We welcome Comgest as a new supporter of the Fund Women. This international asset manager, headquartered in Paris, has its focus on equity investments. Comgest is considered particularly independent because the company is 100% owned by its staff and founders. We talk to Silke Masuda about what diversity, especially the advancement of women, means to the company and how it is integrated into the corporate culture. Silke Masuda is Team Leader Marketing & Investor Services at Comgest Germany and a member of the Comgest Diversity & Inclusion Working Group.
So that we can get a picture of Comgest: Briefly describe your company and its service?
Silke Masuda: Comgest is an international investment boutique in developed and emerging market equities. It is 100% owned by its employees and founders. This solid partnership, which has been in place for over 35 years, is the foundation of our quality growth approach. With offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America, Comgest manages over 40 billion euros in assets (as of December 31, 2021) and serves investors around the globe seeking equity investment with a long-term focus.
Of the approximately 200 employees worldwide (around 50% female), 10 currently work for the sales unit based in Düsseldorf. Here, we look after large institutional and corporate customers as well as distribution networks ("wholesale business") in Germany and Austria in all matters relating to their fund investments.
With your commitment as a supporter of the Fund Women, you are making a clear commitment to gender diversity. What does that mean for your company in concrete terms?
Silke Masuda: Comgest's founders conceived of our collaborative partnership in a work environment where colleagues have the autonomy and freedom to express themselves, contribute and develop their potential.
As we all know, our founders resisted the idea of hierarchies. They wanted to create a very flat and entrepreneurial organizational structure where everyone, as a group of co-owners, enjoys contributing, debating, and challenging themselves, across all teams and areas of the company, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, LGBT+, or other directly visible or invisible characteristics.
It often starts with gender diversity - but this is where it begins for us: At Comgest, everyone also brings their own story, their own experiences. The different skills and perspectives complement each other and enrich the decision-making process.
How does this help your business?
Masuda: We think that diversity and difference is something valuable in itself. We think this leads to better results, because it can make the decision-making process more difficult and we have to consider our options better. Thus, diversity also has a direct impact on the success of our investment decisions.
How do you integrate the advancement of women in your company across all areas, and with what measures?
MasudaAs part of our Diversity & Inclusion Working Group, we are constantly reviewing and revising our processes, starting from the very beginning: How can we increase the relatively low quota of female applicants and inspire them to join Asset Management and Comgest?
Within the existing global Comgest team, we strive to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all. More than 30 nationalities are represented among our approximately 200 employees, with a gender balance of almost 50:50. The flat hierarchies described and our partnership-based approach are therefore a lived reality.
So we can proudly announce: According to the Citywire Alpha Female Report 2021, the industry average is 11.8% female portfolio managers. At Comgest, we reach an above-average 29%. Eva Fornadi (European Equities), Laure Négiar (Global Equities) and Chantana Ward (Japanese Equities), as three female portfolio managers awarded "Best Performer" by Citywire, are very good examples here.
You said that you want to increase the relatively low quota of female applicants and inspire women to join asset management and Comgest. How are you targeting women? Have you changed the wording in your job advertisements to do this? Or what else?
Masuda: We are continuously working on this and are naturally guided by best practices. As part of our internal development, we would like to raise awareness of this aspect and, for example, encourage our team members to be even more conscious and "diverse" in bringing interns on board - and to engage regularly with schoolchildren and first-year students. Enthusiasm for finance and asset management can be awakened at a very early age, and direct guidance from passionate experts can be inspiring for these students.
To this end, we would like to focus specifically on formats such as trade fairs, university initiatives and online platforms that are (or could be) targeted at graduates or those interested in "Female Finance".
Thank you very much for the interview!