Dear diary, nothing is more heartbreaking than to see my colleagues struggle with the most basic understanding of where they stand on the ladder of corporate power in the Asian asset-management industry.
The youngsters, in particular, seem a little befuddled by it all. They are taking their first, tentative steps towards becoming someone like, well, like yours truly, senior vice-president of business development, Asia Pacific ex-Japan/China/Malaysia at Integrity Asset Management, one of the premier shops in the business. Winning the pitches by day, and scoring the…er…ladies by night, I’m not surprised that William T. Fitzgerald is a model for today’s up-and-comer.
But kids, you need to understand how it works around here. Take those headphones out of your new Android phone and listen up.
The rainmakers: King of the hill. A-number one. Sales, you idiot, that’s where the money is. And the power. Forget the CIO, he’s pulling a buck a year if he’s lucky. Sure, the basic’s average, but the commish is where it’s at.
Oh, so you think it’s easy, do you? Just put together a few roadshows featuring our brilliant *cough* PMs and product ambassadors? OK, smarty pants, you try convincing Victoria Bank to put our Timor Leste Resources High-Yield Income Fund on their shelf region-wide, or get Urumchi Fund Management to appoint you to sub-advise its QDII fund with our Sub-Saharan Super-Return Champions Equity (Class B) strategy (regulatory approvals pending).
I didn’t think so. Get outta my office.
And by the way, it’s not ‘sales’. It’s ‘business development’. Keep it classy, dummkopf.
The spin-meisters: Marketing folks like to think of themselves as sales, and it’s true, they play a useful support role. I have to admit, adding “Timor Leste” makes our bog-standard oil-and-gas fund stand out from the crowd. But don’t get uppity. You’re not the one getting the client to sign on the dotted line.
The horrible: Woody Allen, as Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall”, said, “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.” The horrible he described as “terminal cases…the blind, the crippled”. That’s you, client-service people: forever tasked to not win new business, but not to lose old business.
The miserable, aka ‘business prevention’: Yeah, I’m talking to you, compliance officer. Actually, I shouldn’t be so blunt. A good rainmaker will schmooze these people, whose job is to ensure that the regulator sees only the legit parts of what I do. But there’s a few of you who just can’t take a hint. You want to review EVERYTHING that leaves the office? Who are you, Kim Jong-il?
On the other hand, you don’t want compliance to be too weak-kneed either, because then they become a scapegoat for cowardly management. It’s a balance, dear diary, and please remind me to get flowers for Winnie in compliance; her birthday’s Tuesday.
The dinosaurs: You whippersnappers are getting the hang of this! Yes, that’s right: management. Been loitering around here for years but no longer have the magic touch to make sales happen. Maybe they never did, and that’s why these MD roles are perfect for them. They love the title, or at least convince themselves it’s better than the commish. The secret to our success is the salesman keeping these old windbags on a tight leash. Five minutes of visionary blather from these desk-jockeys in front of your prospect can undo months of brand-building.
The nerds: Investments is the easiest part of the job. Stay in the top two quartiles, that’s all I ask. Hug the benchmark, knock out a couple of the obvious dogs, and you’re there. The analysts fancy themselves as PMs, the portfolio managers fancy themselves as George Soros. You have to humour them, play up the ego, especially in front of the clients. But if they start to think of themselves as the brand, instead of a loyal servant to the brand, then it’s time to promote a new generation of analysts.
The ambassadors: Product development is neither fish nor fowl. We send them out to steal the best ideas from competitors. They liaise with our nerds and the clients, feeding our investment stories without having to put the nerds on an airplane or fluster them with facing other human beings. The best ambassadors can move into sales.
Not to be confused with ‘consultant relations’, which is a weird hybrid of ambassador, marketing and sales, aimed at investment consultants…you poor things.
The ghosts: Let me get this straight. You work your butt off, lots of late nights, lots of number crunching, lots of bad take-out food. You get paid a fraction of what I make. Nobody remembers your name when we pass you on our way to the toilet. Operations. Somebody explain this to me…oh, never mind.
The bean counters: Take a word of advice from me, and keep the accountants in the finance department on your side. They approve your expenses. It doesn’t matter that they can’t tell a bond from a stock. Just keep the mooncakes flowing.
The players: Loudmouth flash twenty-somethings who spend their days screeching at Bloomberg terminals and their nights letting those naughty sell-side boys take them out to strip clubs. No overlap with sales, so who cares what they do?
The dalits: You know, secretaries, PAs, receptionists, the guy who changes the fluorescent lights. Be nice to them. Simple courtesies will do. They make the least amount of money, do the most amount of real work, and without them we’d be totally screwed.
William T. Fitzgerald is available to answer queries regarding the industry, your career and your clients. Requests for advice that mention Will’s successes and accomplishments will receive priority in the queue. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William T. Fitzgerald is a fictional character, as are all the other individuals and companies in “RFP Diary”. Any resemblance to the living or to real firms is purely coincidental. Will’s adventures continue fortnightly.