03/20/2013 06:31 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2013

Morgan Stanley Wouldn't Invest In Itself Under New Strategy

Investment giant Morgan Stanley is offering clients a new portfolio option that will only invest in companies with at least three female directors, in a move engineered by a financial adviser who said she is "frustrated by the fact there are so few women on boards."

Eve Ellis, the investment adviser and head of the bank's Matterhorn Group investment unit, told The Huffington Post that the portfolio is an “investment for investors and clients that want to have a social impact.”

But based on those guidelines, one company in which Ellis' unit will not be investing is Morgan Stanley itself. Ellis will only put money into companies with three or more women on their corporate board; Morgan Stanley’s board currently has only two female directors.

Asked about that quandary, Ellis told The Huffington Post, “There are many companies, and our goal is to move the needle in corporate America.” She declined to comment specifically on the message her strategy may be reflecting about her employer.

“Obviously this is one portfolio strategy of several. This is something that came as an offering to our clients,” Ellis said.

“It’s not a strategy of the firm. It’s a strategy of the Matterhorn Group at Morgan Stanley,” Tricia Nestfield, a spokesperson for the bank, added.

Ellis, who described herself as a “feminist and an investment adviser” in an interview with The New York Times, cited research that suggests companies perform better when they have at least some women in their board when describing her investment thesis. The Times was first to report on Ellis' portfolio strategy, known as a "parity portfolio."

The debate over gender parity at the corporate board level is not a new one. Earlier this year, the UBS CEO Andrea Orcel said the lack of women within the upper echelons of his bank was a "shortcoming." And last year, the European Union approved a contentious proposal that mandated at least 40 percent of a company's non-executive directors be women.

That momentum has not extended to Wall Street. Joining Morgan Stanley, the boards of competitors JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs only have two female members. Citigroup has only one female director.



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