Vanguard investment management careers, Gemma

Q&A with a Vanguard Senior Portfolio Manager

To learn more about the career of an investment management crew member, Gemma offered her insight in this Q&A. Gemma is currently a senior portfolio manager in the fixed income active rates team. Her team manages the active US Treasury and US Inflation Linked securities funds. She joined Vanguard in 2011 as a mid-career hire after a career in investment banking and a stint as a portfolio manager at a global sovereign wealth fund. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and travelling.

In your LinkedIn profile you mention that you are part of a small cadre of women portfolio managers in the asset management industry. Tell us more about this and why you think that is.

Morningstar and Bloomberg recently published articles on women in asset management and have highlighted that there are 14 Fixed Income funds managed solely by women in the US. At Vanguard, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to manage 4 of those funds. There are also other female portfolio managers who manage global fixed income and global equity funds at Vanguard. The attrition rate of gender diversity has risen in the asset management industry since the great financial recession. Research has shown that the broader the diversity within teams, the higher the return potential. This is paramount in an environment where overall investment returns are low and it behooves companies to seek out opportunities to boost returns. I am honored that I can be a role model for younger diverse crew who may be considering a career path into portfolio management.

What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self as you were starting your career?

I would always keep your dreams and aspirations in front of you. Assess what skills and competencies you would need for such roles and take necessary steps to build those by taking on roles that can be stepping stones to your ultimate destination. This is a competitive environment so don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new even if it is not a direct path to attaining your dream job. If it offers a new skill or competency, it adds to your personal growth. Additionally, credentials, such as an accreditation or a secondary degree, can be helpful in your professional development and broadening overall business acumen. I have had two different careers within the investment world as a result of my willingness to builds skills and take risks.

Vanguard investment management careers, Gemma

What obstacles did you run into and what helped you overcome them?

Years ago while working in investment banking as a professional and a new mother, I had to make difficult career choices to manage both aspects of my life in such a way that I felt fulfilled and I could bring my whole self to the office and home. I have learned over the years that work and life are not a perfect balance and that I shift between the demands from both over time. Above all, I have had a tremendous network of both women and men along with a supportive spouse who have helped me keep my sense of humor and perspective. I have also had supportive bosses who helped me prioritize my family when there were conflicts and encouraged me to advance my career.

Did you have any mentors? How have they supported you in your career?

I was fortunate to have two mentors and a sponsor who helped me to take command of my career, to take roles that presented risks because the long game necessitated that I build skills and experiences, and to build and expand my support network. I found these individuals by chance (elevator pitch) or through my network. They were all senior executives but their business and market acumen along with their wisdom were instructive in helping shape each phase of my professional life. Born an introvert, they quickly helped me to build comfort outside of my natural inclinations. They encouraged me to ask for what I wanted, provided me with opportunities when I wasn’t looking for them (but was ready) and provided me with the moral support to be successful.

Vanguard investment management careers, Gemma

What makes you most proud of Vanguard?

There are many things of which I am proud but I would say the integrity and collaborative nature of the crew who are always guided by our mission statement – to take a stand for all investors; to treat them fairly; and to give them the best chance for investment success.

If you’d like to learn more about Gemma, please visit her profile on LinkedIn.

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