Today we continue our ‘Voice of IIA’ series, where IIA members’ key executives and researchers reveal the decisions, responsibilities, and personalities that drive the making and management of indexes globally.
Aye Soe, S&P Dow Jones Indices
Known for her groundbreaking work on S&P Dow Jones Indices’ SPIVA (S&P Indices vs. Active) Report on actively managed fund performance against their benchmarks, S&P DJI MD and head of product management Aye Soe has a lot to share about her experience as well as the growing influence of women in the index industry.
In light of Women’s Month and International Women’s Day, IIA recently sat down with Aye to get her thoughts on her own career, the industry’s progress and how to take the next step.
IIA: How does your journey at S&P DJI highlight the drive in the index industry towards greater representation for women, particularly around the growth of passive investing?
AS: Before I moved into my current role as global head of product management at S&P DJI, I started in and rose through the research ranks, becoming head of index research and design for the Americas. In this role, I led the efforts on the SPIVA Report as a performance scorecard between active funds versus their respective indices. The research allowed us to understand the drivers behind the growth of passive investing and trends shaping the asset management industry.
My current role at S&P DJI in a leadership function has enabled me to understand what our end clients need and bring index-based solutions to market. To do that effectively, you need a team with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. Diversity is very important to achieving innovation and growth. It is the lifeblood of healthy markets and successful investing. Our industry needs to be as diverse as our product offerings to ensure that we continue to flourish.
I am also part of the Asset Management Advisory Committee at the SEC. The Committee has taken on Diversity & Inclusion as one of the workstreams. It’s heartening to see the industry leaders discussing how to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.
IIA: Transparency is a key foundation for ESG and market indexes. How would you describe your approach to dissecting and researching the emerging questions in this area?
AS: Because of my background in quantitative equity, I approach ESG just as I approach any research area, which is to first break its performance into individual components to better understand where investment choices are being made and where information advantages may individually or collectively lead to better returns.
In the case of ESG, we have a lot of meaningful historical information around the “E,” or environmental, and “G,” or governance, factors but the S, or social aspect of ESG is still very much evolving. However, theory is just one part of the equation. You need to understand what matters to an investor. I started teaching a graduate class on portfolio theory about seven years ago and very recently held a discussion with my students on ESG investing. I was very humbled to find how ESG-aware my students are and which ESG metrics are important to them when they are investing. It demonstrates the ethos of aligning values with value.
IIA: Finally, as we celebrate another International Women’s Day, what do you think it will take to push empowerment and recruitment of women in the index and ETF industry forward?
AS: I am a female quant of Burmese origin in a leadership position at a major global index provider. What are the odds? Yet I believe that raising the level of diversity in the index and investment industry is a simple function of supply and demand. Even if the demand for female leaders is there, we must focus on raising the supply. As a mother of an eight-year-old girl, I am very supportive if my daughter one day decides to pursue a STEM field for study. We must be intentional and continue to encourage women to take a more active voice in their roles. #WomeninETFs has done a phenomenal job on this front, providing a platform for women leaders in the industry and doing so in an inclusive way by involving both men and women in the conversations.
I assumed my current role at S&P DJI because I wanted to make an even bigger impact. I am sure there are many women out there in the financial services industry just like me who want to broaden their scope and impact. We have to be willing to help. I am always happy to help by serving as a role model, mentor and adviser.
Aye M. Soe is Managing Director, Global Head of Product Management at S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI). Aye leads the Product Management Group, which has global responsibility for the commercial success of each of S&P DJI’s product lines: U.S. Equity, Global Equity, Fixed Income, Commodities, Real Assets, Strategy, and Custom Indices, as well as Data.
Aye has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts University and a master’s degree in economics from Fordham University. She is a CFA charterholder and a member of the CFA Society New York and the CFA Institute. Aye is currently a member of the Asset Management Advisory Committee for the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In addition to being involved with the nonprofit industry organization Women in ETFs (WE), which aims to elevate women in financial services and the ETF industry, Aye also serves as a volunteer at the Benchmark Working Group within the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®) at the CFA Institute.