No matter where Rukaiyah Adams ends up after stepping down as chief investment officer at Meyer Memorial Trust, she knows one thing for sure: Over the next decade, diversity will play an even more important role in her investment philosophy.
For Adams, diversity means a number of different things. It’s about employing a diverse pool of talent at the fund level; it’s about working with managers who are women and people of color; and it can even extend to investing in emerging economies, which managers from underrepresented backgrounds tend to be more familiar with.
Under her eight years of leadership at Meyer Memorial Trust, the $1.1 billion charitable foundation increased its assets managed by women and underrepresented people by more than three times. Sixty percent of Meyer’s board of trustees are women, and 40 percent are people of color. Only 58 percent of the foundation’s assets are invested in North America, according to MMT’s latest annual investment report.
In the next chapter of her career, Adams said she wants to become a chief investor for a fund that she can position to take advantage of the current or future market. “Not the one that’s based on the last 10 years,” she told II in an interview. “I’ve already demonstrated that I can do well in those [kinds of] markets.”
Adams is excited to test out her investment ideas, including her enhanced diversity strategies, at a time when the market is entering uncharted territory. “I have some ideas that can’t be expressed in a hyper-growth market. The concepts of growth and value are not necessarily opposites anymore,” she said. To offset risk in a highly volatile market, she said investors need to do more than just add value equities to a portfolio and look for managers who have previously invested in a similar situation.
“I’m wondering who’s out there in [these kinds of] markets who can help me understand how to mitigate uncertain inflation, who can tell [me] what economies have withstood these kinds of pressures before. I think they’ll be diverse people,” she said.
Adams added that in the next generation, there will be few developed market investors who know how to succeed in economies with rising inflation, interest rates, and volatility. “All of those investors are outside of developed economies,” Adams said. “It will be managers from Latin America and Eastern Europe [who] will begin to emerge as leaders in the investment practice.”
During her time at MMT, she frequently worked with Baillie Gifford, a U.K.-based investment firm that shares some of Adams’s investment philosophies, including hiring a diverse pool of investment professionals and actively exploring opportunities in emerging markets. Through Baillie Gifford, MMT was able to invest in a private investment strategy fund that charged less than their U.S. peers but delivered the same level of return, she said.
“Having European partners, for me, has been really helpful,” Adams said. “A lot of the dynamics of American society play out in asset management. A lot of the most powerful and successful people [are] meeting in places that sometimes I don’t have access to. So it really did help to have partners who were outside of the American social framework.”