Fork in the road: Career path in Asset Management

royjonesjr's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 14

In 2018 I have to make a pretty serious decision, which will determine the direction of my career. Currently, I have three real possibilities:

  1. Consultant Relations for a mutual fund.
  2. Institutional Equity Sales
  3. Inheriting a decent sized book in wealth management at a BB

I work at the BB in an entry level role in WM. I am 24 years old, and will have both the Series 7 and 66 under my belt by the end of 1Q '18. I was a liberal arts major at a non target so obviously HF/PE/IB is out of my league.

Essentially, I would like some advice from you guys on what you think the best career choice is for me.

Consultant Relations:
-Get to deal with existing institutional clients, and win new business for the fund.
-Get to work with PM's/Analysts which will allow me to learn from the best.
-At the senior level, this job pays high 6 - low 7 figures.
-Success in this role is tied directly to the performance of the fund.
-The future of active management is uncertain, if the compression in fee's continues then it will certainly decrease the salary.
-On the road constantly, which can get tough once kids/family come into the picture.

Institutional Equity Sales
-If it were the late 80's I would take this job instantly, but obviously a lot has changed.

-Get to interact with some of the brightest investment managers in the city.
-Get to entertain clients on the firm's dime.
-Get to become a subject matter expert (equities)
-Total pay has shrunk quite a bit from what it used to be, and it seems like it will continue to do so.(MIFID/Trading revenue falling etc.)
-Many senior guys who work in the biz have described this role as a melting ice cube and to stay away from it.

WM at BB
-Would most likely work with my uncle, who has a 90M-110M AUM book that I could inherit.
-Love the entrepreneurial/control your own destiny aspect of being a FA.
-Get to create investment strategies for clients, and eat what I kill.
-Unlimited earning potential (guy in my office makes north of 4M).
-Not exactly thrilled about the estate/life planning, I am much more interested in investing.
-I believe that in the next 10 years BB's will make the FA role a salary/base rather than a commission/fee job. This will end with huge pay cut's for advisors.

Let me know what you guys think. If there are any other positions you can think of that I should consider, please share. I know there are some other roles out there that I could take a run at (private placement etc.)

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Comments (8)

Dec 24, 2017

Could you do the wm job and then move to another firm with your book?

Dec 25, 2017

I could, but if the changes I fear do happen - they will happen at all BB's. So I would have to go independent.

Best Response
Dec 27, 2017

Personally, I'd rank as follows:

1: PWM
2: CR
3: Institutional Sales

PWM: Getting handed a business of AUM that would take you an entire career to sign is a very good place to start. Yes there's changes likely to happen but you will always have leverage when you are running a book of business. I think this balances the best between your opportunity set, earning potential and lifestyle. The primary concern here as you said is the work itself - you'll have to see if it's something you can see yourself doing for 30+ years. But you can also find ways to make it interesting and be a value add to your clients. My answer would be completely different if you were starting from scratch, so the value that inheriting a business can do is pretty significant.

CR: Decent gig, good lifestyle (outside of travel) and reasonable pay. The key to this role is getting in at a senior level where you have a region or group of consultants you are responsible for. Given your age I doubt that you have an opportunity to be a senior guy at this moment. However to play a bit of devil's advocate the job here is a bit more repetitive and mundane than you would think. Yes you are talking to your team daily but here's my take: CR is the conduit between PM and Consultant. That means you will be preparing RFPs, scheduling meetings between PM and consultant, writing educational pieces, preparing analysis for your consultants, etc. Once you know your firm's strategies it'll become the same spiel every quarter with 10 different consultants, etc. If you're underperforming it's even worse because you'll just have to explain why you suck... with a smile on your face. Traveling isn't as fun because it is dependent on where your consultants are. You need to win business but you have no way to affect that business - you're just a messenger. As a junior analyst in this role you'll be updating performance, prepping pitch decks and reviewing RFPs - not sure how much face time you would get with consultants and all of that. That being said, I wouldn't turn down the role necessarily but hopefully that gave you a better look into the role.

Institutional Sales: You already discussed this but I think the issue is that you're a dime a dozen. You aren't doing as much value add these days and while it sounds fun to wine and dine clients the glamour rubs off after the first month. Along with the other cons you have described I would rank this last.

    • 6
Dec 28, 2017

Agree, PWM is best. Active buy side and sell side are both in secular decline, PWM is not, they will see fee pressure but good longer term opportunitiies. Earlier post did good job describing the pros and cons

Jan 1, 2018

Thanks for the excellent response, I really appreciate it. It definitely seems like pwm is my best option. I do get worried about the future of wealth management and whether the increasing popularity in passive investing will eventually kill it in one way or another (fee compression).

At the end of the day there are still guys who absolutely kill it in pwm. I need to stop worrying about the what if's and finally take the plunge.

Hopefully wealthy people will always want an advisor.

Thanks again @saxxyman

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Jan 7, 2018

PWM is the best opportunity out of the three, but I completely understand wanting to make it over to the investing side of things and try something different out.

I'm in PE, but have a close friend/family relation who has a small wealth management practice back in my hometown. It's significantly smaller than ~100M in AUM, but it still makes money and whenever the head guy and I chat, he always jokes about me coming back to run the firm someday. From a lifestyle perspective it would be great and I'd make enough money to have pretty much whatever I would want. The problem is would I want to start doing that now and do it forever?

If I were you I'd stay where you're at for the time being, the other two options you have aren't good enough to warrant leaving. Have you considered an MBA? Doing one either part-time or full time will give you options to get into banking(small chance at PE/HF). It could also help you to "see the world" a little bit in the sense that you could spend a summer at an investing firm or intern during the year somewhere.

You'll either find something else that you like and have the ability to make the switch or you'll realize that inheriting a big book of business in the near future and making lots of money without working hard is what everyone is ultimately trying to do in PE/HF/ investing etc.

Plus, you can spin it to your uncle that you're really interested in taking over the business, but that you want to make sure you have enough management experience and brand name on your resume(especially from a nontarget undergrad) in order to continue to grow the business after he's gone.

    • 2
Jan 7, 2018

Thanks for the response. Unfortunately due to a low (3.0) GPA at the non target I attended, a top MBA is currently unrealistic. I think I could improve my chances of admission at a top 20 MBA after another 5+ years of working and earning certifications (CFP/CPWA if I stay in PWM- I am very interested in the CAIA as well).

There is a downside to working for another 5 years and then getting a MBA. There are really only two options in my city - a top 5 program and a program with a ranking between 30-40. I consider myself to be a realist, I highly doubt there is a chance for me to get into the top 5 program. After 5 years of working in PWM, I don't know if attending a semi/non target MBA would do much for my career.

Jan 7, 2018
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