Ranking the world's top 20 female portfolio managers

I doubt very much that there can be few more male-dominated industries than finance. It is even more extreme in the select club of portfolio management. To that point, of the 15,000 portfolio managers whom Citywire tracks globally, just 1,512 — or 10 percent — are women.

These portfolio managers are the individuals entrusted with managing large portions of your 401(k) plans. They seek to preserve your capital while making stock decisions that will grow your retirement savings for the time when you need to buy an annuity that will provide income for the rest of your life. As such, the quality of the job they do is paramount to setting you up to live a comfortable, and hopefully long, existence in your twilight years.

Despite the imbalance in the number of female portfolio managers, we've unearthed no statistical differences in women's ability to make good, or bad, decisions with your money. Women exhibit the same ability to outperform their chosen market as men, which is the raison d'etre of anyone who manages money for a living. Proportionally, women also manage just as much money as their male counterparts.

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In order to shine a light on the best female portfolio managers in the world, Citywire looked at those with the highest levels of risk-adjusted returns globally over the past three years. These are the individuals adding the most money for the risks they are exposing investors to in their portfolios.

They all have a AAA rating, and they all boast returns that place them in the top 25 percent of the peer group for their particular investment discipline over that period, be that large U.S. stocks or bonds right through to emerging markets equities.

In the list created by Citywire, four managers from the United States make the cut in our top 20 table. Three of them are running municipal bond funds, and all of them at the helm of fixed-income portfolios.

Geography plays a key role in the makeup of the top 20. The global financial centers inevitably dominate the list, with 16 of the top 20 based in either the United States., London, Paris, Sydney or Hong Kong. The last of these emerges as the go-to destination for top women fund managers, with a quarter of the top 20 based in the autonomous Chinese territory.

Manager Ratio
1 M. Jane McCart Northern Trust, Chicago Northern High Yield Municipal Fund 2.39
2 Elizabeth Soon PineBridge, Hong Kong PineBridge Asia ex Japan Small Cap Equity; Pinebridge India Equity 1.65
3 Audrey Bacrot Evalfi, Paris Independance et Expansion Sicav Small Cap 1.62
4 Dawn Kanelleas Colonial First State, Sydney CFS FC W Inv-CFS W Small Companies-Core 1.51
5 Cynthia J. Clemson Eaton Vance Management, Boston Eaton Vance AMT-Free Municipal Income Fund; Eaton Vance Ohio Municipal Income Fund; Eaton Vance Missouri Municipal Income Fund; Eaton Vance High Yield Municipal Income Fund; Eaton Vance Connecticut Municipal Income Fund 1.49
6 Christine Horoyski Aurion Capital Management, Toronto Aurion Capital Canadian Bond Fund 1.49
7 Elina Fung HSBC Global Asset Management, Hong Kong HSBC GIF Asia Ex Japan Equity Smaller Cos; HSBC Asia ex-Japan Smaller Companies Equity Fund 1.47
8 Carine Beigbeder Financiere Arbevel, Paris Pluvalca Initiatives PME 1.45
9 Victoria Harling Investec Asset Management, London Investec GSF EM Investment Grde Crp DbtIX; Investec GSF Em Mkts Corp Debt 1.31
10 Natalie N. Trevithick Payden & Rygel, Los Angeles Payden Corporate Bond Fund; Payden Global Fixed Income Fund; Payden Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund 1.28
11 Henrietta Pacquement Wells Fargo, London ECM Short Duration Credit 1.27
12 Jing Ning Fidelity International, Hong Kong Fidelity Funds - China Focus; Fidelity China 1.24
13 Caroline Gauthier Amundi, Paris Amundi Actions PME; Amundi Microcaps Europe; Amundi Fds Equity Euroland Small Cap; SG Actions Euro PME; LCL Developpement PME 1.19
14 Emily Dong BlackRock, Hong Kong BlackRock Asia Special Situations; BGF Asian Growth Leaders 1.15
15 Nancy G. Angell AMG Funds, Boston AMG GW&K Municipal Enhanced Yield Fund; AMG GW&K Municipal Bond Fund 1.13
16 Laura Trost CBR Investment, Balzers, Lichtenstein Lumen Vietnam Fund 1.11
17 Kristel Kivinurm Avaron Asset Management, Tallinn, Estonia Avaron Eastern Europe Fixed Income Fund; Avaron Emerging Europe Fund 1.10
18 Kate Howitt Fidelity International, Sydney Fidelity Australian Opportunities 1.05
19 Eleanor Taylor Jolidon Union Bancaire Privee, Geneva UBAM (CH) Swiss Small and Mid Cap Equity; UBAM Swiss Small and Mid Cap Equity; UBAM Swiss Equity 1.02
20 Joanna Kwok JP Morgan Asset Management, Hong Kong JPMorgan Eastern Smaller Companies; JPM Asia; JPMorgan Asia Growth Fund 1.02
Citywire Holdings

In stark contrast to U.S. managers, all of these women run stock portfolios focusing on the vibrant Asia-Pacific region. This is perhaps not surprising, given the focus of Asian investors on the high returns their domestic stock markets are capable of producing.

At the top of the list is Jane McCart, a fund manager at Northern Trust. McCart manages the $655 million Northern High Yield Municipal Fund. Municipal bonds have been incredibly consistent performers in the post-credit crisis period, displaying the two properties that are the Holy Grail of long-term investment: extremely low volatility, coupled with quality returns.

McCart's state-level exposure is notably diverse for a municipal bond fund, with underweights to the two largest issuers of debt in California and New York. These positions are balanced by healthy allocations to Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Florida and Indiana. McCart is a veteran of the industry, coming up to 40 years of experience in money management.

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Asia's top-rated woman fund manager and No. 2 on the Citywire list is PineBridge's Elizabeth Soon.

Soon manages funds investing in Asian small and medium companies and Indian stocks. It's a task that she has handled very well, consistently receiving high monthly ratings from Citywire.

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In her Asian smaller companies fund, Soon has left the benchmark for dust over the past three years, returning 37.2 percent compared with the index's 5.9 percent decline. Asian stocks have produced some of 2016's best returns, particularly in the latter half of the year, and that performance has attracted large amounts of new assets.

At a country level, her biggest stakes are in China (22.9 percent), Hong Kong (10.3 percent), India (10.1 percent), Australia (11.3 percent) and Korea (10.8 percent). Some of her top holdings are the Australian listing of Domino's Pizza and Nestlé in India. In recent months, she has been taking profits and increasing her cash position, which now stands at 15.6 percent of the portfolio, up from 9.4 percent at the end of May.

— By Frank Talbot, head of U.S. investment research at Citywire