The Fund Shop Jobs in Big Demand During the Pandemic

Aug 2, 2021 | Ignites

Demand for certain types of professionals has surged since the pandemic began and has only intensified in recent months, according to industry consultants and executive recruiters.

While most of these professionals were in demand for years before the pandemic began, they have become even more sought-after since March 2020, recruiters said. That’s in part because the move en masse to remote work has highlighted their skills and the important roles that they can play.

“What my company has seen, and what the [executive] search profession has seen, is it’s a candidate’s market,” said Jeanne Branthover, DHR International’s global leader of financial services and co-head of its New York office.

Certain types of executives with whom Branthover works frequently get multiple offers nowadays because many companies are looking for people with certain backgrounds and experience, she said. This is leading to “bigger [pay] packages … and fighting for this talent.”

But broadly, the asset management industry faces a talent shortage.

Financial and business services is the sector most threatened by “severe” shortages of qualified workers, a 2018 Korn Ferry report said. “Our study forecasts a [global] deficit of 10.7 million workers by 2030, equivalent to more than 45 times the global workforce of HSBC Bank,” the executive recruiting firm predicted for the sector.

Some 69% of employers across industries said this year that they faced hiring difficulties and talent shortages, according to a ManpowerGroup survey of more than 19,000 companies in 42 countries.

Below is a look at some of the fund industry roles that are most in demand, according to executive recruiters and consultants.

‘Digital Enablers’

Sales staffers, like those in other functions, shifted to working more online in the wake of pandemic lockdowns. And video conferences became the most popular way to meet — with established clients, prospects and team members.

“Instead of a two-hour [in-person] lunch, you’re going in with a 30-minute Zoom, and you have to be much more deliberate and sharper with your points, and digital enablement really helps with that,” said Chad Astmann, Korn Ferry’s global co-head of investment management.

During the pandemic, sales professionals haven’t been able to differentiate themselves from their peers through building relationships in person, Astmann added, “so digital enablement is meant to help the sales force have better insight, better sales.”

Such work can include compiling background information on sales prospects, he said. If the prospect is a financial advisor, for example, it could be information about the firm’s product holdings, recent employee hires and departures, and other firm-specific details.

Most individuals who take these positions are new hires, and firms generally have not moved existing staffers into those roles, Astmann said.

But some asset managers have asked salespeople to add these skills during the pandemic, said Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, an asset management consultancy.

Wholesalers “couldn’t travel, but they still had to make phone calls,” and gather and tap data that would further the sales process, he said.

Tech, Cybersecurity and Operations Professionals

With last year’s nearly universal move to remote work came increased online security threats for firms.

“Everyone’s logging in from anywhere,” said DHR’s Branthover, who specializes in fintech searches. “That has been a huge concern.”

Some firms have also ramped up their support desks for employees as they adjusted to working remotely full time, she said.

Executive searches for senior-level technology professionals have increased in the past 18 months, she said.

Across industries, openings for operations and logistics professionals, many of which require strong tech skills, have been the hardest to fill, according to ManpowerGroup.

Client Portfolio Managers

The rise of Zoom has also led some large, institutional investors to request more frequent meetings with portfolio managers, said Korn Ferry’s Astmann. Those clients believe “the ask is lighter” for a Zoom call with a PM, he added.

Before the pandemic, portfolio managers would have to get on a plane to meet with such investors in person, which required a much bigger time commitment.

The role of client portfolio managers has risen in tandem with this dynamic, he said. Firms use the professionals, which Astmann describes as a cross between sales and portfolio management, as a “buffer” to protect portfolio managers’ time.

Korn Ferry has seen a “significant spike” in hiring for such professionals, he said.

ESG Experts

The rise of ESG long predates the pandemic, but hiring professionals in the field accelerated sharply over the past 18 months, executive recruiters said.

The pandemic, along with recent climate-related events such as deadly wildfires in the western U.S. and record temperatures around the world, has highlighted the importance of including ESG considerations in corporate strategy, said Kurt Harrison, a senior member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ financial services sector and co-head of the sustainability practice.

Harrison has called 2021 "the year of ESG." With more than a decade of work as an executive recruiter in the asset management industry, Harrison said he’s never seen anything like the current demand for ESG leadership.

The qualities that asset managers want ESG leaders to possess have also “changed dramatically” over the past 18 months, he asserted.

“These roles have gone from mid-level functional roles to senior executive roles,” he said. “These individuals are driving value across the organization, and in most cases are reporting to the C-suite.”

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