Women reveal their top investment secrets

9 July 2013

It seems that women are good investors who simply don't do much investing. Our parent group, Interactive Investor (II), has a broad range of investing options from currencies to house prices, but just 10% of their clients are women, although in 2012 female hedge fund managers outperformed men by a not-inconsiderable 6%. What creates that barrier?

Women seem to want to maintain rather than grow their capital, despite the returns that can be gained from investing more actively.

Women express commitment to ethical investing, but not at any price. The main consideration is to underpin their assets - pension, mortgage, investments and savings - using a secure, established provider. While this provides the security of knowing their money will still be there when it is needed, it may not offer returns that are as attractive as more speculative options.

We asked a handful of modern investors how they tackle the subject.

Investor one

Sarah Knight, 28, is a civil servant in London. For her, ready access is more important than higher interest. She is currently saving towards that first big financial commitment, a property - which she does through her bank, which she trusts and feels that it knows her well. A potential return on her savings is outweighed by her desire for security. "I like to keep it fairly simple. For me, easy access is paramount and security is more important than growth."

Sarah describes herself as risk-averse. "At one point, the bank offered me a product where it helps you set up a portfolio, investing your money for five years. But, at the time, I potentially needed access to the funds for either a deposit or relocation, so it wasn't of too much interest to me. It was higher risk too, and that put me off."

She started to think about savings when she was about 25 and is unlikely to ever explore in any detail the green aspects to her investments. "I prefer to go with a green, ethically-friendly investment if I can, but looking after my savings is more important. I wouldn't look too far into what my bank invests in now because I trust it. I'm not interested in investing in anything other than securing my savings, because saving for a deposit for a property is my main priority.

"I haven't done anything about pensions other than work; there's an investment-type portfolio, which I didn't like the sound of. It's an unknown quantity, so I'm going to stay with the system that's been in place for quite a long time."

Investor two

Gillian Connor, 35, a charity-sector public affairs professional from London, values capital protection rather than growth concerns. Time-saving is an additional consideration for her, rather than shopping around. "I read an article that recommended focusing on debt rather than savings, given the minimum return you get from those these days. Now I use my savings to offset my mortgage. Ethical investing would sway me, but I'm more keen to safeguard my interests and investments by using an established product and provider."

Jackie Sandy, 47, is an accountant in London. Her objectives are clear: "I want to make sure I have enough to live on when I retire, as it is unlikely that in years to come we will be able to rely on the state. I want to make sure I can carry on doing the lovely things I do now."

Jackie uses larger tracker-type funds and is "fairly risk-averse" for any other savings. While she has invested in an enterprise investment scheme, she would not consider anything that was not in line with her ethical standards.

"I definitely wouldn't invest in anything that wasn't ethically sound, such as tobacco."

Investor three

Lisa Norstrom, 50, a Swedish project manager based in London, has a greater appetite for risk: "A few years ago, a global company was about to issue more shares. I waited and took a bigger risk than my male friends and husband included. They invested more and earlier, but I was convinced that the share price would drop further. So I waited. Although I invested less, later it went my way.

"Because I have children, when investing my savings I look for larger, more stable companies. I have in my bag a mix of about 10 shares, one or two are riskier than others. Although when I have had extra money, I have taken a risk and it went well. I would do that again - definitely."

Again, time-saving plays a key role in Lisa's financial planning. "I wouldn't spend a lot of time exploring, and I wouldn't ask my bank. I would look around and ask friends and my own network in an informal way, and chat to people I trust."

All the women we spoke to were not overly concerned about the sectors they were indirectly invested in through their larger, 'more secure' fund-managed investments. However, Lisa is also someone who would not consider less-than-green options for her own stock selection.

"I would never consider something I was not ethically happy with. Definitely no spirits, tobacco or weapons, that's important to me. I might gain less but I feel comfortable, and that's my choice."

For those who were prepared to dip their toe into the share-trading and investment arena, they have seen positive growth on their capital, and benefited from having the courage of their convictions.

Having a sense of what constitutes a good investment means that women are profiting from their savings having access to healthy returns, while those whose interest is protecting their capital could well be losing out on very real gains. So what are you waiting for?

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