Michelle McCloskey was recognized for Excellence in Investment Management at the 2015 Women in Finance Markets Choice Awards.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of a January 7 interview.
Markets Media: Describe your role and responsibilities at Man FRM.
Michelle McCloskey: I am president of the FRM division of Man Group and I sit on the executive committee for Man Group. I co-manage the open architecture solutions business. Simplistically, my day-to-day role is to supervise and manage all of our bottom-up processes, which means interacting with the hedge fund managers that we select for investment, and also coordinating and supervising what goes on with our managed account (MAC) platforms and our client offerings in the managed account space.
MM: How do you achieve excellence in investment management?
MMc: Traditionally, we have worked primarily with institutional investors. Certainly, the industry has changed since 2008, when the business was a heritage, fund of funds business (people don’t use that term much anymore). Fortunately, we were well positioned coming out of 2008 with an array of offerings to further our business and help clients with their alternatives investing.
A lot of these tools and opportunities were informed by our own experiences as investors in hedge funds. My approach with clients is empathetic in that, we’re sitting on the same side of the table as they are, as investors in hedge funds. We aim to use our experience and our technology to make our client’s alternatives experience a more efficient and thorough process.
We’ve sought to enhance our clients’ ability to invest through our managed account platform, which provides a significant amount of efficiency, control, and transparency. Our proprietary platform is something we developed for ourselves originally to bolster our risk management and to most efficiently and effectively invest in managers. Over time we recognized the value that it could offer our institutional clients directly and evolved our investment solutions suite to incorporate these services, offering them to institutions. Similarly, we’ve developed some ideas around alternative beta investing using the resources across Man Group, which allows for efficient cost per unit of risk in the investment strategies, and it also allows for much more flexibility. We developed tools to allow us to react more quickly in changing market conditions and by extension help our clients to get the most out of their alternative investments.
MM: What is your perspective on being a successful woman in finance, i.e. what has been your experience as a woman in a field that at least historically has been dominated by men? What is your advice for young women who aspire to a career similar to yours?
MMc: I think it’s very important to catch women and girls at an early age, to make sure that they understand that STEM careers, and also financial careers, are something they should consider and may enjoy.
I love some of the things that are happening out in the world right now like Seema Hingorani’s Girls Who Invest. Efforts like this are deeply important, because you want to catch women and girls early to make sure they understand that there is a real opportunity here, and there is a network of support and other women out there who will help them.
I came out of school with a chemical engineering degree in 1980. There may have been one other woman in my class. Then I entered finance, and in the first 15 to 20 years of my career, I was often the only female or maybe one of two females in the room. I was able to handle it partly because I think I had just the right combination of naiveté or ignorance, along with a little bit of self-confidence. “This is just a room full of people. This is really what I’m passionate about and interested in. I have a belief that I can be a contributing member of this team and that I can do this job.” I never really viewed it as a “men against women” thing, or that I wasn’t going to be welcome in any particular room. I just pressed ahead.
While the demographic is still skewed, a lot of progress has been made. I certainly don’t encounter the things that I used to encounter back in the 80’s. The opportunity is here, you just have to have a certain amount of courage and belief. You can’t operate from a place of fear. You just have to be passionate, cultivate your networks and move forward.