Taking Control of Your Career

The CFA Women’s Network at CFA Society Chicago kicked off their series Taking it to the Next Level: Empowering Tools for Women in Finance aimed at events that optimize career development and advancement for women in the financial services area.

The first event in the series, titled Taking Control of Your Career, focused on managing and shifting the course of careers by the speaker Gail Meneley. Meneley is the co-founder of Shields Meneley Partners, a confidential advisory service to C-Suite executives and board of directors during times of organizational and professional crisis and transition. She was one of eight founders of the Center for Executive Options and served as a CEO of the Institute of Financial Education. With extensive business experience, Meneley has been widely quoted and published in multiple reputable business publications and has been the keynote speaker at national conferences and conventions. She holds a B.A. from Mundelein College of Loyola University and has participated in executive programs at the University of Texas, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern California. Additionally, she is active in many civic, cultural and business organizations including the Economic Club of Chicago, The Chicago Network, the Chicago Finance Exchange, and the Lake Forest Caucus.

Meneley presented advise on how to navigate through career transitions and or progression to the mostly female audience at a well-attended event. She touched upon some of the important, yet less discussed issues faced by women during their careers. Key takeaways from the discussion are briefed below.

Better Navigation at work

Meneley could not stress enough to remain confident in periods of uncertainty and self- doubt that women are more likely to feel than their male counterparts in the workplace. Additionally, she advised women to stop selling their abilities short – both internally and externally, and ‘learn to toot their own horns’ shunning the uneasy feeling which is usually experienced by most women in the situation.

She advised women to make the expectations at work clear at the outset by carrying out discussions that may be uncomfortable like the authority to carry out assigned tasks, extent of involvement in terms of leading a project vs helping the team in a more supportive role. This should help manage responsibilities and receive deserved credit for the performed work.

Stagnation and Progression

If you feel you are feeling stagnating at work or disagree with any aspect of your role, she advised to discuss it with your manager before thinking of switching jobs. However, just complaining about your situation will not be fruitful and instead take up this discussion with your manager with a suggestion to resolve it.

In order to prepare yourself for the conversation, make sure you understand the root cause of your feelings. Is it the lack of opportunities or lack of responsibilities? What would it take for you to feel satisfied at your job?

Being explicit about your expectations will help your manager address them more effectively. Signing up for not so popular projects would be one way to communicate your commitment and enthusiasm at work and a way to standout from your peers. Despite your efforts and failure on your managers part to resolve your reasonable concerns may be a sign to think about alternatives to the current role.

Assessing your dissatisfaction in the current role

Many women feel dissatisfied in their current roles which might be signs of emotional and/or literal blockage at work or a result of reaction to a negative situation at work. To deal with such feelings, Meneley provided some guidance to assess your situation by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you disagree with the overall business strategy?
  • Did you engage your manager without resolution?
  • Have you lost respect for the team?
  • Are you frustrated with the work?

If any of the above apply to you, it may be time to consider an exit. However, she cautioned to rule out any emotional reaction to a specific negative situation by giving it some time to see how you feel after a while. If after 6 months negative feelings haven’t improved or have gotten worse, it might be time for the necessary action.

Career Growth Strategy & Change in Jobs

Gail Meneley stressed on how one must ‘always’ continue to engage in networking and building professional and personal relationships whether they are looking for a job, looking to switch jobs or careers or content with their current employer. Constant networking should be an integral part of your overall career strategy.

Other important considerations should be self-reflection of whether you have achieved the satisfaction you expected in your current role or with your current employer? If not, what could be improved and how? What would be your favorite job and why? Do you feel like meeting your coworkers each morning? Do you see yourself managing other people?

If you feel you need to change jobs or transition into a different career path you must be thoughtful of your moves from one employer to the other and its emotional and practical implications. One very valid consideration would be the decision to relocate. If you do plan to relocate make sure it matters and is a long-term decision.

Skills Enhancement

In order to grow professionally, one should constantly learn new skills. Women who consider themselves as introverts can train themselves to become extroverts by doing the following:

  • Try to get to know other people
  • Draw out people by interacting with them and making them feel comfortable around you
  • Learn to read other people
  • Hire a coach. This should be particularly beneficial when transitioning for single person role a leadership role

Very effectively, Meneley explained how a manager’s role differs from that of a leader. Managers, she said, have a more engineering type process to tackle people and work whereas leadership roles are more about connection of hearts and minds. Effective leaders tend to focus on what interests other people and end up making them excited about the job. To ascertain a good leader from a bad leader, look at who everyone is following. To transition from being a manger to a leader, work on your people skills and do not hesitate to seek help from a career coaching expert.

Exit Strategy

Once you have made up your mind to leave your current employer, it is important to make your exit at a positive note. Meneley emphasized to maintain a relationship of mutual respect with the employer. This would include negotiating an exit package that both parties can agree on and using exit interview as a means of keeping your reputation intact. She strongly advised against suing the employer as this could have ramifications to your employability in the future.

Charterholder Jobs of the Future

Where can CFA charterholders look for career opportunities outside of traditional roles like research analyst or portfolio manager? That was the focus of the Jobs of the Future event sponsored by CFA Society Chicago’s Professional Development Advisory Group on April 12th. Held in the spacious conference center at 1 North Wacker Drive, the event was comprised of two panel discussions preceded by a keynote speech on employment trends in the asset management industry. The topic was popular with society members with nearly 100 in attendance.

Tyler Cloherty, CFA, global head of research at the Casey Quirk Knowledge Center kicked off the event with a research report entitled State of the Industry: Strategic Change in Asset Management and its Impact on Practitioners. He outlined changes currently underway in the investment management field and the consequent effects they will have on the types of roles asset managers will be looking to fill and the skills they will need. To begin, Cloherty noted that employment in asset management is at an all-time high having grown 8.6% between 2014 and 2016.  However, there are meaningful changes in the makeup of the total:

  • Investment professionals (portfolio managers and analysts) have shown the largest growth from 24.9% to 26.6% of industry staff, driven by increases in illiquid capabilities and allocation teams. However compensation for this group has declined slightly.
  • Conversely, distribution has seen the largest decline (from 28.7% to 26.1%) which masks a shift from institutional channels to retail, and an increase in product development roles. Despite this decline, compensation in this area has risen about 5%.
  • Operations has increase share from 45.2% to 46.2% reflecting the build-out of risk management and compliance functions. Here also, compensation has risen by 5%.
  • Firm management has held steady at just over 1% of industry staffing, but compensation has declined by a significant 16%.

Cloherty then went on to describe three factors defining the changing landscape for talent in the industry:

  1. Evolving Client Expectations—Reflecting a general push for cost control, which is manifested in the shift from active to passive strategies, and also the demand for more consistent performance in active products. Clients are seeking value for the fees they pay. In addition, they want more digital engagement to increase their own efficiency.
  2. Industry Catalysts—Including a host of trends: fee compression, commoditization of products, slow growth (especially in developed markets) and rising fixed costs (for more compliance, technology, data collection, and regulations).
  3. External Catalysts—Increasing importance of technology, data, automation, and even artificial intelligence, are the primary external catalysts.

 

Tyler Cloherty, CFA

Cloherty’s research has defined four strategic paths managers may choose to address this changing landscape.  Each has unique consequences for career opportunities for industry participants. The first strategy is to differentiate on product which requires that products perform well relative to expectations. This in turn means clients must see consistent value for the fees charged. Success here will depend on the effective application of data analysis, risk management, portfolio customization, and/or trading enhancements. In addition, cost containment through process automation and systems rationalization will be important. This strategy is likely to offer increased job opportunities involving the collection, analysis, and interpretation of increased volumes of data; fewer roles for traditional investment analysts; a shift of research and portfolio management resources to satisfy the rising demand for illiquid capabilities and allocation strategies; and greater separation of compensation between top talent and the median performers.

The second strategy is to differentiate on client experience by offering a premium service level built around client outcomes. This will require firms to build effective distribution teams to establish and maintain client engagement over a long sales cycle. This begins with identifying prospects using insightful market segmentation and data analysis, and continues through multi-channel outreach, digital marketing, automated sales and client relations tools, thought leadership materials, cross selling, high touch client reporting with mobile capabilities/apps, and in-person client interaction to close the sale and retain business. This strategy will demand more talent in data management, digital marketing, channel expertise, client service, and advice delivery.

Firms can also decide to compete on cost which requires automation, outsourcing, and realignment of incentives. Automation and outsourcing can both be applied to data management, accounting and settlement processes, distribution (via sub-advisory), back and middle office functions, and clerical duties. Investment management and distribution staff are typically the most expensive and their incentives will need to change to make them more efficient. Shifting incentive compensation to long-term payouts and focusing on client retention rather than gross sales are key here. This strategy will boost employment opportunities at third party/outsource providers and internally toward project managers to drive the transformation.

Finally, firm management can choose to engage in M&A to achieve scale and efficiencies. This route has been increasingly popular in recent years. M&A within the asset management industry reached an all-time high in 2017 with over 200 deals worth nearly $3 trillion. Because cost synergies play a major role in the success of this strategy, it is unlikely to drive growth in employment. All aspects of the organization will feel the impact, but operations usually bears the brunt because it offers the quickest and largest cost reductions.

Two panel discussions followed the keynote address. The first featured three Society members whose career paths led to roles that would have been uncommon for portfolio managers in the past, although they are integral to asset management today:

  • Joan Rockey, CFA, principal and CFO for CastleArk Management LLC, a single family office managing $4 billion. She has special expertise in corporate events and transaction strategy within the private equity, finance, energy, and technology industries. While the investments she oversees could generally be labeled alternatives, or illiquid, Rockey’s role is much more expansive covering firm management, client service, staffing, pricing, product development, and analysis of the competitive landscape.
  • Jeff Kernagis, CFA, vice president and senior portfolio manager for Invesco PowerShares Capital Management responsible for a variety of income-based strategies housed in a new generation of exchange-traded fund products.
  • Warren Arnold, CFA, is a team leader in Northern Trust’s National Wealth Advisor Group. As such he is responsible for both the development of custom wealth management plans and their implementation, which requires an extensive amount of client engagement.

L to R: Joan Rockey, CFA; Jeff Kernagis, CFA; Warren Arnold, CFA

Moderator Andy Feltovich asked the panelists to offer advice to younger charterholders seeking to improve their chances at finding new positions leading to rewarding careers. Arnold, an electrical engineer by education, strongly endorsed broadening one’s skill set and continuously striving to learn more. Adding value often comes from outside one’s primary area of responsibility (in his case, tax or estate planning). Kernagis had two recommendations—looking for ways to marry technology to your job, and networking continuously. Rockey noted that no two people will follow the same career path, even if they end up in similar roles. However as a holder of numerous professional credentials (CFP, CPA, and CAIA among them) she advised attendees to grow their skills with additional professional training.

The second panel comprised three experts employed in corners of asset management that are new for charterholders:

  • Lisa Ezra Curran, CFA, co-founder of FinTEx Chicago, a non-profit organization bringing together FinTech and financial services firms seeking to expand Chicago’s role as a center of financial technology innovation.
  • Marcia Irwin, CFA, managing director of Portfolio Specialists at Manulife Asset Management. In that role she serves as the interface between portfolio managers and client-facing partners to ensure effective communication and positioning of investment strategies as well as top notch client service.
  • David Kiefer, CFA, managing director at J. P. Morgan in the Global Consultant Strategy Team where he services investment consultants who recommend J. P. Morgan products to institutional investors.

L to R: Andy Feltovich, CFA; Marcia Irwin, CFA; David Kiefer, CFA; Lisa Ezra Curran, CFA

Each panelist provided useful insight into their roles. Curran noted how FinTech can be viewed as the application of common technologies across multiple financial services, or the marriage of financial expertise applied with technology to create new roles or enhance old ones. As examples, she pointed out that FinTech has opened up alternative investments to new investors, as well as led to the digitization of mortgage records. This facilitates the flow of information and improves the process of mortgage securitization. It also better informs investors on the intricate details defining mortgage-backed securities. Irwin noted because she is positioned between the sales team (and their clients) on the one side and portfolio managers on the other, communication skills are very important. However, the CFA charter sets her apart and proclaims her investment expertise. Kiefer echoed that point by noting the charter stands out in the sales process. Because he deals with consultants–investment professionals in their own right–he can’t speak from a script about his products. He needs to project deep product knowledge and the charter helps with that.

In providing advice on career guidance, Curran said that was difficult to do because FinTech is so new; the roles within it are still evolving. Kiefer suggested that the RFP team provided an excellent entry point into the investment business. It requires strong communication skills and teaches broad knowledge about a firm’s product set. Irwin’s advice was to approach one’s job from the client’s point of view to understand their needs better and determine how to satisfy them.