Asset management is an incredibly attractive profession for many finance students and young professionals, and for good reason. Many of the world’s leading asset management firms oversee trillions of dollars in client assets. Savvy professionals with the skills and knowledge to make sound decisions for clients are highly valuable to those firms. But landing a position with a reputable firm isn’t as simple as submitting a resume and acing an interview. Here are some steps that could be helpful if you’re wondering how to get into asset management.
STEP 1: Earn a Finance Degree
Hopefully if you’re reading this article, you’ve already considered, begun, or completed the path of an undergraduate or graduate degree in finance. Consider your finance degree the basic foundation on which every other tip we provide is built. It’s your first step in the journey to get into asset management. In addition to your finance courses, it’s important that you take every accounting and statistics course you can. These courses will establish and demonstrate skills in financial modelling and computing that you’ll need as an asset manager.
STEP 2: Get Your Feet Wet at an Asset Management Firm
Think entry level here. This is the step where you pay your dues. It’s tempting to fixate on a particular position you want. Instead, it may be beneficial to get a foot in the door at a firm where you’d like to one day hold your dream job, even if it means you start in a position you don’t particularly want. If you can, try to secure a position as a Research Analyst. These positions are highly competitive, and most opportunities come about through on-campus recruiting, or already having a connection at the firm you want to work for. You may be applying side-by-side with people who hold MBAs, CFA® charters, or other additional attributes that give them an advantage. So be willing to think outside the box. If you feel good about the company, and you are committed to a future in asset management, don’t rule out positions in sales, marketing, or other disciplines that will allow you to gain valuable experience in the business. Once you’ve built credibility in the firm, you will have a distinct advantage over external applicants when you get the opportunity to make a move.
STEP 3: Set Yourself Apart
This is where you can really accelerate on your path to get into an asset management career. Positions in asset management are competitive. The best firms are looking for the best of the best employees, and you need to find a way to set yourself apart from the pack. Many of the most successful asset managers in the world have earned the CFA credential. The CFA charter is the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world, according to CFA Institute. Earning the charter is not a simple feat—it’s a 3-level exam that takes, on average, four years and 300 hours of studying per level to complete. Even though it’s difficult to earn, the CFA charter is an excellent way to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to the industry. Some people in pursuit of asset management careers may choose to complete an MBA program in lieu of, or in addition to, the CFA program. That’s certainly an option, but not all asset management firms view the MBA in the same light as the CFA charter. It’s important to know if the time and money you invest will have the potential to pay off in the career path you’ve chosen.
STEP 4: Pay Your Dues
In most cases, firms won’t consider you for a fund or asset management position until you’ve put in at least two years in a related support role. This often means taking a position as an analyst, researcher, or trader for the firm. It’s incredibly important to keep your eye out for opportunities both within your company and with other companies. Think of your path to get into asset management as a ladder, rather than an elevator. Constantly pursue positions and tasks that get you closer to your desired destination. Keep your eyes on the goal, but don’t expect to get there without taking a few calculated steps along the way.
STEP 5: Demonstrate Your Skills
While building experience in support roles, think of the work you do every day as a constant job interview. This is a chance to demonstrate your potential. Volunteer for the work others run away from. Identify and seize opportunities to learn. Participate in projects where you can hone your teamwork and leadership skills, as well as gain higher visibility for your talents. Look at each job you’re tasked with as an opportunity to build your resume and reputation in the firm and the industry. Regardless of the credentials you’ve earned, you will face an uphill climb if you do not master and demonstrate the soft skills required to be successful in the professional world.
There’s no “one way” to break into any career. Every person’s path and story is unique and different. But hopefully, these tips have provided some ideas and structure to build on, and given you a better understanding of how to get into asset management.