • 12-month return: 12.93% (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Long/short Australian equities 

Jun Bei Liu is a long/short Australian equities portfolio manager who manages more than $1 billion on behalf of investors. During her 20 years in the industry, she has made a major name for herself for being a stellar stock picker (and has become a fan favourite among Livewire readers).

It's a far cry from Liu's humble beginnings, having emigrated from China at just 16 years old. Within six months, she had picked up the language and was encouraged by a supportive teacher to follow her dreams in finance. 

In her final year of university, Liu nabbed a role as a junior analyst at financial newsletter producer Aspect Huntley and later worked on the sell-side for Foster Stockbroking. She then landed a job at Tribeca, where she worked for nine years as an analyst, and also became a mother to two children. 

She became a co-portfolio manager soon after and, in 2019, Liu took over the reins as the lead on Tribeca's Alpha Plus Fund. Since then, the Fund has doubled its assets under management and has outperformed the S&P/ASX 200 benchmark by 6% per annum (over three years). 

On average, the Fund holds 60-70 long positions and 30-40 short positions, taking advantage of both negative and positive market sentiment and fundamentals. But to be successful in any market cycle, Liu recommends investors siphon out the noise.

"The share market has always been filled with so much noise. And the worst thing an investor could do is to panic," Liu says. 
"Market conditions are changing, it's becoming more volatile. And there are a lot more passive funds in the marketplace; providing great opportunities for active investors."

2. Kate Howitt, Fidelity International 

  • Fund: Fidelity Australian Opportunities Fund
  • 12-month return: 9.87% (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Australian equities 

Kate Howitt has led the Fidelity Australian Opportunities Fund since its inception in 2012 and has become a multi-award winning portfolio manager during that time. In fact, in 2021, for the fourth year in a row, she was named in Citywire’s list of the top 30 female fund managers... in the world!

It shouldn't surprise readers then that Howitt studied at one of the world’s leading business schools, the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, before starting out her career in management consulting with one of the "Big Three" firms, Boston Consulting Group.

Here she became fascinated with understanding what separates great companies from the not so great ones; a fascination that would become a competitive advantage when she pivoted into funds management.

Now, Howitt manages nearly $520 million on behalf of investors and passionately believes that the finance industry can help change the world for the better.

But her one piece of advice for investors to generate alpha is to "think slow", ensuring a cool head in stormy markets and new investment environments.

"Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote a book called 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'. And he says that we evolved to try to conserve energy and make fast decisions," Howitt explains.
"That's really good if you're trying to outrun a tiger, but if you're trying to make money from investments, then you need to be thinking slow." 
Managed Fund
Fidelity Australian Opportunities Fund
Australian Shares

3. Michelle Lopez, abrdn 

  • Funds: Aberdeen Standard Focused Sustainable Australian Equity Fund and Aberdeen Standard Australian Small Companies Fund
  • 12-month return: 23.92% and 12.21% (as of 31/12/2021)
  • Speciality: Australian equities 

Michelle Lopez is the head of Australian equities at the newly rebranded abrdn (formerly, Aberdeen Standard Investments), having worked her way up from her first role at the firm as an analyst more than 18 years ago (prior to this, she worked as an asset consulting analyst at Willis Towers Watson).

Lopez doesn't subscribe to the typical Value versus Growth tropes, but instead, searches for quality businesses that have been underappreciated by the market, with every business she buys displaying five key characteristics:

  1. Compelling business prospects - attractive industry characteristics, competitive advantages, with strong momentum behind them.
  2. Strong, experienced management teams with established track records.
  3. A strong balance sheet - a preference for low gearing but also net cash.
  4. Transparency - around company structure, earnings and cash flow conversion.
  5. Robust ESG measures - to ensure a company is being sustainably run.

However, in the end, Lopez is a big believer that investors have to take risks to be successful in markets (and to grow personally as well).

"We have a motto at home ... ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn'," Lopez says.
"I think that’s a really important philosophy to live by whether it’s life generally or investing. You’re not going to be able to get it right all the time, so you’ve really got to learn."
Managed Fund
Aberdeen Standard Focused Sustainable Australian Equity Fund
Australian Shares
Managed Fund
Aberdeen Standard Australian Small Companies Fund
Australian Shares

4. Emma Fisher, Airlie Funds 

  • Fund: Airlie Australian Share Fund
  • 12-month return: 20.24% (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Australian equities 

Emma Fisher is the portfolio manager of the Airlie Australian Share Fund, having nabbed the role in 2018 after just two years at the firm as an analyst. Prior to working with Airlie, Fisher worked with Fidelity on its Australian investment team and on the sell-side at Nomura.

Over the past three years, the fund has returned 16.26% per annum, thanks in part to Fisher's superb stock picking. Think Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN), which she dubbed the "cheapest lithium stock in the market" and just two months later skyrocketed around 70% higher, or CSL (ASX: CSL), which has risen three times since she started as an analyst with Airlie in 2016.

Like Liu, Fisher believes the key to success in markets, particularly if you find a stock with a wide moat, a decades-long track record and high barriers to entry, is to “just hitch your wagon to those economics and get out of your own way."

“As an investor, the challenge in this industry is there is a lot of noise, there's a lot of voices that are trying to get you to think shorter term or change your idea," Fisher says. 
"But ultimately, you have to really go back to your thesis and analyse whether or not anything's changed. And I think with a business like that, getting out of your own way and just letting it work for you can be a really powerful lesson to learn."

Another key reason to avoid "market noise", Fisher says, is that it rarely matters in the long run; it is extremely difficult to predict the direction of a share price given the impacts of market sentiment, news flow and broker upgrades and downgrades - which all influence a stock's share price.

However, over the long term, Fisher and her team believe that the only thing that truly drives the value of a company is the returns it is able to generate on capital invested in its business. 

5. Catriona Burns, Wilson Asset Management 

  • Fund: WAM Global
  • 12-month return: 12.6% (as of 31/12/2021, based on pre-tax NTA performance, adjusted for dividends. The pre-tax NTA is after fees, taxes paid and the impact of capital management in the listed investment company structure.)
  • Speciality: Global equities 

Given the gender inequality that has long marked the investment world, it may surprise some to learn that Catriona Burns comes from a long line of female investors. Her grandmother, from Oberon in regional New South Wales, was an avid investor, while her great-grandmother invested in international stocks.

Now, Burns is the lead portfolio manager of Wilson Asset Management's global LIC, having started out her career as the investment manager's first analyst in 2004. In 2007, WAM helped Burns move to London, where she would later become a portfolio manager at the now controversial Hunter Hall.

She soon returned to Sydney with Hunter Hall and was subsequently offered a role with the then start-up boutique Airlie Funds, where she continued working for five years before being offered to start a global LIC (ASX: WGB) with Wilson Asset Management in 2018.

While Burns loves businesses that can compound earnings (making the way for a pathway to future growth), demonstrate solid barriers to entry, strong balance sheets, low levels of leverage and strong management teams, she tends to avoid value traps. 

She recommends investors steer clear from businesses that are "cheap for a reason", as well as companies that use accounting tools to mask underlying slowdowns in their business, for example, adjustments and intangibles, or peculiar M&A.

"I think the one element of our process and the one element which is a great indicator, is analysing how much money the management team have invested in the company. This helps to understand the motivations of management," Burns says. 
"That is a big reason we love founder-led businesses... If their money is invested in the business, or if they have a significant shareholding in the business, then you know that you are aligned with them."

(Note: An earlier version of this article reported LIC total return performance rather than the performance of the underlying portfolio.)

6. Mary Manning, Alphinity Investment Management 

  • Funds: Alphinity Global Fund and Alphinity Global Sustainable Fund
  • 12-month return: 32.6% and 18.3%  (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Global equities 

Mary Manning has had an enviable early education in all things investment, having started out her career with Salomon Brothers – the setting for Michael Lewis’ seminal book, Liar’s Poker. She then moved on to Soros Funds Management under the legendary George Soros, before leaving for Oaktree Capital, yet again working under another investing great, Howard Marks.

Upon her return to Australia, she joined Ellerston Capital (run by yet another doyen of the industry, Ashok Jacob), where she ran its Asian strategy for almost a decade.

That said, Manning’s true passion lies in sustainable investing, which has been her core focus since joining Alphinity Investment Management last year.

"I'm Canadian and Wayne Gretzky is one of the country's most famous hockey players. And one of his most famous quotes is, 'You want to skate to where the puck is going, not to where the puck has been'," Manning says.

"When I look at the investment landscape, I think sustainability is where the puck is going. And I think global is where the puck is going. So, to have the ability to work for a global sustainable fund is really important to me."

Manning has a PhD in Economics and Economic Development from UTS, with a thesis that focused on health and economic development in Africa. She also completed an MBA at Harvard Business School. 

Managed Fund
Alphinity Global Equity
Global Shares
Managed Fund
Alphinity Global Sustainable Equity
Global Shares

7. Catherine Allfrey, WaveStone Capital 

  • Funds: Australian Share Fund and Dynamic Australian Equity Fund
  • 12-month return: 13.8% and 14.5% (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Australian equities 

Catherine Allfrey founded WaveStone Capital back in 2006. Few boutique firms in Australia have this kind of longevity, but even fewer boast long-term outperformance across multiple strategies. In fact, all three of the firm's funds have outperformed the ASX 300 Index since inception. And in 2017, Allfrey became the first female to be inducted into the Australian Fund Manager Hall of Fame.

Allfrey took a somewhat typical path to portfolio management – until you consider that she was one of the first women to take such a path. Having started her career as a credit analyst at a bank, she soon became an equities analyst at a stockbroker, and then moved to the ‘buy side’ to work in funds management at Colonial First State (during its glory days under Greg Perry).

In last year’s Top Rated Funds series, Allfrey told us about one of the big issues (and opportunities) the team at WaveStone were grappling with:

“China's caused a lot of pain on the trade side, particularly to the Australian economy, but it also is the land of opportunity, right?" Allfrey says.  
"And when we look at China, we look at the fact that there's a massive ageing demographic. The census has just come out there and 30% of the population is going to be over the age of 60 within a few years. So that's just a massive market.”
Managed Fund
WaveStone Australian Share Fund
Australian Shares

8. Camille Simeon, abrdn

  • Fund: Aberdeen Standard Focused Sustainable Australian Equity Fund and Aberdeen Standard Australian Small Companies Fund
  • 12-month return: 23.92% and 12.21% (as of 31/12/2021)
  • Speciality: Australian equities 

Camille Simeon is passionate about ESG (Environmental, Social, & Governance). To Simeon, it doesn’t just inform investment decisions but helps drive them and produce alpha. After 12 years as an investment manager at abrdn, Simeon was promoted as an investment director in 2020.

Simeon has specialist knowledge in mining, energy, and technology. And she puts that expertise to work as a representative on the abrdn Climate Scenario Analysis Tool Steering Group.

Simeon managed to make this list despite publishing just two articles on Livewire – fewer than any other author on this list. Let’s hope we hear from her again soon because she clearly struck a chord with readers!

Managed Fund
Aberdeen Standard Australian Small Companies Fund
Australian Shares
Managed Fund
Aberdeen Standard Focused Sustainable Australian Equity Fund
Australian Shares

9. Claire Aitchison, Independent Investment Research 

  • Fund: None, sell-side
  • 12-month return: None, sell-side
  • Speciality: Australian and global equities, funds and listed products

Claire Aitchison is the only sell-side researcher to make our most followed list, thanks to her thorough and well-received articles covering both equities and listed managed investments (LMIs) such as LITs, LICs, and managed funds. 

Aitchison is the head of equities and funds research at Independent Investment Research (IIR), a research and ratings house that produces commissioned equities and funds research.

She started off her career with Aegis Group (later sold to Morningstar in 2009) as an analyst covering equities, fixed interest and hybrid research. Having joined IRR after Aegis Group was sold to Morningstar, she now supervises all of the rating house's research outputs across equities and managed investments other than those across metals and mining. 

Recently, Aitchison provided an update on the $52.5 billion LIC and LIT market and noted that investors, although recently rewarded with an uplift in dividends, may encounter some volatility ahead. 

"It has been a volatile start to the new year with inflation, war and environmental disasters dominating the headlines. This has been reflected in the NTAs and share prices of LMIs and no doubt will be the talking points over the next few months," Aitchison says.

10. Dawn Kanelleas, First Sentier Investors

  • Funds: First Sentier Wholesale Australian Small Companies Fund and First Sentier Australian MidCap Fund
  • 12-month return: 12.3% and 11% (as of 31/01/2022)
  • Speciality: Australian small and mid-cap equities

Dawn Kanelleas is the head of Australian small and mid-caps at First Sentier Investors (previously, Colonial First State Global Asset Management), having spent more than 20 years working as a fund manager and broker.

Prior to joining the firm in early 2008, Dawn was a portfolio manager on Deutsche Asset Management’s Small Companies Team, which was later bought by Aberdeen Asset Management.

But Kanelleas hasn't followed the typical career pathway of most money managers, having studied science at university, before completing a PhD in inorganic chemistry. After her PhD studies, she continued as a post-doctoral research scholar at the University of Oxford in physical chemistry.

In fact, she says her greatest takeaway from those many years of study was the importance of an innovative mindset. 

"Science breeds people who are contrarian by nature, and obviously that feeds in very well to being a successful fund manager over the long term. (It's) about solving problems and understanding risks," Kanelleas says.
"Science is one of the great encouragers of innovation and of thinking out-of-the-box, and that's really important in identifying structural changes that might be occurring in marketplaces."

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Ally Selby
Content Editor
Livewire Markets

Ally Selby is a content editor at Livewire Markets, joining the team at the end of 2020. She loves all things investing, financial literacy and content creation, having previously worked for the likes of Financial Standard, Pedestrian Group, Your...

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