• Sales and Trading

Women on Wall Street Cast New Mold

Coming face to face with the dearth of women at prominent investment conferences, Morgan Stanley's Tracy Castle-Newman decided to launch her own.

In 2012, Tracy Castle-Newman looked around the room at Morgan Stanley’s annual Global Investment Roundtable in Miami and took stock: Out of roughly 40 investors sitting around the table, weighing in on big-picture views and sharing investment ideas, there wasn’t a single woman.

It wasn’t an oversight, she says, but a reflection of the industry. While women represent a growing number of equity analysts, they are still the minority among senior portfolio managers. Out of 7,700 funds analyzed by Morningstar last year, 2% were run exclusively by female managers, while 9% of fund managers overall were women.

The Global Investment Roundtable’s focus on established industry participants further whittles down the list of female participants. “The managers who are invited typically run their own hedge funds or run some of the largest long-only funds, and most have been managing portfolios for decades,” says Castle-Newman, a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley’s Institutional Equity Division and 20-year veteran of the firm. “Until recently, there simply weren’t that many women who fit that mold.”

Rather than focus exclusively on bringing more women to the Roundtable, Castle-Newman spearheaded a new initiative, this one aimed at bringing the industry’s best female investors together to share views and present stock ideas. In 2013, she kicked off the first Women’s Investment Roundtable.

Now an annual event, it has grown from a half-day meeting with nine portfolio managers the first year to a multiday conference with 18 portfolio managers in 2016.

“These women may not all have their names on the door of their own firms–yet–but they all have 15 to 20 years of investing experience, and conviction about their ideas,” says Castle-Newman, who recently talked about the event’s history, evolution and impact.

Can you tell us more about what inspired the roundtable?

Barton Biggs, who was a partner at Morgan Stanley for most of his career, started the Global Investment Roundtable in the 1980s with the idea of bringing together top managers from different firms to share stock ideas. Fast forward to today, and it is our marquis event, held every year in Miami.

I saw the potential to do the same with the Women’s Roundtable, only with some differences. Namely, portfolio managers don’t have to run their own firms or be solo managers with significant assets under management. They do, however, have to be senior portfolio managers with 15 to 20 years of experience. All of the managers who participate are clients of Morgan Stanley, and all of them have strong convictions about their ideas.

Besides creating a forum for female investors, are there other benefits for a female-focused event?

Portfolio management is a relatively new field for women. There aren’t as many female managers and, because of that, it can be lonely. You come in, you put your head down and you work. Many of these women struggle to find people who are like them. When you bring them together, you see a great deal of camaraderie. It provokes a more intense dialogue, and not just about their investment ideas.

I should say that this isn’t a women-only conference. All of the portfolio managers are female, yes, but we invite members of our sales team, analysts and other people from the firm, male and female, to various events throughout the day.

A big focus is the investment ideas—in that respect, it’s no different from the roundtable started by Barton Biggs—but it also has some far-reaching implications, I hope. It shines a spotlight on some extremely talented female managers, creates a network for discussing ideas throughout the year and, perhaps most importantly, influences how we think about diversity of ideas as investors and as a firm. 

How has the event evolved?

Each year, I’ve taken a little more risk. The first year, I scheduled the roundtable for half a day and held it on the 41st floor of our offices in Times Square in New York. We had nine portfolio managers. It went over really well, but we agreed that half a day wasn’t enough time. The second year, we extended it to a full day, and that still wasn’t enough. The third year, I bit the bullet and took the event “off campus,” to a hotel on Long Beach in New York, extended it to a couple of days and invited Bobbi Brown, the founder of Bobbi Brown cosmetics, to be a guest speaker.

This year, we had 18 portfolio managers, double from where we started, and two incredible outside speakers. Kevin O’Leary, who is an investor on the reality show Shark Tank, joined us at lunch and talked about the unique qualities that female entrepreneurs and managers bring to the table.

Then we had Venus Williams as our guest speaker for dinner. She shared her experience going in front of British Parliament to argue for an equal Wimbledon purse for women. She also talked about performance: In tennis and in investing, there are times when you win and times when you lose, and in a visible way.

Morgan Stanley's Tracy Castle-Newman, who founded the Women's Investment Roundtable, had Venus Williams speak at last year's event.

What is your vision for this event going forward?

My goal is to build this to 25 portfolio manager clients, and I think that’s very doable. I also hope that the event will continue to raise the profile of these talented managers. I dare say it already has.

In 2015, four managers from the Women’s Roundtable participated in the Global Investment Roundtable in Miami. They did an amazing job presenting their ideas and, based on feedback I got from other managers, it added a whole new dimension to the discussion. When Barton Biggs started the Roundtable, the goal was to bring together many different points of view. The Women’s Roundtable takes that to another level.