Asset management firms in Singapore and Hong Kong will be hiring more product specialists this year to meet rising client demand for better product expertise, according to buy-side recruiters. And skill shortages mean they will consider candidates looking to refocus their careers into product jobs.
“Product specialists will be among the most in demand roles this year in Asian asset management Share on twitter,” says Stanley Teo, a director at Profile Search and Selection in Singapore. “The industry in Singapore and Hong Kong has reached a tipping point where salespeople are getting too busy and they need more product support when meeting clients.”
“Institutional investors in Asia are becoming more sophisticated,” adds Loretta Chan, a consultant in banking and financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “So when Asian asset management firms pitch to or maintain relationships with clients, they need someone with a strong technical background – working alongside the portfolio manager – to explain the in-depth product and portfolio details.”
The technical product knowledge of sales and portfolio-management staff in Asia has been pushed almost to the limit, especially at firms covering multiple regional markets. “Also, portfolio managers need to focus on tracking and managing their portfolios, so it may not be practical for their clients to constantly seek their technical advice. This is where product specialists come in – serving as middlemen between investors, salespeople and portfolio-management team,” explains Chan.
She says most product-specialist hiring this year will be within international, multi-asset-platform firms. BlackRock, Neuberger Berman, Allianz Global Investors and Pimo are planning to build their product teams in Asia, adds a Singapore-based headhunter who asked not to be named because of client confidentiality.
Teo from Profile says asset management firms in Asia will need more debt specialists this year Share on twitter. “2014 was mainly about equities specialists, but fixed income is a growing market in Asia and I now think we’ll see more mandates for FI product people,” he explains.
However, compared with the sell-side, this hiring won’t be on a large scale – expect about two or three vacancies per firm in 2015. “And they will be fairly senior roles. It’s hard to come in as a junior and be able to face clients a lot of the time – holding down technical conversations – and be able to work closely with sales,” says Teo.
Because the growth of product-specialist jobs is a recent phenomenon in Asia, asset management firms can’t always poach like-for-like candidates from competitors. “It’s a talent driven market, so they often look at people from other channels,” says Chan from Morgan McKinley.
Buy-side portfolio managers with a passion for developing their product expertise are the main alternative source of talent. “Investment consultants from consultancy firms are another option,” says Chan. “Experience dealing with institutional clients and advising in portfolio construction, instead of transactional trades, are advantages for any candidate.”
Investment advisors from banks may also like to apply for product-specialist jobs, adds Chan. “Asset management firms are becoming more receptive to hiring people from banking as the talent pool is limited. But the transition isn’t easy as it depends on the person’s product skills, how sophisticated they are when dealing with institutional clients, and their understanding of the investment process on the buy side.”