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Pimco, Fidelity International, Vanguard and two other asset managers have joined forces with the body for investment professionals to tackle the woeful underrepresentation of women in the UK’s fund industry.

The Gender Diversity Partner Programme, which also includes Royal London Asset Management and Allianz Global Investors, will meet for the first time this week under the leadership of CFA UK, the British arm of the global investment body.

Will Goodhart, chief executive of CFA UK, said many chief executives of asset managers had spoken out about the need to improve gender diversity over the past few years, but real changes had been slow in the industry.

“We feel like the case for diversity has been made. The commitment has been clear. But one of the things that is missing is a collaborative approach to look at how these commitments can be implemented across organisations,” he said.

Statistics show women are badly under-represented in the asset management industry, particularly in investment roles. Fewer than one in 10 funds in the UK are managed by women, according to research by Tilney Bestinvest, the wealth manager.

Mr Goodhart said women account for only a fifth of CFA members, although he added that women made up about a third of the individuals taking the initial qualifications offered by the professional body, suggesting the membership could change over time.

Juliet Bullick, global head of consultant relations at Fidelity International and chair of the CFA UK gender diversity network, said the newly formed group would consider issues such as how to develop and retain existing female talent, how to attract more women to the industry and how to improve company cultures.

“The partner companies we are working with [have identified] that middle management is a key area to focus on. The tone from the top is set. The grassroots work fairly well. But it is a gap at the middle,” she said. “There is a huge amount of work yet to be done.”

The CFA-backed group will meet every second month over the next year and include a mix of staff members from across the organisations. The group is expected to report back with a range of solutions in a year’s time.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Royal London Asset Management, said sharing best practice and learning from other companies would help “contribute to a more diverse and inclusive financial services industry”.

“Gender diversity brings benefits not just to businesses but also their customers,” he added.

Sean Hagerty, head of Vanguard’s European business, said: “The more diverse the industry, the greater chance we will have of giving investors the best chance for investment success.”

Several other initiatives have also been launched over the past few years to improve gender representation in the City of London, the UK’s financial hub, including the Diversity Project and the Women in Finance Charter.

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