It’s all about people for Mike Connor, head of the Edinburgh office of Newton Investment Management. Edinburgh and Herriot Watt-educated Connor, who specialises in managing investments for private clients and charities, explains how the ability to get on with people is vital if you want to work for Newton.
How long have you been in financial services?
MC: It will be 29 years this year.
Has your career been conventional or capricious?
MC: I took the conventional path initially – an economics degree, two years with BoS, and two in stockbroking. In the 25 years I’ve been with Newton, I initially worked with private clients, and then also started dealing with charities. I enjoy meeting people so working with private clients and charity trustees is very fulfilling.
What matters most, talent or hard work?
MC: They are required in equal measure. If you have talent you still need to put in the hard work. Meeting clients requires extensive preparation, which is always hard work even for the most talented people.
What would you always advise people to do before they step into an interview with you?
MC: I look for candidates who communicate the fact that they really want to work for Newton. If you show that you have researched how we work, our investment process, our performance and how we differentiate ourselves, it confirms that you are keen to work for us.
Failure to prepare comes across very quickly to an interviewer. For instance, some candidates ask questions about what Newton has done. It shows that they are inexperienced and have not done their homework – if they had, they would know.
What do you know now about working in financial services that you wish you had known 15 years ago?
MC: The importance of practicing presentations, not just for junior staff, but for the most senior people too.
If we are making a formal presentation to a charity, everyone who is involved practices in front of an audience of colleagues. You get the benefit of their feedback, which can improve your presentation performance and your self- confidence.
You are only allowed to hire one person over the next six months. Can you describe their ideal profile?
MC: In the private client area, I would be looking for people who can get on with other people. For private client investment managers the ability to communicate with people is vital. They must be enthusiastic, a good listener and show empathy from the start, with a confident but not arrogant manner. If clients are going to hand over their money to you, they need to have confidence in you.
What is your advice to new graduates looking for jobs in financial services?
MC: Newton’s graduate trainees spend much of their first year sampling work in all areas of our business so they understand out investment approach, experience the research side with our analysts, and work in compliance and tax (if relevant). They also get presentation training, and all the while they are studying for exams.
To get a place on the scheme, you must show solid evidence of wanting to work for Newton, and how you can make a difference to the business, in terms of bringing in new clients. You will also have to fit into our teams so your CV should show evidence that you are a team player, but one who can also take the initiative and work alone to develop client relationships.
I also look for evidence that you’ve done something a bit different from the usual – altogether it’s a tall order!
In no more than three sentences can you say what your business area will look like in 2015?
MC: From Newton’s perspective, we will continue our focus on delivering higher levels of personal service and performance to a smaller number of higher-value clients.
In the Scottish investment management sector as a whole, we’ve seen an influx of new entrants in recent years, but the pot of available clients is not getting any bigger, so I expect some of companies will find it hard to compete.
In terms of customer requirements, I expect the markets to remain challenged, so clients will continue to focus on income.
I want to work for you. What will persuade you to hire me?
MC: You must convince me you can effectively contribute to the growth of the business by developing new business rather than just managing existing clients. That, and the ability to fit into our team.