For investment managers, finding companies that demonstrate potential for high-earnings quality is often a core pillar of any investment approach. However, the real challenge is finding high-quality companies today that will remain high quality tomorrow.
Important to the concept of earnings quality is firm profitability, so managers tend to have particular interest in finding companies that can sustain profitability over time. For the most profitable firms, this means defying the relentless competitive forces that work to pull their return on equity toward a marketwide average. One component that provides a critical advantage in keeping these competitive forces at bay and can translate into a "profitability moat" is gender diversity.
A considerable body of research shows that firms with more diverse management or boards achieve better financial outcomes as measured by any number of metrics, including superior earnings and return on sales. To build on this, AXA Investment Managers' quantitative equity business, Rosenberg Equities, looked at data on the 1,000 largest U.S. companies from January 2005 to July 2017. The purpose was to add to the existing body of work that highlights the benefits of diversity, and extend it into the realm of future profitability. The study divided companies into higher and lower diversity buckets based on the percentage of women on the board and defined "profitability" as return on equity net extraordinary items, or ROEX, which is defined as recurring earnings divided by book value.