Investor Journey: Diane Manuel

Diane Manuel joins Urban Wealth Management after a successful career with Merrill Lynch, the California Endowment, and The J. Paul Getty Museum. She has over 20 years of experience helping individuals and organizations in their efforts to identify, implement, and accomplish their financial goals. 
Diane is also active in various philanthropic endeavours. She is member of the Advisory Board for WriteGirl, has served on the Board of Governors for the USC Alumni Association and is now a member of the leadership for Trojans Encore. As a founding member of the Giving Circle Angelenos 4 Los Angeles she‘s active in the arts, entrepreneurship, and the promotion of innovative solutions to support uplifting change in the African-American community.

Tell us about your investor journey. When did you start considering gender?

Prior to working in wealth management I worked in philanthropy at a couple of the largest philanthropic foundations here in California. So I always had a philanthropic angle, I'm part of a giving circle, i've served on a few boards. That space has always been important to me. So when I switched over to wealth management, I naturally included sustainable and responsible investment strategy in what I offer to clients. But in addition to that because I came from that space a number of my clients are interested in philanthropy too. So to take it to the next step, investing with a gender lens, the data that has been consistently coming out over the last five years or more has indicated that the more diversity at all levels of company, the better the company and growth. It's an easy opportunity for me to speak [about that] with my clients. At our firm I would say that about 70-80% of our clients are women. It's something they want to hear and it empowers them to be more confident in their own financial strategies.

Where do you think gender lens investing is where mainstream perceptions are concerned? How long do you think we have to go until it's as common as ESG?

although I love philanthropy - the only way we change corporate dynamics is to invest, not give.

I think it's still at the bottom of the barrel. It's not a conversation that many people are having, the data isn't broadly known. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there's just so few women running companies. There's just a lack of diversity of people running Fortune500 companies, period. So the expectation is always that there will be a white male at the helm. A lot of it has to do with power dynamics; people don't want to give up their power, and they don't want to hear stats that don't agree with what they believe. So there's a perception that when you invest with a gender lens your performance will not be on par with similar investment strategies. That is a very strong perception; I've had women say to me "I'll invest money in whatever to get a performance, then take that and give it away in a philanthropic effort." The problem with that is - although I love philanthropy - the only way we change corporate dynamics is to invest, not give. That's the only way it will change. The numbers are there, it's an uphill climb, we just have to prove that gender lens investing is worth it. 

Do you think there's a place for philanthropy and investment to be working better together?

Absolutely. Philanthropy does a very good job of trying out new things, pushing the envelope, taking chances. We see it in California with respect to the technology industry and the number of philanthropic efforts to get women and people of colour into companies as staff. To prove that your normal tech person isn's just a nerdy white guy. SO that is a great space where philanthropic efforts have been proven to be a force. However that effort isn't going to change the dynamics and the management of the C-Suite all by itself. 

What if there were major venture capitalists saying, 'We're not going to invest in a company that isn't diverse at all levels'? That's a big step and it will take a very long time to come to fruition because people often believe the model they're working in is the only good model, and it's our responsibility to share and to demonstrate that there are other models.