Barclays launches Women in Leadership Index and ETNs

July 9 Wed Jul 9, 2014 8:07pm EDT

July 9 (Reuters) - Investors who want to put money behind the idea that female leadership helps companies excel will have a new way to invest on Thursday when Barclays Bank PLC launches the Barclays Women in Leadership Total Return Index and exchange-traded notes.

The new index will be composed of companies with a female chief executive officer or women making up at least one-fourth of the board of directors, Barclays said on Wednesday in a statement.

In addition to these requirements, companies will have to meet specific market capitalization and trading volume thresholds to be included, the London-based bank said.

The Barclays ETNs will track the index and trade under the ticker symbol "WIL" on the NYSE Arca Exchange. In connection with the launch, Barclays executives will ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The ETNs are senior unsecured unsubordinated debt.

Barbara Byrne, vice chairman in investment banking at Barclays, said she believes the ETNs will serve as a market-based approach to produce change.

"Women are significantly underrepresented in corporate executive leadership, yet a growing body of third-party research suggests that gender-diverse leadership may correlate with relatively stronger corporate performance, as compared to companies with less gender-diverse leadership," Byrne said in a Barclays statement.

The Barclays index and ETNs are the latest in a line of similar "bets on women" products in personal finance. In the past year, Sallie Krawcheck, the former president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America, has put her high-profile imprimatur on two more.

Krawcheck has talked about her investments in the "No Glass Ceilings" thematic index, which tracks around two dozen companies run by women. In June, she launched the Pax Ellevate Global Women's Index Fund - co-branded with the Ellevate professional women's network, formerly known as 85 Broads, a name that was a play on the location of Goldman Sachs' former New York headquarters. She bought the women's professional network in 2013.

The Pax Ellevate fund owns the stocks of companies, including Avon Products Inc and Procter & Gamble Co , that are viewed as "advancing women's leadership." That quality is measured by a proprietary analytical tool that takes into account the proportion of women on the board of directors, in executive management and in C-level roles, among other metrics.

Dave Nadig, chief investment officer of ETF.com, which provides research and analysis of exchange-traded funds, said that values-based funds can be hard to sell to investors.

"People usually don't think the same way about their values when making investment decisions," Nadig said. "They don't put that filter on when thinking about their portfolios." (Reporting by Michael Leibel; Additional reporting by Ashley Lau and Anna Sussman; Editing by Jan Paschal)