Portfolio research and decision making is a crucial part of what asset management firms do, but there are many other interesting career options open to graduates in this part of the finance sector. Here, with the help of asset management firm Schroders, we present the key facts about three of these - account and product management, finance, and IT.
Distribution: account management and product management
Client directors are responsible for identifying new clients and for liaising with existing clients, particularly in relation to providing them with updates on their current investments and introducing them to new products. To do so, client directors develop an in-depth understanding of their clients and their investment needs.
Product managers have expert knowledge of the investments which an asset management firm could offer to a particular client. Their role is to determine which product or type of investment would be best suited to a client, once the client director has identified their investment requirements.
We spoke to Gavin Ralston, Head of Product at Schroders, to find out more.
Could you tell us a little about your career history?
I started off as an equity analyst, progressing into managing international equity portfolios, mainly for clients in the US and Canada. Then I moved across to the business side, and spent some time running our business in continental Europe. In 2008, I moved into my current role as Head of Product.
How would you explain what working in product is all about?
It's all about which products we want to offer to clients. How can we match up the demand we see in the marketplace with what we have available? We do a lot of work to understand how market demand is changing, particularly by interacting with clients who are asking for new things. And we - the product managers - will then match up these areas of demand with what we're capable of delivering.
How do you work with other teams?
Product managers are all specialists in a particular product area, such as equities, corporate bonds, or emerging markets investments. At Schroders, they're physically located next to the investment teams, so they're very closely integrated with the fund managers and the decisions they're making every day, and have the knowledge to represent the investment teams and their work to clients.
Product managers also work with the account managers. Once the account managers have established that a particular client is interested in a particular product, they'll go to the product managers for specialist sales support because many of the subsequent meetings with the client will be to talk about that particular product and how it works.
Can new graduates join this area?
It's always good for people in a product role to have had some investment expertise as they then have a bit more confidence and credibility. But here we do have a number of people who've come straight into the product department from our graduate programme. They often start in our product development team, which develops proposals for new funds. They might find themselves liaising with various other teams across the firm who are involved in the launch process for a new fund, for example, operations, compliance, or our legal team, so they can quickly get exposure to many parts of the organisation.
The finance department at an asset management firm produces the firm's accounts, and also monitors and analyses the firm's overall financial position.
We spoke to Catherine Brock, Head of Management Reporting and Analysis at Schroders, to get the details.
How would you sum up the role that the finance department plays at Schroders?
We in Finance are here to keep financial records, but we also play a critical role in supporting business performance as we provide information and analysis to business units across 26 countries and 30 investment desks. We're also closely involved in providing accurate and timely information to our shareholders, the market, and regulators.
Why is the finance department so important to Schroders' business?
Schroders' Finance team makes a major contribution to the success of the business globally by supporting a wide range of activities, from assisting with the development of new products and initiatives, and providing profitability and sales reports, to monitoring and forecasting business performance and reporting the group's financial results to the market. And it's important not to forget the significance of the day-to-day functions that the team performs which ensure that clients are accurately billed, and that employees' salaries and expenses are paid on time and as efficiently as possible.
An asset management firm's IT team constructs and monitors the often complex IT systems needed by the firm.
We heard from Matthew Oakeley Head of Group IT at Schroders, about his work in this area.
How would you sum up the role that the IT team plays at Schroders?
IT at Schroders covers a very broad set of disciplines from IT infrastructure (networks, PCs, servers, email, and so on) at one end, through the creation and management of our core business platforms, to project management, change management and strategic business consultancy at the other end.
We believe that technology can't be held at arm's length from the business we operate. As a result, members of the IT team here are not only responsible for technology projects, but are also involved in business decisions. They're expected to build up a strong understanding of the asset management industry and the business processes that drive a firm like Schroders.
Can you talk about a recent innovation by the IT team which has made a significant contribution to the success of the business?
We've recently created new technologies to allow our clients, and the market in general, to have mobile access to our data more easily. We've done so through the use of technologies that allow the seamless delivery of our content to multiple media sources, including mobile-accessible websites and country-specific websites.