The fund management industry is set to grow. It is being pulled along by the demographic trend of an...
The fund management industry is set to grow. It is being pulled along by the demographic trend of an ageing population coupled with the opening up and development of the European pension fund market.
Fund management houses are developing sophisticated products to cope with this expanding market. Companies aiming to become and remain a key player in this market must build dedicated teams with the skills to satisfy the needs of this group of distinctive investors.
Continued strong growth is straining the human resources side of the equation.
We often hear from human resources officers lamenting the "difficulty of getting the right staff".
Demand for people with the relevant skill set and proven experience, combined with the right "culture fit", continues to be extremely heavy, very competitive and in some areas a growing concern.
This challenge relates to all areas of fund management recruitment, but I am going to highlight one specific area, where human resources, line managers and recruiters recognise there is an ongoing skill shortage. This is in marketing, particularly in the role encompassing the compilation and completion of requests for proposals (RFPs), questionnaires and/ surveys.
RFP documents are the conduits for the investment consultants and pension fund trustees to fully comprehend how a fund management house manages its institutional assets and their specialist product areas. These documents cover all investment aspects and are critical to the development of institutional business.
Completing them requires technical skills, and the environment is focused and deadline driven.
Incumbents liaise with all levels within the group and external parties. They need proven experience, an understanding of financial products and strong verbal and written communication skills to run with such a role. So why is it so difficult to find these talented people?
As an RFPer, one is able to come to grips with all aspects of the fund management house: its investment philosophy; processes; products; its strategic plans; its key strengths and weaknesses and its competitive advantage.
However, having spent time in the role myself and interviewed both past and current practitioners, the view is very much that while the role is a fantastic apprenticeship for a graduate with an inquiring and numerate mind and a desire to develop a knowledge of fund management, two years is plenty of time to spend in this role.
Incumbents then identify the role as one of information gathering, database management, project management rather than a mind-stretching position that can further enhance their skill set. People naturally wish to progress towards something like a business or product development area or even towards a fund management position.
So how can fund management houses overcome this ongoing problem?
We suggest that they think beyond the conventional approach in this competitive marketplace. Trying to find a candidate with a ready made skill set and an understanding and proven knowledge of the role combined with the right culture fit is similar to finding "hen's teeth". It is possible and when it happens, they are snapped up quicker than you can say "RFP". In the absence of this "perfect candidate", more flexible approaches are called for.
In order to attract talented individuals, we recommend that they make appointments outside of the norm. An illustration of this would be to hire a marketing person from a professional (legal/accountancy/ investment consulting) background. Such people will have the key skill set already under their belts but lack direct investment management and product knowledge. This is only a short term deficiency and comprehensive training and mentoring for the new incumbent will soon overcome this perceived drawback.
Training can also be another way round the skill shortage. There are many good, numerate, eager, young people with core abilities who can be taught the technical skills to become a valuable employee in this arena.
Other pools of talented staff can be identified, such as "returners". They may be able to offer both consistency and loyalty following a career break and are not necessarily looking for "promotion" in the conventional sense. They are looking for a steady income, sense of achievement and a position that will utilise their dormant skill base. With one career behind them, money will not be the key driver.
We have not touched on the salary issue yet. It is an area of importance but for those individuals truly looking to make a career move or to start on the career ladder, the highest bidder for them is not necessarily the winner.
We would suggest fund management houses have to look at more than just recruiting and retaining talented people on the basis of the "highest salary wins": they need to consider both recruiting from their own industry and training either raw graduates or experienced individuals from other industries.
It is recognised that training and career progression are now becoming key considerations for recruiters and for staff management. People are looking for an all-encompassing role, one which will offer job satisfaction, training, career development, beneficial working conditions in addition to the "right" salary.
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