Advice from the experts
Jim Christensen, Managing Director
- Global Multi-Asset at QIC
For young people who enjoy the combination of intellectual challenge, making decisions in an uncertain and constantly changing environment, with clear measures of success, Investment Management offers many rewarding career opportunities.
The basic ingredients for anyone seeking such a career are intellectual curiosity, determination and a genuine interest in gaining a deep understanding of why the value of various assets will rise or fall. This curiosity could have been sparked by owning a parcel of shares, reading the financial press or wondering why a friend or relative has made or lost money.
You will almost certainly need to undertake tertiary studies in finance, economics and/or quantitative disciplines such as mathematics and engineering. Double degrees, often with studies at honours level, are now becoming prerequisites for entry level roles.
Achieving this first step is a considerable commitment. So, gaining some work experience at an early age, even if it is unpaid, or possibly an internship with an Investment Management company or a firm related to the investment industry will help in deciding if you wish to pursue such a career.
If you choose this path, the passion will not fade and the hours will pass quickly.
Will Macaulay, Investment Manager
– Unlisted Assets at HESTA
“I studied a niche scientific discipline (animal behaviour) and had realised I didn’t want a career in academia. I had no idea what the commercial world looked like, so I applied to every firm taking graduates that I could think of: accounting, consulting, engineering, and banking.
Ultimately I was offered a role that promised me a lot of variety and training, and a new city – I took the role for the opportunity to see a different side of the world (and procrastinate on ‘growing up’).
Many years later I’ve had a rewarding career that has seen me travel all over the globe, and given me responsibility for the retirement savings of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done so far.”
Ligia Zevallos, Senior Investment Analyst
– Listed Assets at HESTA
“An Economics or Finance degree is a start but the CFA curriculum is amazing for practical skills/knowledge. I often refer to my text books to this day.
I’d also recommend subscribing to a credible global market news source like Reuters, Bloomberg or the Financial Times – read what you find interesting. Investments markets are continuously changing, evolving and reacting to global events (politics, consumer/business sentiment, central bank policies, supply/demand dynamics etc), this career keeps you connected to the world. It’s exciting!
If you don’t have math background, brush up on your stats skills!
Investor services or backoffice/middle office roles can be a good stepping stone, as are small boutique funds.
Equities aren’t the only asset class – don’t be afraid to explore the exciting world of private equity, bonds, credit, derivatives, hedge funds.”
Desmond Goh, Senior Investment Analyst
– Unlisted Assets at HESTA
“Post graduate studies such as a CFA are not only useful from a technical perspective but also from a networking perspective. This is a fairly small industry so building your contacts helps to get a sense of different types of roles and what’s available.
You also need to have a general interest in financial markets and keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world.”
Alistair Barker, Head of Portfolio Construction, Investments at AustralianSuper
1. Build your profile by developing contacts and looking for work experience with companies that support intern and graduate programs.
2. Look for opportunities to work on and demonstrate how you can think about tasks or problems beyond your tertiary study.
3. Confidence and humility are traits we value and we look to build in our people. Markets eventually humble us all, but we need to approach our roles with conviction in our investment analysis.
Oliva Dalton, Equity Analyst, Investments at AustralianSuper
My advice would be to do your own research and not to just follow your friends into the sell side. I think part of the issue is that the buy side generally don’t market themselves to graduates as well as the sell side. One of the things that really attracted me to AustralianSuper was the strong growth of the superannuation sector in Australia. And when I commenced working here I realised how much better the culture, quality of work and work life balance is.
Don’t think that you’re precluded by not having studied Commerce! The diversity of educational background is so important for the Fund since it brings different knowledge and perspectives that can challenge investment thinking and lead to better outcomes. We really value those with different educational backgrounds so don’t let this put you off, you can pick up the tools of the trade along the way.
If you’re thinking about investment management, have a go yourself! The ASX Game doesn’t require any funding and is a great way to have a go and learn along the way.
Jenai Shroff, Analyst, Mid Risk, Investments at AustralianSuper
I believe the key to getting started in a career in Investment Management is to surround yourself with colleagues who are eager to harness your strengths and diversity and turn them into the company’s greatest assets.
Julia Forrest, Portfolio Manager at Pendal's Australian Equities boutique
The role of an investment analyst/portfolio manager involves a lot of different skills. Obviously numeracy and analytical skills are paramount, but there is a fair degree of psychology involved – whether it is in assessing others or keeping on top of your own motivations and biases. There is a substantial amount of detective work involved in unravelling facts whether it is going through accounts, questioning management or industry participants. You need confidence to stand your ground, but humility to admit your mistakes or change your opinion if the facts/circumstances change. All the while keeping on top of your emotions. Above all an overriding amount of curiosity and tenacity is essential for this type of role.
Ashley Pittard, Head of Global Equities at Pendal
LEGO is a family owned multi-billion Danish business with sales of more than US$6 billion per annum. As a child I remember spending hours being inspired piecing together their blocks so I could build and understand how things worked; be it a car, house or my favourite the Star Wars Han Solo Maltese Falcon. Sometimes it was tedious but always fulfilling when I unlocked the secret...I’m sure some of you do and feel the same ... well investing is very similar, except we spend hours and years piecing together blocks of information so we understand how a business works, where management wish to take a business and ultimately what a fair value is for the business. Sometimes it can be tedious but again always fulfilling when you unlock the secret just like “playing well” the English translation of LEGO
Amy Xie Patrick, Portfolio Manager, Income & Fixed Interest
Many graduates looking to enter the finance industry focus their attention on filling up their CVs with the “right” subjects and grades, as well as experience. While that is no doubt important, I think it is important to keep in mind that employers will understand and allow for your level of experience, not only in the world of finance, but also in the world of employment. When I think back to my first interviews in the finance industry as a university undergraduate, I realise that employers were looking for potential, rather than a ready-made investment professional. A good work ethic, an interest in learning and self-development, a resilient attitude to challenge, and a genuine interest in your chosen field ought to matter far more than how many internships you can list on your application. As with any career, one grows into it and it grows with you. If you are able to demonstrate that you have the ability to grow, you’re more than half way there.
Sue Scott, Senior Investment Analyst, Global Equities
Most people applying for a job in investment management more than meet the educational requirements. Learn how to distinguish yourself, and teach yourself how to think like an investor. Investment management is akin in many ways to being an investigative journalist. Investment managers do not take things at face value, they dig deeper. Ask yourself, what makes a company successful? Whilst the measure of success may be traditional financial metrics, how are these achieved? Observe how businesses operate within your environment, it need not be an S&P 500 company, it could be your local café. What is the business doing right or wrong that makes it successful or unsuccessful? What are they doing, or not doing to future-proof that success?
Elise McKay, Investment Analyst , Australian Equities
Starting your career, finance can seem to be a scary and overwhelming field. Where on earth do you start? I suggest you start by developing passion. Passion evolves over time – the more I have learnt about investing, the more passionate I have become. Fulfil your thirst for knowledge and don’t get overwhelmed by what you are yet to learn. Spend time learning about how the world works. Read books about entrepreneurs, businesses, economies, famous investors. Ask lots of questions and try to identify the reasons why things that interest you are the way they are. Apply for roles even if you think you aren’t qualified (trust me, you will often underestimate yourself, particularly at the start of your career). Identify your weakness and work out what you can do to improve this. There is a wealth of information online that can help! Websites like “Wall Street Oasis”, “Street of Walls”, and “Mergers and Inquisitions” are an invaluable source to help you get up to speed fast and put your best foot forward when interviewing.