What Asset Managers Can Learn from Winning Hires

Let’s say your firm is looking for a new wholesaler. You receive resumes from two different applicants, Joe and Michelle. Both have worked the same amount of time in similar-sized boutique asset management firms.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that you only have time to interview one of them. First you look at the bullet points on Joe’s resume.

• Served as sales manager for the Midwest territory focusing on RIA firms.

• Made 250 weekly cold email and phone contacts to advisors.

• Conducted 25 virtual and on-site meetings with advisory firm clients every month.

Then you look at similar bullet points on Michelle’s resume.

• Serving as sales manager covering Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, increased inflows from RIA firms by $1.5 billion (35%) in two years

• Conducted 150 weekly cold email and phone contacts to high-net-worth advisor leads which generated, on average, 270 prospects and 105 new clients each year

• Conducted 12 on-site and virtual meetings with advisory firm clients each month, resulting in an average of $250 million in new inflows per years.

Which of these salespeople would you be more likely to hire? Joe manages a bigger territory and has more activity, but all this tells us is what he does.

Michelle’s region is smaller and her activity level is lower, but she tells us what she does and her results.

For most asset managers, Michelle would be the better candidate, at least on paper.

Now think of your firm as a job candidate. You’re competing against many other asset managers to be the first choice of an adviser or consultant. Chances are, your performance isn’t radically superior to that of your competitors. So, you need something to stand out.

And that is your story.

Think of your story as your cover letter, or even bullet points in your resume.

It tells prospects what makes your firm, its products and your people stand out from the crowd. It tells them not only what you do, but what your efforts have achieved. It tells them what unique experience and subject matter expertise you bring to the table. It gives them a reason to take your firm seriously.

Creating a story that stands out

Put yourself in the place of an advisor or consultant. They’re weighing different asset managers for strategies they want to add to their lineup. They’re looking for good reasons to choose one or another, but in marketing materials, RFP responses and wholesaler emails they see bullet-point statements like:

• We use a five-step research process for identifying quality large cap growth opportunities that meet our selection criteria.

• Our fund aims to build a select portfolio of smaller companies that are currently undervalued but have the potential to significantly increase forward PEs in the next five years

Is your story full of these generic Joe-like “what we do” statements? If so, it’s time to start thinking like Michelle. Connect your actions with results. Do it right and you might end up with “what we do and our results” statements similar such as these:

• Our unique, “under the hood” research process includes on-site interviews with executives and workers in multiple locations to evaluate supply-chain efficiency, employee productivity, satisfaction and turnover, and other quality of workplace factors. These have proven to be more effective in predicting positive or negative earnings trends than top-down fundamental analysis alone, enabling our large cap value fund to outperform the S&P 500 in seven out of the last ten years.

• Our small cap fund has consistently outperformed the Russell 2000 with lower volatility by focusing only on undervalued small cap companies with strong balance sheets in noncyclical industries that are historically resistant to economic downturns.

And don’t think that solid returns alone absolve you from telling your story. In a world where both investors and professionals have been conditioned to be skeptical about active management, it’s more important than ever to show that your results are the product of skill, rather than luck.

You want the job? Get your story straight.

It’s human nature. People are much better explaining what they do than what they’ve achieved. To get these achievements into your story, you may have to dig deep. Put your portfolio managers and analysts on the spot. Make them explain why their process works—and be ready to provide the data to back it up in case a potential client asks.

If it helps, create a simulated job interview environment where you’re a hiring manager and your investment experts are interviewing for a job.

Or, if it’s been a while since they sat in the applicant seat, try another simulated scenario where you’re a manager who needs to lay off several employees, and everyone on their team needs to explain why they should be kept on.

Whatever approach you use to develop your story, give its development a sense of urgency. Act as if your livelihood depends on it. Because in today’s highly competitive environment, it just might.

Dan Sondhelm is CEO of Sondhelm Partners, a firm that helps asset managers, mutual funds, ETFs, wealth managers and fintech companies grow through marketing, public relations and sales programs. Click to read Dan’s latest Insight articles and to schedule a complimentary consultation.