The most in-demand asset management skills
Updated: May 16, 2019
Preparing to enter a tough job market after working in the same role for several years can be a minefield. A raft of redundancies across the industry, including at BlackRock and State Street, means the competition could be fiercer than ever.
Ignites Europe brings you the lowdown on the top skills asset managers are looking for from job candidates today to help you find your edge.
Ability to engage
From a distribution perspective, the ability to engage with clients and talk about their problems is a sought-after skill.
Irshaad Ahmad, head of institutional sales at AllianzGI, says it is important that candidates in an interview situation can articulate well why clients do business with them.
The level of engagement that institutional investors expect has “changed dramatically in the past five years and even more so in the past two to three years”, he says.
“This very hackneyed phrase ‘solution-based’ has actually happened,” says Mr Ahmad.
“You are not able to put people in front of clients anymore that are simply product selling.
“Clients prefer to sit down and have broad-ranging conversations with people. They want to [talk with] people who understand their issues.”
Manooj Mistry, co-head of index investing at DWS, agrees, saying: “As investors are increasingly taking an interest in the methodologies employed to track an index, the ability to interact and discuss with clients is becoming important.”
Kirsty Pineger, head of investments and middle office at BRUIN Financial, a specialist recruiter, adds that there is “significant demand” for languages – particularly European – for client-facing roles.
For index portfolio managers, Mr Mistry says DWS looks for candidates with good quantitative and technology skills, including coding skills.
“Naturally this lends itself to candidates who have a numerical background but we also look for candidates who can learn and develop in line with business and industry changes,” he says.
The transformation in the risk and regulatory space is also leading to growing demand for people with quantitative skills.
Speaking at a recent alternatives conference held by EY, Kate Squire, global head of compliance and regulatory at Man Group, said finance professionals have been “bowled over by the amount of regulatory change over the past few years”.
“The talent element has changed a lot in both risk and compliance,” she says.
The firm is moving from hiring broad-based analytical people to “actually hiring quants that get the stuff”, she says.
Ms Pineger adds that across operations, demand has been strong for candidates with strong coding and structured query language skills.
“This is due to the prevalence of automation involved in the offshoring processes,” she says.
Harry Warwick, head of compliance at BRUIN Financial, says that traditionally compliance professionals were seen as "business prevention officers". However, now they are very much aligned to how the business operates from a revenue generating perspective.
“As a result, firms often seek candidates with specific product knowledge who can transition into compliance roles,” he says.
“Such people are going to have a genuine understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, therefore improving the relationship between the front office and compliance departments.”
Mr Warwick adds that candidates who have had exposure to, or can upskill themselves on, a specific regulation can “add genuine value to a compliance team”.
“Similarly, people with specific project management experience or training expertise can lead the implementation of such regulations,” he says.
“Last year it was Mifid II and [general data protection regulation], this year it will be [the senior managers and certification regime].”
Ms Pinegar adds that she is seeing “significant demand” for complex fixed income experience.
Ana Maria Tuliak, Principal at Ludgate Search, says demand for “technical superstars” is rising.
People who are not up to date with changing technology, sometimes through no fault of their own because of the prevalence of bulky legacy systems across asset management, could find their job search difficult.
Those who have decades-long experience building teams or networks but who are lacking in technical aptitude could work as consultants on a contract basis, she says.
However, they will still need to be versed in social media marketing to build a personal reputation and attract such work.
“Digital marketing is pretty important for everyone,” says Ms Tuliak.
“Personal branding will become a lot more important, and in the future people won’t be able to rely as easily on the fact they have [a book of contacts].”
It is worth brushing up on technical skills by getting training in existing IT systems and “actually using” them, she says.
“If not up to speed and not willing to train yourself, that probably will not cut it in the next five to 10 years,” says Ms Tuliak.
Ms Pinegar says candidates need to be able to adapt to a changing environment and still innovate, with asset managers prioritising future potential when hiring.
Amy Finn, people and talent expert at PA Consulting, says asset managers need to look beyond narrow skills requirements.
“Artificial intelligence, automation and digitisation plus changing regulations mean by 2025, in many sectors, as many as 50 per cent of the jobs that exist today will no longer exist,” says Ms Finn.
“The future skills and capabilities asset management firms will need are unpredictable and changing fast.”
Future roles will be “complex” and candidates need to focus on the behaviour that will help them “thrive”.
“What will be needed [from candidates] is the ability to collaborate, communicate and adapt to change.”
Ability to think differently
Leaders at the mainly larger asset management firms are looking for candidates who can bring new ideas and fresh thinking, says Ms Tuliak.
“Diversity of thought leads to innovation and revenue,” she says. “Cultural differences can influence and contribute to diverse ideas.”
Many in leadership positions want to shake up the status quo by hiring people from different backgrounds to create an environment where opinions and existing ways of doing things are challenged, adds Ms Tuliak.
“This [approach will help] these firms attract the right people in the future too,” she says.