How women are disrupting the investing world

Female investors tend to prefer property and safe asset classes such as bonds, experts say

A 2021 study by Fidelity found that 67 per cent of women are now investing outside of their retirement accounts. Getty
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Sheetal Manjiani, 46, an Indian teacher at a special needs school in Dubai, is one of the many women around the world who has taken control of her financial future.

Ms Manjiani recently won Dh300,000 ($81,688) from National Bonds, the Sharia-compliant savings and investment company owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai.

A long-time saver with National Bonds, Ms Manjiani is a big believer in the power of regular saving and investing.

“I take out my saving target at the start of the month before any expenses. I invest in very safe and regulated asset classes like government bonds,” she says.

“I have extra income from house rent in Dubai. Rather than buying jewellery or a car, I invest all my money in National Bonds because it is safe and also easy to make a direct debit.”

Over the past couple of decades, women have altered the investing landscape and the number of female investors is surging, with the likes of Saxo Bank recording an 18 per cent rise of women among its new UAE trading clients since 2017.

A 2022 global survey by social trading and investment company eToro found that of the 9,500 female investors it polled, 48 per cent were new to stock markets over the past two years.

Meanwhile, a 2021 study by Fidelity found that 67 per cent of women are now investing outside of their retirement accounts, up from 44 per cent in 2018.

Since 2018, the global share of women’s wealth has increased significantly. Globally, women’s income has increased to $24 trillion in 2020, from $20 trillion in 2018, according to wealth manager Coutts.

And in 2020, about four in 10 women in the US earned more than their husbands, State Street Global Advisers says.

Palestinian Reem Al Khatib, managing director of property management company GuestReady for the GCC, receives a good income from a DIFC studio apartment she purchased in 2015.

She quit a full-time job in the e-commerce industry in 2018 after discovering a passion for property management and identifying the potential to generate income from short rentals.

“I bought a studio apartment for Dh1 million in DIFC and could get a net yield of 8 per cent to 10 per cent doing short-term rentals,” she says.

“I helped my family and friends buy properties across Dubai and helped them generate similar yields. I identified areas that would generate good returns, as well as see capital appreciation.”

Investing is a way of increasing the value of your money, Ms Al Khatib says.

“A lot of women feel investing in property is complicated because they are unfamiliar with the terms. Women talk about how it is intimidating because there is a lot of masculine energy in the investing world,” she says.

“Do your due diligence and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

The investment advisory industry continues to be very male-dominated, according to Keren Bobker, an independent financial adviser and senior partner at Holborn Assets in Dubai.

“The marketing that is aimed at women is frequently in shades of pink. Women don’t need pink-washing. They just prefer advice without excess jargon or being patronised,” she says.

In the UK, only 17 per cent of qualified and regulated advisers are women, according to 2019 figures from the Financial Conduct Authority.

“That is the simple answer as to why some women find seeking professional financial planning advice a turn-off. The image of the shiny-suited salesman has not gone away, although genuine advisers are not like that,” Ms Bobker says.

Women are more inclined to admit to a lack of knowledge and confidence when it comes to investing and that tends to make them more cautious, she says.

Add in societal expectations and the fact that women generally tend to be more cautious than men, and that is somewhat reflected in managing money, Ms Bobker says.

“Women are often keen to take professional advice and tend to like working with an adviser they can trust, rather than going it alone without the benefit of expert knowledge.”

Female investors are becoming more prominent in Dubai. About 26,000 women invested in property worth more than Dh58 billion in the UAE last year, according to the Dubai Land Department.

The number of women investing in real estate increased by 50.8 per cent annually in 2022.

Women currently own 30 per cent of the property in Dubai, a recent study by the emirate's government found.

“But now we want them to think of other asset classes that offer similar returns without any depreciation,” says Rehab Lootah, deputy group chief executive of National Bonds.

“More than 40 per cent of women in the UAE are willing to save, but they save at home in a safe. This thinking needs to change since the money will never grow.”

“Women need to start trusting financial instruments available in the market. They need to move to structured saving plans.”

The biggest area of work in building financial literacy is to impart knowledge on the importance of saving, she says.

Among women surveyed by National Bonds in August last year, 30 per cent have no savings plan and simply save at home while only 10 per cent of Emirati women are investing with a dedicated investment company.

More than 50 per cent of women in the UAE are keen to invest, with “saving for the future” being the primary motivator, the survey found.

“Save before you spend. Set aside a percentage of your income every month. A good budgeting rule is the 50:30:20 plan, wherein 50 per cent of your salary goes to your daily needs, 30 per cent is allocated to your wants and the remaining 20 per cent is for savings,” Ms Lootah says.

“Be disciplined and have an objective, which drives savings. You need a support group who encourage you to continue your saving journey. Enrolling in a savings scheme will make you a regular saver by default.”

Monitor your spending patterns, use your credit card wisely and have a budget for online shopping, she says.

It is also important to be aware of risky investments such as cryptocurrencies that promise high returns. Always go for government-linked or safe investments such as property and gold, Ms Lootah says.

Be careful of where you are investing in the stock market. Invest in government companies as they are safer and less volatile, or sectors that you understand, she recommends.

Women currently make up 42 per cent of the total customer base at National Bonds.

Women don’t need pink-washing. They just prefer advice without excess jargon or being patronised
Keren Bobker, senior partner at Holborn Assets

The Covid-19 pandemic and rising inflation rates globally have helped both male and female investors to realise the importance of saving.

“We have seen huge growth in our portfolio, close to 50 per cent, during the pandemic. We have reached Dh12 billion worth of investments in our portfolio, from Dh8 billion earlier,” Ms Lootah says.

National Bonds’ main focus is on small savers and financial literacy. It is trying to expand its reach from the UAE to other Arab countries.

It has teamed up with the Arab Women Authority to increase education and investment opportunities for women in the region to be financially independent.

“The UAE empowers women, but this is not the case in a lot of the Arab countries. It requires a culture change,” Ms Lootah says.

“This needs to begin at home by enforcing the values of saving regularly among the young and living within our means. This also needs to be reinforced in schools.”

Updated: March 08, 2023, 5:00 AM