It's a tough time to be working in asset management. Aside from the gradual dominance of passive investment strategies like ETFs and the hardline from regulators in the UK shaking up fee structures, the asset management industry is tipped to be more impacted by the growth of artificial intelligence than any other part of the financial sector - 90,000 jobs could disappear over the course of the next eight years.
Ensuring your continued employability will be complex, but an obvious starting point is making your CV stand out from the competition. This, according to recruiters and is what you need to include.
Years into your career, which university you went to and what you studied may seem irrelevant to your job prospects. However, while impeccable academics may be less important than in investment banking or hedge funds, asset managers won't overlook them altogether. Yes, asset managers recruit more people with ‘arts’ degrees than other parts of the financial sector, but they also have a bias towards Ivy League and Oxbridge/London School of Economics graduates.
“There are a disproportionate number of people in these positions coming from Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics,” says James Dewhirst, director of recruiters Investment Management Partners. “I rarely have clients request a specific university, but they always require impressive academics.”
It’s tempting to pack your CV with the sort of information that can demonstrate how well the funds you manage have performed. In asset management, portfolio managers' performance figures can easily be tracked on research providers like Morningstar. Therefore, your CV needs to go a step further. Not only should your resume attempt to demonstrate a story behind the figures, but it should demonstrate how you achieved them.
Victorian McLean, managing director of City CV, suggests that you should be highlighting your fund’s performance, how you outperformed the benchmark, how your assets under management increased, and how you achieved all of this with a relatively low risk profile. Most importantly, what sets you apart from the competition?
“Ensure you tell a story – how your job has evolved, how you compare to others, identify and explain your key differentiators – why should they hire you rather than the 500 other people that have applied for the role,” she says.
It may sound obvious, but it’s equally important that your CV is tailored towards the position you’re applying to. Your resume will be judged on three key criteria, says Dewhirst, so know what to bring out.
“Firstly, anyone hiring you will want to know what products you focus on and in which geographic locations/industries (for example a Japanese pharmaceutical equity analyst versus a UK equity generalist),” he says. “Secondly, they will want to know who you have worked for and on which funds. Thirdly, they will look at academic background. And not necessarily in that order.”
It's enough to set the teeth of the old school fund managers on edge. Quantamental is the cringeworthy term referring to fund managers who combine the "old" fundamental stock picking approach with an understanding of how data science and computer-driven funds will impact investment in the future. The big data approach is not without its problems - firstly a shortage of data scientists means that buy-side firms are all chasing the same limited pool of expertise, and secondly the huge datasets currently being used are either unstable, or incredibly difficult to utilise for investment decisions that will set you apart from the competition.
Right now, says another asset management recruiter, firms want to see that you're at least speaking the lingo of the new quant world. "Portfolio managers are not being replaced by machines just yet," he says. "But it's worth showing an understanding of quantitative techniques and big data."
It's worth getting in early. Raffaele Savi, a managing director and head of developed markets within BlackRock’s scientific active equities team, told a recent conference that asset management was on the cusp of its "Pixar moment" when data science, artificial intelligence and economic theory meet.
“It took 20 years from Pixar being formed to Toy Story finally being released. 20 years of commitment without ever making a movie,” he said. “But two years after the first Toy Story, there hasn’t been another big animation movie made by humans again.”
“When data science and AI finally meet economic theory, the investment game will change for ever,”
Demonstrate, briefly, the implications of the achievements on your CV. So, you may have managed a £5bn UK equity fund, but how did evolve during the time you were in charge? Did AUM grow? Did performance improve? What did you achieve?
“Often people are too technical on the level of detail of the trades they have made, but actually failed to talk about performance,” says McLean.
“You will save yourself time and effort by incorporating summarised performance information in bullet points on your CV. Specifically, which funds/investments you worked on, what you specifically contributed to and their performance,” says Dewhirst.
If you’ve taken time out, or spent some periods out of work, you need to explain this. Lay-offs have been less common in asset management than in banking, job tenure is generally longer and any inconsistencies are given greater scrutiny.
“CVs with employment gaps or frequent job moves always need explaining,” says Dewhirst. “If possible briefly outline reasons for questionable moves or gaps on the CV to give them context as they will be scrutinised.”
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