International networking group 100 Women in Hedge Funds has opened a ‘branch’ in Malta, which has already found the 100 members minimum needed to set up.

100WHF was set up in 2001 and has 15,000 members in 21 locations. It was initially aimed at women involved in hedge funds but has grown so much wider in scope that a rebranding exercise is currently under way: only 19 per cent of its members are now involved in hedge funds, with the rest in private equity, real estate investors and service providers.

Its current CEO, Amanda Pullinger, originally joined as a volunteer just a year after it was set up, her first task being to organise a gala event in New York which raised $1 million for breast cancer.

“Hillary Clinton – then a senator – was our honoree at the dinner because of her work in healthcare. Our next gala dinner in New York, the 15th edition, is being held on Wednesday, the day after the election. It makes you wonder…” she said.

The group started to grow and open up different branches but by the time it hit 5,000 members several years later, Pullinger hit 40, and decided to change her career. She became a part-time executive director for 100WHF, expecting to simultaneously work as a consultant for other non-profit organisations, but it did not work out as planned: “100WHF took over my whole life,” she smiled.

“In 2014, I was made CEO as a full-timer with six staff members, looking after the brand and communications – but relying on 450 active volunteers to organise events at a local level.

“We do accept men – we have 1,200 male members – but the idea was to help women network. They are often more scattered and not as visible. When you bring them together, you realise how considerable a presence they have. It is amazing to be at an event where they are in the majority!”

100WHF has three main aims: education, philanthropy and peer engagement, all of which it does through a packed schedule of events. It has raised over $40 million over the years for various charities.

But Pullinger sees the impact as being much wider: “We are already planning an event, with the University of Malta, on March 8, which will be aimed at encouraging young women to consider financial services as a career, and to let those who are already established inspire them.”

100MHF does not espouse one-to-one mentoring – Pullinger believes that people should seek out mentors they “click” with as it is such an intense relationship – but rather believes that the networking possibilities through peer engagement are something that lasts throughout a person’s career.

“The relationship builds in a more natural way. Forced mentoring doesn’t always work as there has to be a mutual chemistry between people,” she said.

Pullinger has Maltese relatives and had been here with her family some 30 years ago but not since. The thought of having a new branch in Malta had not really occurred to her but when fund adviser Felicity Cole moved to the island from London, she met Elaine Mulcahy, who had also moved here and was already active in expatriate circles, and the idea of opening up here was soon raised. They managed to find 100 members with startling speed and Mulcahy will be the chair of the new branch.

The packed launch event, at the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, was opened by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca with a speech by FinanceMalta chair Kenneth Farrugia.

“The membership will grow to 200 very quickly,” Pullinger has predicted.

The committee is already working on a string of events, and Pullinger hopes to get royal patronage for some of them, as she has done for events in London.

“I was amazed by the breadth of activities here. The island has changed dramatically and we need to hammer away at perceptions of the island overseas.

“Gaming poses a challenge for financial services. They can co-exist, but if there is a negative story, they it will impact both their reputations – and reputation is critical. When things do not go right, you have to bear in mind that there will be consequences,” she warned.

www.100womeninhedgefunds.org