Careers in Asset Management

Finance Careers | Wealth, Investments & Portfolio Manager

This is a world where there’s an ocean of difference between ‘affluence’ and ‘wealth’. So if you’re planning a career as an asset manager (also referred to as investment manager, portfolio manager or wealth manager), make sure you don’t talk below a certain number of zeroes, and, oh, don’t forget to take a crash course in snobbery.

This is the rarified world of the super rich. It’s a world populated by professionals such as lawyers, doctors and architects; CEOs and other corporate honchos; and entrepreneurs who launched tech start-ups in their basements only to build them into billion-dollar companies.

And it’s not only the corporate world that is choc-full of these high- and ultra-high net-worth individuals. Big businesses, small businesses, family-owned businesses, small and big institutional investors (non-profits, endowments and foundations) and the lucky few who inherit business empires also need the services of professionals who can manage their wealth.

Now think of ‘wealth’ as a generic term representing all the assets that a multi-millionaire owns, including tangible assets such as money, real estate, factories and inventory, and intangible assets such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, brand value and even goodwill. The super rich have complex financial needs and an investment adviser must have the knowledge and expertise to manage all these assets, safeguard them as well as use them to grow their client’s wealth.

Portfolio management thus includes a diverse range of services, from financial planning, to offering investment advice, designing an investment portfolio, actual investment management, accounting and tax services, retirement planning, real estate planning and legal advisory services.

Think of it this way – an asset manager is expected to view and manage their client’s assets as a collective whole and, of course, multiply their assets manifold! In other worlds, a wealth manager is a one-stop shop for a client’s financial needs, so that the client does not have to approach a series of financial specialists to manage their money.

Job Description & Responsibilities: What Does An Asset Manager Do?

A portfolio manager assesses their client’s financial needs, wealth-generation potential, risk-and-return profile and future goals. He or she must be able to draw up short-term and long-term investment plans, understand asset allocation and distribute their clients’ wealth into suitable asset classes.

Essentially, a wealth manager should be able to design and customise money-management strategies, unlike financial planners who primarily advise rather than execute such investments. To do this successfully, a portfolio manager needs an intimate understanding of the financial markets, both domestic and global, and in-depth knowledge of the myriad financial instruments offered by banks and brokerage houses including sophisticated financial solutions such as stock-option planning and the use of hedging derivatives.

Asset management services are provided by large corporate entities, investment banks and independent financial advisers. Large banks and brokerage houses also have separate divisions dedicated to selling both proprietary and non-proprietary products and services to high net-worth clients. And then there are private or independent portfolio managers who along with their teams work, one-on-one, with the uber-rich.

 

Educational Qualifications Of A Wealth Manager

At the very basic level, a wealth manager must have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, preferably with special emphasis on Financial Management and Accounting. A Master’s degree instantly increases your chances of being snapped up by a reputed wealth management bank or firm. Any additional professional certifications in areas such as Mathematics, Financial Engineering, Quantitative Finance and Marketing are always welcome. Remember, the competition is razor-sharp and advanced training in business or economics would propel you to the front of the line.

Since demanding and fussy clients come with the territory, your employer will carefully vet your track record, where the only thing that matters is your success in money management for past clients. Imagine managing the fortune of a Forbes billionaire and, yeah, you will need to demonstrate why they can trust you!

Considering the discerning nature of their clients, wealth managers should also have strong interpersonal skills, the ability to break down complex financial strategies for their clients, creative problem solving abilities and the ability to stay composed under pressure.

Career Paths In Wealth & Asset Management

Typically, you will enter the wealth management industry as a financial or investment analyst, doing basic mathematical or financial modeling. You will call clients to confirm appointments with the associates, prepare PowerPoint presentations and routine statements.

You will then graduate to researching financial products, which will deepen your understanding of the financial market. Then, occasionally, an associate will toss you a carrot and ask you for an input, or whether a new financial product fits into their client’s portfolio, or to make a judgement call. That’s how you cut your teeth in the business. And, if you’re really lucky, you will be invited to sit in on client meetings, where you will get a window to just how nerve-racking it can get out there.

There is one more rite of passage you will have to undergo during this trial by fire – build a book of clients. After all, isn’t it all about increasing – and pardon the pun – the ‘assets under management’?

Eventually, you will be promoted as an associate, if you demonstrate potential, that is. Once you earn this coveted tag, you will have little time to think. You will have seemingly impossible targets to meet and your stress levels will soar. But for those who have a natural talent for this and thrive on challenges, it’s like a drug. If you’re working with an asset management company or a bank, success is measured in different ways. While for some, it’s about growing their clients’ assets as much as possible, for others it’s all about client satisfaction, and for still others, it’s about constantly expanding their client base and getting new business.

Asset Management Salaries

OK, so here’s your moment of truth: how wealthy can a wealth manager be? On the lowest rung of the ladder, say, as a Financial Planner or a Relationship Manager, you can hope to earn Rs 3.3 lakh a year, which could go up to Rs 11 lakh for a Senior Business Analyst and as high as Rs 23 lakh for a wealth manager or private banker.

In the US, a Financial Analyst would earn $57,000 a year, going up to $81,000 as a Portfolio Manager. An Associate straight out of business school would typically earn $100,000 a year plus commission.

More details on salaries in wealth management can be found at www.payscale.com

Outlook of Portfolio and Investment Management Sector

There are many reasons India is a happy hunting ground for investment managers. Although the number of HNIs is still small compared to many other countries – some estimates say HNIs comprise only 8 per cent of the total wealthy households – the great news is that there is a large and young affluent segment in India. In fact, according to one report, 69 per cent of the HNI population lies in the 30-55 age group and they prefer wealth accumulation and risk mitigation, and require sophisticated products which offer high returns very quickly.

Another positive for the Indian wealth management market is the growing number of Non-Resident Indians and an increase in the affluence and wealth of ‘global Indians’. Also, the asset management sector has many unorganised players but the size of the organised sector has been growing in the last few years. Some experts even believe that India will soon be among the fastest-growing investment portfolio management markets worldwide.