Advancing Women’s Leadership in Asset Management: Melissa Waller, AIF Institute

For Women’s History Month, the Nasdaq shines a light on the women who are advancing inclusive growth and prosperity within the asset management industry.

We spoke with Melissa Waller, President of the AIF Institute and former Deputy Treasurer of the North Carolina Department of State, about driving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within the industry and the importance of leading with intent.

As President of the Investment Institute, what does your day-to-day work entail?

Every day, I have the privilege of working closely with the world’s leading investors, academics and industry professionals, all of whom are aligned to help institutional investors achieve their investment goals. While the landscape is constantly changing, this typically involves identifying resources, cultivating research, and fostering applied best practices across different asset classes.

With an ever-changing landscape and growing demand for programs tailored to meet the needs of the investment community, we recently launched the AIF Institute Centers of Excellence, through which investors can collaborate on topical issues. , leverage actionable research and develop pragmatic approaches in areas such as ESG and financial innovation. This quarter, I was pleased to announce our inaugural AIF Institute Fellowship Program to help lead these critical discussions. Whether in person or virtually, it is truly rewarding to interact with such an amazing group of investors, professors, stakeholders and industry leaders.

How did you get started in the institutional investment business?

After a two-decade tenure in the private sector of the financial industry, I had the honor of serving as Deputy State Treasurer of North Carolina for two consecutive terms. Working with an investment team in managing over $90 billion in assets for the state’s more than 900,000 retirees, I have seen firsthand the complexities and challenges of achieving and to maintain a pension system among the top five nationally. This quickly sparked interest and dedication to providing education and resources to institutional investors around the world.

What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career?

It was only recently that I truly appreciated a key lesson that seems so simple but, when implemented, can be so powerful. The lesson is to lead your personal and professional life with intention. This philosophy allows me to be deliberate in my choices and to make the best use of my time and that of others. The focus on intention extends to both professional and personal interactions. As an organization, we have even adopted the theme “Leading with Intention” for the year 2022.

Historically, there has been a shortage of women in leadership positions within the industry. What are you and your organization doing to increase diversity at senior levels?

Empowering women in the investment industry has been a key priority for me throughout my career. As an executive, board director, and member of various women-focused associations, I am especially honored to have the opportunity to lead initiatives on DEI in the industry and bring data and insights to light. success of diversity on boards of directors and in organizational leadership. At AIF in particular, I am surrounded by talented women in alternative investments serving on our Women Investors’ Forum Leadership Steering Committee. Among the many initiatives, we aim to create a network, educational programs and valuable resources to help women excel.

What advice would you give to other women looking to succeed in the investment industry?

Your career path in this space is a blank canvas. So be creative, be intentional, be bold and be innovative in creating your career masterpiece. Always seek to make a difference rather than excuses. Finally, networking is invaluable and provides a gateway to learning from your industry peers and mentors, discovering new opportunities and reaching new horizons.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Mara R. Wilmoth