By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
For Lucy MacDonald, Managing Director of RCM and CIO of its Global Equities division, developing a communication style that works is an important part of developing leadership skills.
“It means being able to speak your mind and add value without frightening people away,” she explained with a chuckle.
A Career in Investment
MacDonald started her career as an analyst at Baring Asset Management and became a portfolio manager. After 17 years, she moved to RCM. She said, “I wanted to do more global stock picking, and at RCM, a global research platform was being set up.”
Looking back on ten years with RCM, she said, “The best experience so far has been launching a Global High Alpha product, which we’ve grown to $5 billion.”
“Managing money at the moment is pretty exciting,” she continued. Additionally, she said, the developments at Allianz Global Investors as it evolves into a global asset management business are bringing new and exciting changes to the company.
MacDonald is also excited about the ways technology is bringing people together. She explained, “I’m interested in how technology is changing relationships between portfolio managers and end clients.” For example, she said, video conferencing is enabling clients to feel more secure with their portfolio manager, when they may not be able to meet in person due to time or geographical constraints.
She said, “As an investor, we can have much more contact more easily with end clients than we could previously. In these uncertain times, that is important.”
“At the end of the day, they want to know what the person who is responsible for managing their money is thinking, and technology can help us do that more effectively” she added.
Women in Investment Management
“I don’t think there are high barriers for women in fund management compared to other professions,” MacDonald said. “In this profession, you can manage your working life to some extent.” The same might not be true for women working in investment banking or law, which are more deal driven.
“On the other side, it is a stressful occupation – and some women just don’t thrive in that environment.”
Additionally, she said, “It’s quite a difficult thing to do on a part time basis. It’s not impossible, and I do know women who manage it – but it’s challenging as at the end of the day as a portfolio manager you are responsible for the money”
MacDonald said the diversity program at Allianz has been in place for some years now. She credited Elizabeth Corley, Allianz Global Investors’ CEO designate, with sponsoring her and getting her involved with a Harvard Business School Allianz program on leadership development this year.
Lessons for the Next Generation
Considering what she wishes she had learned earlier in her career, MacDonald pointed out some advice Steve Jobs gave at his 2005 Stanford University commencement address. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
She explained, “I think that when you start as an investor, there are many senior people who are experienced, intelligent, and extremely persuasive. But they don’t all know what they’re talking about.”
“You begin to trust your own judgment more as you gain experience” she recalled.
“My advice for young women is don’t frighten the men,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “When women start off, they are smart and don’t take any prisoners and can make people nervous. There can be some overcompensation, and it can come over as a little bit strident.”
She continued, “You can learn to tone it down a bit over time. I’ve seen it as well in board dynamics – it’s about getting your style right.”
“Of course, you’ve got to make other board members feel a little uncomfortable – that’s what you’re there for, to challenge. But not so uncomfortable that they withdraw.”
“For mothers who are working, have really good child care. High quality child care is really worth it. You can’t skimp on that, otherwise you can’t focus on what you’re doing,” she added.
In Her Personal Time
Outside the office, MacDonald holds a few non-executive positions, including seats at venture capital trust Ibis Media and Apollo Media.
“Non executive positions are useful things to have and great experience,” she said. “There’s quite a bit of demand for women and they like to see that you’ve done it before.”
MacDonald is married with two teenage children.