Women are far better represented at asset managers in key Asian financial centres than they are in the US, according to new data announced at an AsianInvestor forum yesterday.

But there appears to be much work to go to achieve gender equality in the investment industry, with significant under-representation at senior levels in Asia.

With much more equality in the lower echelons of the industry, however, the hope is that this will move up the ranks in the years to come as women are promoted along with their male colleagues.

Investment research firm Morningstar yesterday provided key takeaways from its unpublished research focusing on women in Asia’s asset management industry. The results were revealed during AsianInvestor’s 2nd Women in Asset Management forum in Hong Kong yesterday.

The data reveals information ranging from whether women are under-represented in the industry to whether they invest differently than their male counterparts.

Looking at the number of women running Asian equities versus women managing US equities, Morningstar found that female managers were considerably more common in the key Asian markets of Singapore and Hong Kong. There were 20% female managers running regional and single Asian equities and fixed income funds available for sale in Hong Kong and Singapore compared to less than 10% women managing US open-ended funds.

In terms of manager tenure, there was no material difference between females compared to the average industry tenure in Asia.

Morningstar looked at whether female managers delivered better performance for investors. The firm focused on Asia equity funds given their large sample size and found that female managers performed slightly worse than their male counterparts over three and five years, but marginally better over 10 years. Meanwhile, the data was more mixed on a risk-adjusted return basis.

Surprisingly, women managers in Asia exhibited a higher level of portfolio turnover, but when the data was analysed deeper these female managers tended to manage more single-country funds, especially China mandates where portfolio turnover tends to be higher, according to Morningstar.

In terms of female penetration in Asian investment teams, Morningstar looked at 15 large Asian equity teams in Asia and the data showed that there was more balanced representation of women at the analyst level, but significantly under-representation in the portfolio manager and CIO/head of equities level, where women made up less than 30% of the team.

Wing Chan, director of manager research for Asia at Morningstar, said that in general analysts were younger and as they moved up the career ladder, the balanced mix in analyst positions would likely translate to a balanced mix of female and male managers in the future.

“The key takeaways from the data are that strategy and not gender is more of a determinant on investment performance and certain characteristics such as portfolio turnover,” noted Chan.

“While the number is still relatively low, the percentage of female managers in Singapore and Hong Kong is more than double that of the US market.”

Morningstar will release the full report in June. The firm used proprietary data current up until March 2015.

AI Week continues today with the start of a two-day conference in Hong Kong – the 10th Asian Investment Summit at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kowloon.