Key Skills & How to Demonstrate Them In Investment & Asset Management

Investment management is one of the most competitive, sought-after careers in the finance industry. It takes a particular kind of ambitious, bright and dedicated person to succeed. Here are some of the key skills you need.

(N.B. We use the terms ‘investment management’ and ‘asset management’ interchangeably. Asset management is the more common term in the UK, while investment management is more common globally)

Passion

As an investment manager, your days will be long, challenging and focused. To power through the hard work, you need to be a passionate person, willing to devote all your energy to a job you enjoy.

Gathering examples:

  • You need examples of things you’re passionate about outside finance – sit down and write an honest list of things you love.
  • Now to select examples. Go through the list, and see which items relate to the skills in this article. For example, if you love being in the debating society, that links back to communication skills. It’s definitely one to mention!

During the application process:

  • Remember, you don’t need to focus on your skills and experience during your interview. It’s your chance to demonstrate your passion for finance.
  • Go in with some prepared lines – “I’ve chosen this career because…”, “I think I’ll love this job because…”, “I think I’ll love this company because…” – and slip them into the conversation.
  • If possible, link these answers back to something personal – it’s much more memorable for your interviewer.

Intellectual curiosity

Would you wake up in the morning wondering what happened in the markets overnight, and keen to know if your predictions were correct? Would you see a surprise stock movement and refuse to rest until you ferreted out the reason for it? If so, you have the intellectual curiosity to truly understand your sector.

Gathering examples:

  • Don’t be a passive consumer of media. Intellectual curiosity means researching, discussing and debating. Try setting up a group with your friends where you get together once a week to discuss a specific news article.

During the application process:

  • You enjoy learning, so enjoy learning about the company. Dig deep, turn up facts that interest you and ask questions about them in your interview when you get the chance.

Analytical skills

To predict how a stock will behave, you need to perform both qualitative and quantitative analysis. As well as the sales figures and other numbers, you need to analyse the effect of things that can’t be as easily measured – such as the effectiveness of an upcoming ad campaign or the hiring of a new CEO.

Gathering examples:

  • If you’re a business student, social scientist or statistician you should have experience analysing statistical data. Look back on challenging assignments and describe how you succeeded.
  • Analysis doesn’t have to include numbers. Any essay where you analyse the evidence to choose and support a conclusion is a valid example.
  • Volunteer for tasks where a decision needs to be made based on evidence – for example, choosing a venue for an event based on factors like location, suitability and price. 

During the application process:

  • You may need to do online tests to demonstrate your analytical skills. Find sample tests online and in careers advice books to help you understand the types of question you might face.
  • During any task, listen carefully to the questions and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Communication skills

Investment management firms look for articulate, effective communicators. Presentation skills are especially important for investment managers. You’ll spend a lot of time presenting your findings and your recommendations, first to senior colleagues and later to clients.

Gathering examples:

  • Telephone jobs, such as calling alumni for donations or volunteering for a peer support line, develop your verbal communication skills and grow your confidence. 
  • Join a debating society, a student council or even an improv group.
  • Join a student magazine or take responsibility for a society website. Successfully advertising an event online is a great example of your written skills.

During the application process:

  • Don’t rush your application questions. Make sure your answers are clear and well-structured. The same goes for your CV. Use the STAR method – Situation, Task, Activity, Result.
  • In your interview, speak clearly and confidently, and connect with your interviewer through open, relaxed body language and eye contact.

Confidence

To succeed in asset management, you need to be confident in your abilities. Evaluate the options, make a decision, take action - it’s no good second-guessing yourself. You also need to project a confident persona so colleagues and clients trust what you have to say.

Gathering examples:

  • Think about what scares you – then go out and do it.
  • Confident people know how to say no. Think about times when you disagreed with the status quo among a group. Were you right? How did you convince people to take your side?

During the application process:

  • Remember – in your interviews you’ll be talking to fascinating people about the things that interest you. Go in prepared to have fun.

Tenacity

Endurance and tenacity are a must, both to keep you going through long hours and to keep you focused on thorny problems.

Gathering examples:

  • Fundraising is a great example of tenacity. Set yourself a tough goal and don’t stop until you’ve achieved it – by any means necessary.
  • When you’re doing a degree, you need to be tenacious to fit in extracurriculars. What do you do, why is it challenging and why is it worth the effort?

During the application process:

  • If you’re set a problem, don’t give up because you think you can’t solve it. Stop, think, talk your interviewer through your thought processes and get as far as you can.

Problem-solving skills

With your own responsibilities from the very beginning, it will be up to you to take ownership of problems and turn them into opportunities. You won’t be alone – colleagues should be willing to ensure you understand the problem you’re tackling. But the solution is all yours.

Gathering examples:

  • You solve problems all the time in your everyday life. Think about times when you’ve hit a snag – maybe a funding shortfall for a trip or a member of a project group who called in sick at the last minute. What did you do to get past it?
  • The more you try to do, the more problems you’ll run across! Get involved in anything where you have to take on responsibility. Problem-solving examples are guaranteed.

During the application process:

  • If you’re given tasks or problems to solve at interview, think carefully, take your time and be creative.
  • If it helps, talk through your thought processes. You interviewer will want to know how you approach the problem.

Business understanding

Some decisions you make as an asset manager will be based on a ‘gut feeling’, so your business instincts need to be razor sharp. While you needn’t have a business degree, you’ll need a strong overall understanding of how businesses and markets operate.

Gathering examples:

  • If you have a chance, consider doing work experience or shadowing at a large non-finance business.

During the application process:

  • Do in-depth research into the company’s major clients. For each, discover its competitors, suppliers and customers. You also need to know the history of the industry, how it has changed and the challenges companies face.

And finally…

If you’re interested in asset management, you need to start preparing as soon as possible. Start with Insight Days in your first year. By the start of your second year, you should have the skills and examples to impress – that’s the time to start searching for finance internships.

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