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Sales skills vital to securing an asset management job

Asset management firms in Japan are on the hunt for product specialists with sales experience, but recruitment in the sector is looking shaky as the stock market slumps.

Japan has traditionally been isolated from the rest of the world in terms of job functions within asset management, says Gregory Toole, a director at recruiters Hudson. “Now there is a move to standardise local teams up to international level. For example, firms are looking to hire more product specialists – who were previously not thought of as essential – to give them better investment insights,” he adds.

Toole says sales and marketing professionals are also in demand, but researchers and portfolio managers are not. “In the current market, firms are looking for rainmakers with strong track records.”

To break into asset management at a junior level, you should ideally have a sound financial background at an investment bank, with product knowledge and sales or marketing experience, according to Toole.

But overall hiring in fund management has stagnated, especially in firms which focus on local equities, says Hideji Harada, senior client partner at Korn Ferry.

Many of Tokyo’s traditional asset management firms have been hit by the credit crunch and the weak performance of the Japanese stock market. Sumitomo Corp. has seen the balance of its assets under management fall by 38% over the past year because of investors selling commodities to compensate for subprime-related losses (Reuters).

Sumitomo and rivals such as Nikko Asset Management are “not in hiring mode at the moment”, according to one recruiter who asked not to be named.

Harada says there is more activity in alternative investment fund recruitment as pensions and life assurance firms look to diversify their portfolios.

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