People Feature: Loving your job in asset management
By Anna Devine 10 December 2016
Good pay, status and opportunity are just a few of the reasons you might expect many asset management professionals to love their job. And indeed many do.
Eight out of 10 research professionals say they love their job, while just over half of fund managers say the same, according to a poll carried out by salary benchmarking site Emolument.com.
However, anecdotal evidence shows that the opposite is also true in some circles.
Growing pressures on the asset management industry particularly throughout 2016 could be feeding through to how the workforce feels about their job.
Kirsty Pineger, director at financial services recruiter BRUIN Financial, says: “There is no question that this year has been particularly challenging.
“Cost control has been a recurring feature of the past 12 months for the financial sector as a whole.
She adds: “Everyone is feeling the pressure to do more to secure, retain and keep their clients happy, often without a clear view as to how they will be compensated.
“A number of managers we have spoken to have openly cited their frustration with needing to do more with less headcount.”
Only four out of 10 relationship managers love their job, according to Emolument.com.
The picture is even less rosy for those working in middle and back-office roles, with fewer than three in 10 saying they love their job.
Long hours, high levels of stress due to constant troubleshooting and little recognition are to blame for lower job satisfaction in middle and back-office roles, says Alice Leguay, co-founder at Emolument.com.
“[They] also earn much less than their front-office colleagues.”
Sarah Dudney, client partner at recruiter The Buy-Side Club, says one reason relationship managers might feel negative about their job is the low interest rate environment.
“It is challenging and clients are frustrated,” she says.
Seán Brickell, founder of Life Impact, says: “Let’s be honest here. The vast majority of people […] go into asset management for what money gives them – freedom, social and professional status, the intellectual challenge, the sense they’re at the top end of the socioeconomic pile and more.”
All that is fine on a practical level but less so from a psychological perspective, he says.
“A sense of emptiness can creep in where the sense of purpose can be tested and then frayed and even fractured,” says Mr Brickell.
“This is caused by the less glamorous realities of working in asset management.”
He cites the “sometimes ugly and destructive competitiveness from colleagues as well as competitors”, the hours, the pressure of both avoiding failure and achieving success, demanding clients, bosses who expect you to achieve targets that seem exhaustingly out of reach and more”.
But experts say the key to surmounting these challenges is through perception. They add that there is merit in doing a job that one loves.
A study by Woolley and Fishbach in 2015 showed that people underestimate how important it is to love their job and overestimate how much they will get paid.
Keith O’Brien, assistant director at University College London, says: “It is important to do something you love.
“Employees who have a stronger intrinsic motivation towards their job are more productive and more likely to meet their goals.”
He adds: “Unless managers are willing to investigate causes of low job satisfaction, and make changes, employees can either become counter-productive [or] in some cases [stressed].”
Ms Dudney says that seeing a challenge as “an opportunity” could help people “really think through how they can best align themselves with the new environment”.
“Middle and back offices are cost centres. Therefore they are always going to be under pressure because of the environment we are in. The challenge for them is to find their niche so they [can deal] with the challenge.”
She adds: “Ultimately you have got to make a virtue out of a vice because there are opportunities.
“Despite challenges there is growth, innovation, you get to work with really fantastic people. It is well paid. There is a lot to enjoy intellectually, socially, professionally.”
Finally Ms Dudney says disgruntled employees should remind themselves of the social purpose of their role.
“They are in the business of building long-term savings. They should see their greater purpose as that of fiduciaries,” she says.
Finding your purpose need not involve “navel gazing”, she says.
“It’s just about being professional, focusing on what your clients want and building alignment there.”
Mark Barnett, manager of the operations team at BRUIN, says: “The message from the market isn’t that people are trying to get out from the buy side. People are still trying in droves to make the move to asset management.
“Experienced asset managers know that the market is cyclical and have weathered the storm throughout their careers so aren’t overly concerned about the current climate.
“For juniors entering the workplace, asset management is still an attractive industry to get into.”