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What it takes to make it to the top in asset management

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Want to make it to CEO of an asset management firm? There are three things you need to have in your favour. Firstly, you will almost certainly be male, you are also increasingly likely to be working for the firm you aim to lead and you will probably have worked in an investment-focused role at some time in your career.

Executive search firm Russell Reynolds analysed the traits of 96 asset management CEOs in independent asset managers, bank-linked firms and those tied to insurance firms. The results suggest that asset management firms are becoming increasingly risk-averse and client-focused with who they appoint.

There’s a renewed focus on hiring from within, particularly at independent firms where 100% of CEOs appointed after 2012 were internal hires. What’s more, while the more people in the top job worked in investment roles than any other business sector, the trend is for sales staff to get promoted – the proportion of former sales staff at the helm of large firms has more than doubled since 2012 and within boutiques it’s gone from nothing to 50% of new appointments.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the only place where most CEOs of asset management firms don’t have purely buy-side experience was at bank-owned firms, where 71% had worked on the sell-side previously.

Recent reports suggest that asset management is a male-dominated world and this is particularly the case at the top – just 8% of asset management CEOs are female, although the report suggests this is higher than in other sectors. What’s more if you want to take the top spot in a US asset management firm, don’t rely on internal credentials – all US asset manager CEOs are American.

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