Firing line  

We're closer to our shareholders than the board of a unit trust

We're closer to our shareholders than the board of a unit trust

Elisabeth Scott, chairman of the India Capital Growth Fund (ICGF), an investment trust, has an interesting insight into the debate over sexism in the financial services industry.

She said: “It takes time for these things to change and people have to go in order for spaces to be made available for women to take up, and sometimes people don’t want to go.”

She has been quite active in looking at the position of women and girls, but mainly in Hong Kong, where she was an an ex-pat for 16 years, over the time of the 1997 handover.

During her time there, she was a founding member of a board that looked into the situation of women and girls in Hong Kong. She said: “If you look at law, I would guess there were more women graduating from Hong Kong universities than there were men, but there were many more male partners than there were female.” 

She actually found that the situation in general was not too bad for women in Hong Kong, but education was, understandably, an important factor.

For example, the office where she worked, Schroders, was 70 per cent female, some of whom were Hong Kong Chinese. “Senior fund managers, head of legal, head of compliance – were all female, and the chief investment officer for part of the time [I was there] was a woman.

“Hong Kong was a great place to work as a woman, and there were a lot of opportunities. I had both my children there, and affordable childcare makes a whole lot of difference, as well as commuting times. If you have to go to your child’s Christmas play, and if you’re in London, that means taking the whole day off. In Hong Kong I was able to get there in half an hour and just take three hours off for the afternoon.”

Ms Scott worked for Schroders looking after its Hong Kong clients, largely looking after institutional clients, but before that she worked as both a fund manager and analyst on investment trusts, investing in US equities for Standard Life and Edinburgh Fund Managers.

Now she is chairmain of the ICGF, which has assets under management of around £120m, and she is a non-executive director of Allianz Technology, Dunedin Income Growth, Fidelity China Special Situations and Pacific Horizon.

The ICGF is dedicated solely to investing in India, particularly small and mid-caps, and like its rivals Aberdeen New India Investment Trust and JP Morgan Indian Investment Trust, is subject to prevailing sentiment on India, especially as one accesses the fund via the stock market.

Political risk

Uncertainty over India’s elections next year, and whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s programme of reforms will continue, has dampened opinion on India as an investment opportunity, so that the fund is trading at a discount to net asset value (NAV) of 17 per cent.