If you have the skills, the ambition and the enthusiasm to be an investment manager, here’s how to show it off during the application process and make sure you secure a graduate position.
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.
Before you begin
Ideally, your journey to becoming an investment manager should start as soon as you start university – or even before. Here’s what you need to do early on.
- Understand your timeline. First year (before Christmas): apply for Insight Days; Second year: apply for summer internships; Third year: apply for graduate schemes. For Insight Days, you don’t need to choose an area of finance. Look at investment banks as well as investment management companies.
- Research the industry. You need to understand what an investment manager does and the career ladder you’ll climb before you become one. Make sure you can explain why you chose investment management over investment banking.
- Research a range of companies. When you apply to a firm you should be able to describe its recent history and single out key differences between it and other firms. What markets does it focus on? What are its investment strategies? Why do they interest you?
The investment management application process
Summer internships and graduate schemes in investment management are highly competitive. You need to stand out as a memorable, bright candidate who’ll fit in well with the company culture.
- Show your passion for finance. It’s not enough to say you read the FT – that’s a very passive action. Demonstrate that you actively seek out financial information and engage with it – for example, by setting up a discussion group with some friends.
- Show your dedication. Your application should demonstrate a depth of interest and enthusiasm for something - whether it’s a sport, a hobby, or a club or society. It doesn’t need to be something finance-related. The point is to show that you’re tenacious and can attack and conquer a learning curve.
- Practice, practice, practice. Take every opportunity you can to do mock interviews, both for internships and graduate schemes. The same goes for assessment day tasks.
At your asset management interview
Once you’ve won yourself an interview, it’s no longer about your skills and experience – it’s about your potential, your personality and what you can bring to the company.
Dress to impress. Asset management firms are conservative places - there’s no such thing as too formal or too sober. Men: a cartoon character tie is the wrong way to make an impression, but a bright coloured solid is fine. Women: a suit is great but a well-fitting blouse in a quality fabric will do nicely. No straining buttons!
Be in it for the long haul. The question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a staple of asset management job interviews. You need to get across that you’re willing to work your way up through the ranks – and don’t even question that you’ll still be at the same firm in five years’ time.
During an asset management internship
Ideally, your internship is your way into an asset management graduate programme. If you do well enough, the graduate programme application will be more of a formality. So what can you do as an intern to win that graduate spot?
- Be enthusiastic. Everyone wants to come into work and find colleagues who want to be there and enjoy their job. You’ll be working hard, but don’t be tempted to commiserate with your new colleagues over long days.
- Go the extra mile. Senior asset managers look for people who say, “I’ve completed the task you gave me. Now, here’s how I think I could take it further.”
- Never ask the same question twice. There’s no such thing as a stupid question but it’s absolutely necessary to write down the answer you get, learn it and move on.
Don’t be overconfident, but have faith in yourself. You’re not there to prove that you know more than an experienced asset manager – just to prove that you have the potential to be just as good or better.