What Asset Managers Do
Asset managers help their clients determine which investment opportunities best suit their goals, and then handle the daily management of the assets, including buying and trading investments. They typically work with high-net worth individuals, and may work for investment banks or dedicated asset and investment management firms. At the lower levels, asset managers perform extensive analytical work and do modeling, though experienced asset managers move more into client-facing roles and portfolio management.
Who would enjoy a career in Asset/Investment Management?
Due to the analytical nature of entry-level roles, those getting into the field do best if they do well with financial modeling and statistics. Being detail-oriented is paramount. Later roles involve a high degree of client interaction, so effective communicators, good listeners are more likely to advance.
With markets constantly evolving, it’s also important for asset managers to have a strong desire to stay on top of current events and continue their educations. Lastly, it can be a good field for someone with more altruistic tendencies who wants a financial career, as all recommendations are based on what suits the individual client and his needs, versus selling particular financial products to make profit.
Who mightn't like the career?
Portfolio management can be incredibly stressful, so the career is not a good fit for someone who lacks confidence or doesn’t handle stress well. There also tends to be a ceiling in asset management. Many people move onto other financial careers after a few years as an analyst, while others hit the ceiling as managers. Although some are content to spend a lifetime at this level, those who want a more defined career ladder or opportunity for growth aren’t likely to remain satisfied in the field.
Competition to get into big firm positions is fierce, with most positions being exclusively offered to high-performing students at top-tier universities. Other banks and smaller firms may consider those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees related to finance and mathematics, though an MBA is essential to progress. Additional certifications and licenses are required at a federal and state/ provincial level as well. For more information, see “Get The Inside Scoop From An Asset Manager,” “Want A Career In Asset Management? Read This First,” and “How do I get started with a career in asset management?”
Candidates are generally expected to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of modeling, accounting, valuation, stocks, and bonds, and may be asked to pitch to the interviewer. Communication skills, alignment with corporate culture, and long-term goals will also be assessed.
Moving into Asset/Investment Management from another career
Transitioning into asset management is easier for someone in a financial career, particularly if an MBA is held as well. The switch is quite popular for those with backgrounds in investment banking. However, those with general financial and mathematics degrees may also be able to take an entry-level role with a smaller bank or investment firm. For further reading, see “Stepping Stones to Asset Management” and “5 reasons why you should switch your career in finance to asset management, immediately.”
Role: Most asset managers begin as a junior-level analyst and progress to a senior-level analyst within a couple of years. In this position, analysts support managers by performing modeling and other analytical work. They may compile reports, help monitor portfolios, and ensure all documents are accurate, as well as provide clients with documentation as needed.
Portfolio Managers/ Asset Managers
Role: Most people attain the title of “portfolio manager” 4-6 years after starting the career path, and typically only after obtaining an MBA in addition to their finance or mathematics-related degree. Asset managers interact with clients more to assess their needs and goals, then help determine which investments will work best to help them get there. Through continued engagement, portfolio managers build long-term relationships. They monitor portfolios and keep in contact with clients to ensure their investments are continuing to meet their needs, as recommendations change frequently based on life circumstances.
Asset managers do not usually travel. Instead, they tend to work out of centralized firms or banks.
Entry-Level (0-5 years): Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD $59,640 in the United States, ₤33,540 in the United Kingdom, CAD$65,520 in Canada, and AU$64,660 in Australia.
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$76,680, £46,010, and CAD$92,820, and AU$97,920.
Experienced (10-20 years): USD$82,360, £48,160, CAD$99,190, and AU$100,980.
Late-Career (20+ years): USD$92,300, £50,310, CAD$104,650, and AU$133,620.
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission can boost an asset manager’s salary by a one-third margin.
Why Asset Managers move on
Because work as an asset manager is so focused on consumer needs, particularly as the career progresses, it’s difficult for people to leave and get into any kind of corporate finance role which can be coveted by asset managers and seen by them as more versatile and interesting. However, some manage to make this transition, while others switch to additional consumer-facing finance positions. For more information, see the Wall Street Oasis forum discussion, “Asset Manager Exit Opportunities.”