Career Tales from an Asset Management Insider

Kathleen WIlliamson

29 Oct 2021

After over two decades working in the Asset Management industry, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to build a solid career in this space.  Some may believe success relies on deep financial experience, advanced degrees and certifications or an understanding of technology. While those are important tools to have in your kit, based on my experience, long term success relies mostly on your ability to build and maintain relationships.

Over the years I’ve made mistakes for sure. But I have also learned to follow my gut and trust my instincts. If I could go back in time and give myself advice when starting out my career in this industry here’s what I would say:

Performance is important, but people matter most

While numbers always matter, so do the people behind them. Investors want to feel that they know the team managing their money and trust that they are the best men and women for the job. Feeling secure about who is leading the charge is a critical component of such an important decision.

Trends come and go, but relationships are for the long haul

ESG, Cybersecurity and Diversity and Inclusion are all terms that have evolved in the industry in the last twenty years. They are critical components of a successful organization, and it is essential that your team has defined processes around each one.  It is also important that you have long standing, established connections with your clients so they always know where you stand on these issues, how your firm is evolving to answer these new questions and who clients can go to in order to get the answers. 

Knowledge and process can be the keys to success – make sure both are communicated

There are many players in the AM industry, and they are all seeking the same thing – clear information regarding the market and investments.  It is vital that your investment team be knowledgeable, have a clearly defined approach to their investing process and mostly important, effectively communicate both.  When the market has a downturn or your investment style goes out of favor, the more your investors understand your decision-making process and the rationale behind it, the more likely they are to ride the waves with you.

Integrity is everything

Twenty years ago, I remember having lunch with a female consultant I considered a mentor.  We were talking about careers and where mine could go in the future.  She said one simple thing that has always stayed with me, “No matter where you go in your career, always keep your integrity.” Particularly in the AM industry, integrity is a virtue, and one that holds value. When the going gets tough, it will serve you well.