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Raising Elle:
How Women are Redefining Investment Landscape in Asia

Published on 23 October 2020

In politics, business and finance, women are breaking barriers, advancing into positions of leadership and, as they accumulate wealth, altering the investment landscape. The female factor is affecting the way businesses are run and the kinds of enterprises attracting investment.

The investing industry has traditionally been “by men, for men” but women like former Wall Street high-flyer Sallie Krawcheck are changing the game. In 2016, she launched Ellevest, a digital investment platform focused on helping women to achieve their financial and professional goals. A lot gets in the way of women achieving those goals – including gender stereotypes. As Krawcheck has noted: “It is actually viewed as an attractive female characteristic to be bad with money.”

Most surveys indicate that females are more conservative investors than men, and they often avoid investing because of a lack of trust or understanding in the opportunity before them. And when women do invest they are more likely to expect more from their wealth: not just financial returns but also social impact.

According to Morgan Stanley, 84 percent of women say they are interested in investing for impact and sustainability, as opposed to 67 percent of men. That statistic is particularly significant given that ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)-focused equity funds have taken in nearly US$70bn of assets over the past year, according to fund-flow tracker EPFR, as traditional equity funds experienced almost US$200bn of outflows.

As a leading financial institution in Asia since 1960, Maybank understands the importance of ESG, and have been contributing to the building of vibrant communities by actively involving in social impact work, sustaining an ‘A’ grade under MSCI ESG Rating since 2013.

“Women don’t just want to put their money to work, they want to do it to bring broader benefits to society, the environment and the world we live in,” said Alice Tan, Head of Maybank Private Singapore and Products and Investment Solutions.

Maybank recognises that female investors bring a different mindset to making their money work for them. To better understand that different way of thinking, Maybank is bringing the human touch to financial services.

With 60 years of banking expertise, Maybank tailors its services around the personal needs of its customers, offering people-led services, which positions it well to meet female clients’ needs. Women as a demographic are wired differently and want to know that a bank cares for them.

“Our private bankers understand the importance women place on empathy, trust and quality human interactions. They want us to accompany them on their journey and to view their financial goals through the prism of their life aspirations,” said Ms Tan.

If gender inequality still prevails in the workplace and society across Southeast Asia, attitudes are certainly changing. Growing numbers of family businesses in Asia are transferring wealth to daughters and encouraging them to play prominent executive roles in their family companies.

Many multigenerational family businesses are recognising the skills and experience that female members bring to the table. China is one country in the region where more women are launching and leading prominent companies, such as real estate entrepreneur Zhang Xin and Jean Liu, the president of mobile transportation platform Didi Chuxing.

The female factor has the potential to turbocharge the region. A 2018 McKinsey report estimated that the economies of Southeast Asia could boost their collective GDP by US$370 billion a year by 2025 if gender inequity was eliminated.

Women are controlling more money, whether they earn it, manage it for their household or inherit it. They hold 30% of private wealth globally and this percentage is expected to continue expanding, changing the investment landscape. The winners will be those who take account of this sea change.


Key take-outs:

  • With more women founding companies and inheriting their family’s businesses and wealth, the female factor is changing the investment landscape in Asia.
  • Women invest differently to men with the most notable difference being a desire to achieve impact alongside profits.
  • Maybank is leading by example when it comes to bringing greater balance to financial services and this is reflected in how it caters to the growth in female clients.

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